A night of celebration lies in wait tomorrow when Oriel Park witnesses title festivities for the third time in consecutive seasons.
The Lilywhites secured their 12th league championship on Sunday night thanks to a 2-1 win over Bohemians. A much-changed Lilywhites line-up succumbed to a 5-2 drubbing by St. Patrick’s Athletic on Tuesday and Stephen Kenny will be keen to finish the season with a win, especially seeing as the Lilywhites have lost only once at Oriel Park in the league over the last two seasons.
All attention, when the 2016 Airtricity League season concludes, will be focused on continuing Dundalk’s European crusade into next season’s domestic calendar alongside their cup final meeting with Cork City on Sunday week.
Each game must be taken on its own merits though and the Lilywhites will show Galway the utmost of respect ahead of their final meeting of the season.
The Tribesmen defeated the champions at Terryland Park in August in the aftermath of Dundalk’s European triumph over BATE Borisov and that defeat still lingers raw in the minds of all associated with the County Louth club, meaning a revenge mission will be the subplot to tomorrow night’s meeting.
Dundalk’s skipper Stephen O’Donnell, a Galway man himself, is doubtful for Friday’s clash and his absence could mean that the midfielder goes into the Zenit encounter next Thursday having not featured in a game since the 14th October.
Shane Grimes will miss out having hobbled off with a hamstring injury in Inchicore on Tuesday night.
Galway will end a season which promised so much in Oriel Park tomorrow night. Pride is to be played for and should they defeat Dundalk they could finish as high as eighth in the Premier Division table.
Te Tribesmen began the season tremendously with a tilt at European qualification appearing to be a genuine possibility, however, a poor mid-season spell which yielded just nine points from a possible 36 saw manager Tommy Dunne relieved of his duties.
Dunne’s departure was sudden with the Dubliner having improved the club season-on-season statistically. Since he has departed though results haven’t picked up drastically as their campaign appeared to peter to its conclusion.
A heavy defeat to Cork City was followed by a 5-4 loss in Wexford before they were locked in a stalemate with all-ready relegated Longford Town in their penultimate game of the year.
There has been a lot of positives for the Tribesmen this term and their new manager will know that there is a lot of potential in the team. Injuries have hampered captain Ryan Connolly’s season and they struggled without their most influential player .
If Connolly had stayed fit, Galway may be still challenging for a place in the top-half of the standings. He, alongside Armin Aganovic, Colm Horgan, Vinny Faherty and Stephen Folan, can allow the Tribesmen to remain competitive in the Premier Division going forward, assuming none are poached away by clubs up the league table.
Faherty scored the winning goal in their 1-0 win over the Lilywhites in August and he spoke to galwayunited.com ahead of the final game of the season.
The striker said: “We’ve had a poor year. It started well but totally petered out. It’s got to be a lesson and a learning curve and we’ve got to improve on it next year.
“We need to start taking baby steps ourselves, Dundalk started their process in 2013 and we need to start ours next year.”
Referee: Derek Tomney
Galway’s last win in Oriel Park came in June 2005 in a First Division encounter. The Tribesmen left County Louth with a 3-0 victory that night.
The last time that the Galwegians turned Dundalk over at Oriel Park in a Premier Division meeting was 29 years ago.
The Lilywhites and Galway have met on 81 previous occasions, 45 of which have been won by the champions with 22 draws.
Dundalk 2/5; Draw 7/2; Galway United 13/2.
Dundalk 3-0 Galway United
Injured: Shane Grimes.
Doubtful: Stephen O’Donnell.
Injured: Marc Ludden, Enda Curran.
Suspended: Stephen Walsh.