PREVIEW: Galway United vs Athlone Town (Friday, 7.45pm Eamonn Deacy Park) 

Galway Daily sport Alan Murphy leaving role at Galway United

It’s a new start for Galway United in the SSE Airtricity League as manager Alan Murphy takes charge of the Tribesmen for the first time.

The top goal scorer in the club’s history succeeded previous manager Shane Keegan and caretaker boss Gary O’Connor and has nine games left to save their season.

Galway United currently sit six points behind fourth place Longford Town in their chase for a play-off spot and with just nine games remaining, every point is vital!

Murphy, and new assistant manager Mark Herrick, will know they must begin with victory over bottom placed Athlone Town who’ve just five points from 18 games.  And based on their previous two meetings, Galway United are odds on favourites.

A Danny Furlong hat-trick plus a Ronan Manning strike kicked off the season in February with a 4-1 win and the title favourites looked to be bouncing back when they picked up a 3-0 win in May 2018 thanks to goals for Eoin McCormack, Marc Ludden and Stephen Kenny.

The latter result came off the back of a similar score against Cobh Ramblers and they followed with another two wins in three games.  But since May 20th, Galway are six games without a win while a 0-0 draw against Wexford FC before the mid-season break ultimately cost Keegan his job.

O’Connor oversaw their 2-1 reversal to Shelbourne and Murphy will know he has no bedding in period.  Galway United are the top supported club in the First Division (average 871 spectators per game) and anything less than fourth or higher won’t guarantee him being retained for 2019.

However, these clubs have brought the best of each other and nearly 1,200 came through the gates for the season opener.  And with a new manager and an expected win, the club will hope that a similar number attend and put their faith in the team.

Maurice Nugent (ankle) and Mikey Whelan (hamstring) are out while Aaron Connors (groin) will need to pass a fitness test.  Otherwise, Murphy has a full deck with Alex Byrne back from suspension.

Stephen Walsh and Ludden will be among the defence; the midfield should feature Ryan Connolly, Carlton Ubaezuonu and Gary Shanahan; while Danny Furlong, McCormack and Conor Barry will battle for the front slots.

Interestingly, Athlone Town got their first win of 2018 in the last round despite not scoring a goal.  Wexford FC were 1-0 winners but the result was overturned after the suspended Thomas Croke was introduced from the bench.  Could that good fortune turn their dismal season around?

The transfer window is open but that’s Murphy’s only reprieve.  Galway United’s supporter and their new Saudi owners expects and they will be expected to begin with a win.  Athlone Town are priced at 22/1 so Galway couldn’t be given a better chance to get back on track!

Verdict: Galway United