Galway United made it 10 wins in a row as they came from behind to beat a much-improved Kerry side 4-1 in Tralee on Friday night.
United fell behind five minutes before the break as Ryan Kelliher nodded home from point-blank range for the hosts, but as they have done all season, United found a goal at a crucial time and equalised right on the stroke of half time through a David Hurley header. The second half saw the Tribesmen show their quality and a brace from Stephen Walsh, with a sweet strike from Colm Horgan sandwiched between them, sealed the three points for John Caulfield’s men.
There was one change to the United side that put six past Bray Wanderers at Eamonn Deacy Park last week, as Maurice Nugent replaced Conor O’Keeffe for his first start of the season. Regan Donelon and Ronan Manning returned from injury to the United bench to add even more quality to the travelling squad.
From the outset, it was clear that this fixture would be a tougher test than United faced in the first meeting between the two teams as Kerry started with a real intensity and urgency in front of their sold-out crowd, characterised by some strong tackles throughout the opening 45 minutes which led to the referee brandishing four yellow cards to the home side before the break.
The first big chance of the game fell to the hosts 10 minutes in as Sean McGrath was played in and he struck across goal aiming for the bottom corner, but his effort was brilliantly saved by Brendan Clarke.
Leonardo Gaxha was the danger-man for Kerry as he looked to create openings in the hopes of adding a second, something they haven’t yet done this season. Just before the half-hour mark, Gaxha launched a counter-attack and played the ball wide to Robert Vasiu, but his cross was poor and was well-claimed by Clarke once again.
The home side found the breakthrough in the 40th minute when Gaxha received the ball from a short corner and crossed deep to the back post where Ryan Kelliher met it and headed in for his second of the season, with both goals coming against United.
The goal, however, seemed to spring the Tribesmen into life and they looked for an immediate response as Maurice Nugent surged forward and struck a volley just wide of the post just a minute after going behind.
The timing of United’s goals has been a huge factor in their success so far this season, and it was on full display again in the Kingdom as they found the equaliser right before the break. Captain Conor McCormack crossed into a dangerous area and found David Hurley who beat goalkeeper Wayne Guthrie to the high ball and headed into the empty net, as the fourth official showed there would be three minutes of time added on.
The second half began in complete contrast to the first, as Galway United imposed their own intensity on the hosts and showed their quality as they looked to go ahead from the outset. Stephen Walsh won a free-kick in a dangerous area within three minutes of the restart. McCormack and Hurley stood over the set piece and the captain rolled the ball to Hurley who thumped his effort off the crossbar and it bounced down and out before being cleared.
United wouldn’t have to wait much longer to take the lead as just moments later Nugent latched onto a loose ball in the Kerry half and slipped the ball to Walsh who spun and struck left-footed across goal and found the bottom corner to make it 2-1 to the visitors.
The wind was taken out of the Kerry sails as Colm Horgan drove down the left wing, cut inside and fired an unstoppable shot into the far corner from outside the box to score his first goal since rejoining Galway United and make it 3-1 to the visitors with 57 minutes on the clock.
The Tribesmen didn’t look like letting up, as Rob Slevin saw his header hit the crossbar from another great McCormack cross into the box just before United did grab their fourth and final goal of the night. Hurley turned provider as he stood over a corner and delivered it deep to the back post where Walsh headed back across goal to double his tally and make it 4-1.
The hosts struggled to find the success they had in the first half, although substitute Trpimir Vrljicak came close as he rose highest in the United box, but his header came back off the crossbar and his follow-up attempt went just over.
United looked to add a fifth as substitutes Ronan Manning and Darren Clarke combined and Clarke found himself with a shooting chance on the edge of the area, but his effort went over the bar.
Walsh was hungry for his hat-trick and thought he had it in the 83rd minute when he tapped in from close range after a save from Guthrie in the Kerry goal, but his effort was ruled out for offside.
With five minutes of stoppage time added on, substitute Rob Manley pounced on a mix-up at the back and looked to poke the ball into the corner under pressure, but his effort went agonisingly wide of the post and the game ended with United running out 4-1 winners.
The spell of 15 minutes where United went from being 1-0 down before the break to 3-1 up just 12 minutes into the second half highlights the squad’s character as they can score goals at crucial moments and turn the momentum of a game on its head with their quality all around the park.
Manager John Caulfield spoke after the full-time whistle:
For 40 minutes Kerry were brilliant”
“The second half we were like Galway United, that’s the team we want to see”
“Lots of energy, playing brilliant football, creating loads of chances, scoring goals, that’s what we want”
“We are happy with the three points”
Goalscorer Colm Horgan also spoke after the game:
We said at half time it needed to improve, and it did”
“It set up nicely for me and I said I’d have a pop”
“We need to make sure we’re focused for Cobh next week”
“I have come back to fight for promotion and that’s what we’re doing at the moment”
Kerry FC: W. Guthrie, R. Vasiu, S. Aladesanusi, K. Williams, C. Barrett, R. Teahan (C. Brosnan 82’), J. Hannafin (M. Keane 72’), L. Gaxha, R. Kelliher (T. Vrljicak 67’), S. McGrath (N. Gleeson 67’), S. Kennedy (S. O’Connell 67’).
Galway United: B. Clarke, M. Nugent, R. Slevin, K. Brouder, C. Horgan (E. O’Connor 81’), E. McCarthy (D. Clarke 66’), V. Borden (R. Manley 75’), C. McCormack (M. Rowe 75’), F. Lomboto (R. Manning 66’), D. Hurley, S. Walsh.
Next up, Galway United welcome Cobh Ramblers to Eamonn Deacy Park, on Friday April 28th at 7:45pm.
Tickets can be purchased HERE