For the fourth season in succession since their return to the top flight in 2007, Galway United begin this campaign with survival as their ultimate goal.
The grand plans that accompanied the club's promotion now lie in tatters and a fourth manager in as many years must steer the ship on the tightest of budgets.
Sean Connor is the man now entrusted with keeping Galway afloat, as the club charts a more realistic course going forward, one that hopes to re-establish links with the wider footballing community in the county and build meaningful structures at youth level that have disintegrated in recent years. Connor is under no illusions of the difficulty of the task at hand, but has already set about moulding a squad that looks capable of competing with those on a similar financial footing.
Without doubt, the re-admittance of Bray Wanderers to the top flight is a boost to Galway's chances of survival. Undefeated against a stronger Seagulls squad in 2009, the ten points garnered were crucial in maintaining Galway's position above the bottom two for the course of the season. Eddie Gormley brings his fledglings to Terryland Park for Connor's first home league game and a win is a must to maintain the stronghold.
Another side who have been dazzled by the maroon shirts in the recent past are St. Patrick's Athletic, and another trip to Inchicore beckons for The Tribesmen on opening night. Connor is well aware that his side must come out of the blocks flying, admitting as much after the recent friendly with Hull City.
"A good start is very important because if you drop six or seven points behind, it's like last year at Dundalk, every time we thought we were getting close to Derry we'd slip up and they'd win and they're away again," said Connor.
"I think you've got to always stay in contact. If you drop six points behind somebody, it's a lot to catch up. Our start is tough. We've Pat's away, Sligo Rovers away, and Shamrock Rovers here. That's three out of the first four games, so that'll be a tough start."
Connor has once again shown his ability to trawl the net far and wide for players during this pre-season. A raft of individuals previously unheard of have arrived in the West on trial, and while some haven't worked out as yet, English defenders Bee Ami and Rhys Meynell have signed up and will get their first taste of Airtricity League football in the coming weeks.
More importantly, experience has been acquired to man the spine of the team in the shape of Thomas Heary, Jamie McKenzie and Stephen O'Donnell, while Bobby Ryan makes a welcome return. Dubliner Karl Sheppard has also been plucked from the Everton reserves to add to the youthful talent of Seamus Conneely and Cian McBrien.
A striker with potentially ten goals or more in his arsenal is the only thing seriously lacking from this squad at present, but one gets the feeling that Connor will be more interested in keeping other sides out for the time being. Barry Ryan will again be an important figure between the sticks. It mightn't be pretty, but Connor's sides have rarely been ineffective.
Team: Galway United
Manager: Sean Connor
Players In: Bee Ami (Accrington Stanley), Rhys Meynell (Chester City), Thomas Heary (Dundalk), Jamie McKenzie (Aris Salonika), James Creaney (Dundalk), Tom King (Longford Town), Stephen O'Donnell (Cork City), Jonathan Keane (Free Agent), Ciaran Foley (NUIG), Gary Curran (Longford Town), Bobby Ryan (St Patrick's Athletic), Karl Sheppard (Everton).
Players Out: Ger Hanley, Liam McKenna (both Mervue United), Shane Guthrie, Vinny Faherty (both St Patrick's Athletic), Garry Breen (Dundalk), Iarfhlaith Davoren (Sligo Rovers), Aaron Greene (Bohemians), Sean Kelly (Limerick FC), Shane Fitzgerald (UCD), David Cooke, Mark O'Toole, Simon Walsh (all released).
One To Watch: Karl Sheppard
is extratime's Chief Editor, who is based in County Galway and has been following the League of Ireland on and off since he was roughly six which, unfortunately for him, was way back mid-80s. His first memory of the drama of domestic football was Vinny Arkins, then of Shamrock Rovers, on the receiving end of banter about his long, blond hairdo which was in need of a trim, while his favourite player of all time is Derry City's Liam Coyle.
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