Galway United players produced a spirited performance full of grit, determination and desire to secure the clubs first three points of the season against Drogheda United at Eamonn Deacy Park on Friday evening.
Enda Curran’s magnificently taken 3rd minute goal was all that separated the sides when defender Sam Oji was sent off by Graham Kelly in the 25th minute. Despite the numerical deficit, United players stuck at their task manfully and they weathered the storm of late pressure from the Drogs.
Substitute Andy O’Connell and his centre half partner Stephen Walsh were diligent at the back for the home side, they swept up a lot of the long balls drilled in by the visitors in search of an equaliser.
Tommy Dunne reverted to a more familiar 4-4-2 formation against Drogheda United.
Jake Keegan partnered Enda Curran up front.
Colm Horgan filled in at left full in place of the injured Marc Ludden and Alex Byrne started in the unfamiliar role of right back.
Enda Curran gave Galway United the perfect start with a smashing goal in the 3rd minute.
Curran chipped the ball over Neil Yadolahi before beating Drogheda United skipper Alan Byrne with a cheeky back heel, he then composed himself before rifling the ball into the bottom corner past Schlingermann.
Almost 20 minutes elapsed before the next talking point at Eamonn Deacy Park. Sam Oji’s attempted header back to goalkeeper Connor Gleeson was short and Drogheda striker Tiarnan Mulvenna nipped in to intercept the ball. Oji, who was last man, was adjudged to have upended the former Dundalk striker and United were reduced to ten men for 65 minutes.
Drogheda United midfielder Sean Thornton was unlucky to see his free kick clip the top of the crossbar as Galway United looked to address their shape after the sending off. Enda Curran, who was carrying a knock to his calf, was sacrificed for Andy O’Connell and the hosts switched to a 4-4-1 formation with Keegan leading the line and O’Connell partnering Walsh at the back.
There was some confusion before the half time break when it seemed clear that Jake Keegan was pulled back by a Drogheda United defender when clear through on goal but the referee wasn’t interested and Keegan showed his honesty, staying on his feet, but under pressure from a Drogheda defender the American skewed his shot wide.
On the stroke of half time, Drogheda United striker Tiarnan Mulvenna collected the ball 20 yards from goal but he volleyed straight at Connor Gleeson.
For just a split second, Galway United turned off and they were almost punished a minute into the second half. A long ball from Drogheda seemed to unlock the home sides defence, Jason Marks stole a march at goal but he didn’t trouble Connor Gleeson, dragging his shot wide.
On the hour mark, Drogheda almost got back on level terms in bizarre fashion when centre-half Neil Yadolahi hung a deep cross into the box, the bounce of the ball seemed to deceive everybody and it nearly crept in at the far post.
At this stage, the home side were mostly relying on swift counter attacks and in the 64th minute they almost reaped the rewards of a well put together move when a lovely weighted pass from Jason Molloy behind the Drogheda United defence found Keegan, who had made a well timed run. Drogheda keeper’ Michael Schlingermann raced out to narrow the angle and he kept them in the game with a smart save to deny United’s top scorer from last season.
Drogheda began sending more men forward and they went with a more direct approach, launching long hopeful balls into the box hoping for knock downs and looking to flood players forward for set pieces. Indeed they went close again in the 75th minute when Neil Yadolahi headed over from a corner kick amid some sustained pressure from the Boynesiders.
With 10 minutes to go at Eamonn Deacy Park, Drogheda saw a header cleared off the line from a corner kick, the ball broke to Jason Marks and he zipped a powerful half volley at goal but it was just off-target.
Johnny McDonnell’s side had one final chance to get on terms but substitute Michael Scott headed wide when a goal looked a certain outcome in injury time.
Despite some periods of pressure from the visitors, Galway United held on for a vital first win of the season against a side who have made an unbeaten start to the season.
Next up is a trip to Turners Cross on Tuesday evening. Kick off: 7.45pm.
GALWAY UNITED: Gleeson; Byrne, Oji, Walsh, Horgan; Shanahan, Sinnott (c), Connolly, Molloy (O’Leary 76); Keegan (Cunningham 83), Curran (O’Connell 30).
UNUSED SUBSTITUTES: Winn (GK), O’Laoi, Barry, Raftery.
SCORER: Curran 3.
BOOKED: Molloy 71.
SENT OFF: Oji 25.
DROGHEDA UNITED: Schlingermann; Gorman, Byrne (c), Brady (Brady 77), Thornton, Brennan (Hughes 60), Mulvenna, Maher, Buckley (Walshe 67), Marks, Yadolahi.
UNUSED SUBSTITUTES: Connolly (GK), Rooney, Duffy, Dunne.
BOOKED: Brennan 55.
OFFICIAL ATTENDANCE: 1375.
REFEREE: Graham Kelly.