It was a perfect start for Galway United on Friday night as they embarked don their new life in the First Division.
A hat-trick from Danny Furlong and a goal from Ronan Manning eased Shane Keegan’s men through the opening game of their season as they ran out 4-1 winners over Athlone Town.
Galway United took the lead after 15 minutes. Danny Furlong picked up where he left off and scored on his debut for his new club.
A scrappy situation just outside the box as Athlone failed to clear led to Furlong having the ball right in front of Nathan Murphy in the Athlone goal.
He expertly stroked the ball into the bottom corner, but the goal was not without its controversy as the linesman had his flag up for offside straight away, but referee David Keeler overruled his assistant despite protests from the Athlone Town players.
Furlong added his second with just over a half hour gone after one of Marc Ludden’s trademark long throws found him in the box.
The striker managed to escape his marker and, with a slew of defenders surrounding him, he created just enough space to nudge the ball into the bottom corner of the net.
As good as Galway looked in the final third they also showed their vulnerability at the back after a couple of mistakes in the first half almost gifted Athlone goals.
Early in the game, a silly mistake from Stephen Walsh gifted striker Martin Walsh a one on one chance with Galway’s Tadhg Ryan but the former Huddersfield Town player managed to snuff the shot out.
Later, miscommunication between Robbie Williams and Ryan led to the goalkeeper being caught in no man’s land, giving Martin Walsh another opportunity to do damage but he couldn’t find his footing and Galway got the ball away.
United added their third of the game on the hour mark. Marc Ludden provided the dangerous ball once again into the box, this time with his foot.
Danny Furlong again got on the end of it but couldn’t get clear contact and the striker gave centre back Bashmill Nyakambili the opportunity to clear.
The imposing defender fluffed his clearance and young Ronan Manning took advantage, blazing a pinpoint shot straight into the top corner for his first goal for the club.
As the game ticked into the final ten minutes Danny Furlong turned a great debut into a perfect debut when he completed his hat-trick.
Gary Shanahan took the ball down the right flank and dropped a great cross to the striker in the box. Furlong obliged by deftly finishing into the bottom corner.
As the game ticked into injury time Athlone Town got a consolation goal after some sloppy play from Galway.
The defence failed to close down Felix Bape outside the box and the full back blitzed a ball straight past Tadhg Ryan to send his side home with a shred of pride.
Galway United: Tadhg Ryan; Marc Ludden, Robbie Williams, Stephen Walsh, Gary Shanahan; Alex Byrne (Conor Barry 70), Stephen Kenny (Maurice Nugent 70), Ryan Connolly, Ronan Manning; Danny Furlong, Eoin McCormack (Carlton Ubaezunu 61).
Subs not used: Arek Mamala, Aaron Conway, Conor Layng, Alan Murphy.
Athlone Town: Nathan Murphy; Aaron Brilly, Felix Bape, Gerard Smith, Bashmil Nyakambili; Steven Grogan (George Mukete 45), Brian Cabraley (Josh Hogan 66), Shane Stokes, Martin Walsh; Craig Short, Thaigh Keogh (Etanda Nkololo 45).
Subs not used: Shaun O’Donnell, Dan O’Donovan, Barry Davies, Darren Kavanagh.
Booked: Bashmil Nyakambili (82).
Referee: David Keeler
Extratime.ie Player of the Match: Danny Furlong (Galway United).