Team: Galway United.
Manager: Alan Murphy.
Top Scorer: Vinny Faherty (6 league goals).
Stadium: Eamonn Deacy Park.
Highest Attendance: 2,174 (3-2 defeat v Shelbourne, Friday 22 February).
Lowest Attendance: 456 (7-1 victory v Cobh Ramblers, Friday 16 September).
Star Player: Vinny Faherty.
Faherty returned to his hometown club for a fourth stint with The Tribesmen having spent the previous season plying his trade abroad in Cyprus.
The experienced striker did not top the goalscoring charts in the First Division this season but at this stage of his lengthy League of Ireland career Faherty seemed to be playing some of his best football.
He rarely put a foot wrong during any of his appearances in maroon in 2019, his hold up play was excellent and by all accounts Faherty brought vast experience to a young squad.
Best Young Player: Donal Higgins
The winger only turned 18 this September and, despite a season disrupted by the Leaving Certificate, Galway fans are extremely excited by Donal Higgins.
His performances this season saw him earn his first cap for the Republic of Ireland U19 side when they faced Denmark in October.
The teenager only managed one goal in 19 appearances this past season but having shown his dribbling ability and flair on the ball this year, and his visible improvement during the season fans will be looking forward to what he can do in 2020.
Best New Signing: Jack Lynch
Lynch signed midway through the 2019 season and only made 9 appearances due to an injury picked up shortly after signing for the club.
He finished the season strongly, however, and really helped shore up a shaky Galway United defence.
The 21 year old claimed the right back position as his own and was an integral part of Galway United’s FAI Cup run which saw them dumped out in the quarter-finals after a last minute goal by eventual champions, Shamrock Rovers.
What we expected they would do: 5th
The Extratime.ie team predicted a 5th place finish for Galway United. Unfortunately for The Tribesmen that prediction was rather optimistic ahead of the 2019 season.
What they actually did:
It really was a year that Galway United will want to forget as soon as possible, for the most part, having settled for an 8th place finish, 20 points off what the Extratime.ie team predicted, and their worst ever league campaign.
This was Alan Murphy’s first full year of management having taken over from Shane Keegan midway through the 2018 season.
There were obvious cutbacks in terms of money for the playing squad with Murphy having to rely on several young and inexperienced players to play integral roles in his squad.
However, a mixture of young Galway prospects getting game time, some excellent mid-season signings and a strong finish to the season (unbeaten in six of their last seven games in all competitions) has fans of The Tribesmen optimistic of a vastly improved season in 2020.
The FAI Cup came at the right time for The Tribesmen having added Jack Lynch, Killian Brouder and Stephen Christopher mid-season, Alan Murphy’s squad were far stronger as they entered the competition.
Talented midfielder Conor Barry had also finally returned to full fitness having struggled with a niggling injury for much of the season.
United saw off Collinstown 2-1 in the first round of the competition, which set up a home tie against Cork City in the second round.
A single goal from Conor Melody took Alan Murphy’s men into the quarter-finals of the competition, defying the odds by beating Premier Division opposition.
It looked like The Tribesmen were on the way to repeating that feat when a Maurice Nugent goal gave them the lead against Shamrock Rovers in Deacy Park.
The tie ended in heartbreak for Galway however, when former Tribesmen Aaron Greene and Lee Grace scored in the second half to send Rovers through to the next round of the competition.
EA Sports Cup
The Tribesmen made the short trip up the M6 to face Athlone Town way back in March and, despite going behind early in the game after a George Mukete goal, Alan Murphy’s side battled hard to progress to the second round of the competition.
Conor Barry came off the bench and netted a goal in the 70th minute to send the tie to extra-time. Vinny Faherty also came into the game as a substitute and rose highest late in extra-time to nod the winner home.
United made the long trip to the south-east to face Waterford in the next round, Jeff McGowan drew the visitors level in the second half after Dean Walsh put the Blues ahead in the first half.
Cory Galvin went on to score in the 66th minute to halt United’s progress in the competition.
What they need to improve on for next year:
One of the things that hurt Galway this season was having to rely on several young players that, despite their potential, were simply not ready to play first team football every week.
Murphy too was restricted by a massively tailed back budget going into the 2019 season and quite possibly by his own experience of management at the senior level.
The manager and his young charges now have this year of experience behind them, and there had been visible improvements on the field going into the last stage of the season.
The club have also made early moves in building their squad for 2020 with Conor Barry, Jack Lynch, Stephen Christopher, Donal Higgins, Dara Costelloe, Ivan Gamarra, Maurice Nugent, Colin Kelly, Christopher Horgan and Kevin Horgan all confirmed for next season already.
Murphy will also have more experience in his backroom staff with the announcement of former manager and League of Ireland player Colin Fortune as assistant manager.
The stage is almost set, but it remains to be seen if the club can make real progress in the 2020 season.