Galway United kicked off their 2023 campaign with an impressive 2-1 victory over Finn Harps in Ballybofey on Friday night.
The Tribesmen ran out deserved winners in their First Division opener thanks to a brace from debutant Vincent Borden.
Borden made his league debut for United alongside goalkeeper Brendan Clarke, defenders Regan Donelon and Robert Slevin, while Colm Horgan made his first competitive appearance for United since rejoining the club last month. New Assistant Manager Ollie Horgan made his return to Finn Park in the Galway United dugout this time after almost a decade in charge of Harps.
The poor conditions in Finn Park didn’t stop United from starting brightly, with Ronan Manning testing Finn Harps goalkeeper Tim Hiemer within the opening couple of minutes before the Tribesmen were rewarded for their early pressure as they took the lead on 4 minutes through American midfielder Vincent Borden. Manning’s deep free kick was knocked back across goal by Killian Brouder for Borden to tap into an empty net from close range.
United almost doubled their lead on 15 minutes as Manning got past two defenders and had his shot cleared off the line from a tight angle. The Galway attack continued to create chances throughout the first half with Rob Manley pouncing on an error at the back, but his shot was saved by Hiemer.
United limited Finn Harps largely to crosses into the box which were well defended before Michael Harris won a penalty for the home side on 41 minutes. Ryan Rainey converted the penalty to send the teams in level at the break. Galway United were not discouraged by the late first half equaliser as they started the second half similarly to the first, with Manning creating chances from the left before having a right footed shot from range go just wide of the post on 50 minutes.
United regained the lead just after the hour mark as Borden arrived in the box and his deflected effort flew past Hiemer in the Harps goal after an inviting cross from substitute David Hurley.
United held their lead well, maintaining possession for large spells and winning multiple free kicks in the opposition half. Finn Harps’ best chance of the half fell to substitute Cian Lynch after 72 minutes, as he broke free of the United defence but his effort was well saved by new United number 1 Brendan Clarke. This sparked an end-to-end spell in the half, with Ed McCarthy winning the ball on the halfway line before bearing down on goal, forcing a smart stop again from Hiemer.
Finn Harps began pushing men forward in the last 15 minutes in search of an equaliser, but United held firm and threatened themselves on the counter-attack throughout the spell of pressure from the home side. The accomplished performance from Galway United was characterised by solidity in defence, calmness in possession and a real threat going forward with players like Ronan Manning causing problems for the home side’s back line with his willingness to take on defenders.
The full-time whistle saw Caulfield’s men secure a well-deserved three points to start the 2023 campaign which will brew confidence for the season ahead where Galway United will look to go one further than last season and gain promotion back to the Premier Division.
Vincent Borden spoke after the game describing his debut as ‘a dream come true’ and highlighted his desire for more goals as the season progresses.
Manager John Caulfield gave his comments on the game post-match:
It was a good performance, opening day of the season’
‘The conditions turned very nasty and the pitch got very heavy and we were still very good.’
‘We had to be cool and composed and we were outstanding really’
‘We are going home with three points and we are happy with that’
FINN HARPS (David Rodgers, Manager)
T. Heimer, D. McCallion, K. Cowan, R. Flood, K. Mashigo, M. Harris ( S. O’Donnell 88′), S. Keogh (F. Fjeldheim Da Silva 70′), C. Porter, E. Farrar, O. Okwute (C. Lynch 51′), R. Rainey
Scorers: R. Rainey (43′).
GALWAY UNITED (John Caulfield, Manager)
B. Clarke, R. Donelon, R. Slevin, K. Brouder, S. Walsh (F. Lomboto 90′), R. Manley (D. Hurley 80′) , R. Manning (M. Rowe 90′), V. Borden, C. Horgan, C. McCormack, E. McCarthy (M. Nugent 81′)
Scorers: V. Borden (5′,61′).
Referee: David Dunne .
Next up, Galway United face Treaty United in Eamonn Deacy Park on Friday, February 24th, at 7:45pm.