Date: 7:45 p.m. March 12, 2010
Venue: Terryland Park
In his programme notes, manager Sean Connor made reference to allowing his team "send out a message" to the home fans on their first glimpse of his newly assembled squad in competitive action. Unfortunately only 902 hardy souls ventured out for this tie, one that may not have been sprinkled liberally with attractive football, but still added up to a decent night's entertainment.
Connor made a solitary change to the side beaten in Richmond Park on the opening night, replacing the suspended Stephen O'Donnell with an attacker in the shape of Bobby Ryan. Nicky Byrne came in in place of Philip Knight at the heart of the defence for the visitors, but his involvement was to be shortlived as Galway threatened to dismantle Bray in the first half hour.
Robbie Doyle, the Seagulls most potent threat of the first half, almost gave Eddie Gormley's side the perfect start within 40 seconds when he fired in a shot that flew inches left of Barry Ryan's post. It was a false dawn, though, as Galway United quickly got on top as Sheppard latched on to a number of basic punts forward to cause the Bray defence untold problems.
The breakthrough came when Seamus Conneely's 21st minute cross fell invitingly for Gary Curran. The midfielder's effort was deflected up and over Brian Kane's dive, and Sheppard, the former Everton reserve, reacted quickly to tap in from close range.
Jason Molloy then had a shot saved as Galway pressed, and the second wasn't long in coming as Sheppard showed great close control on the right flank to outwit Shane O'Connor and send in a cross that Derek O'Brien gratefully finished to the net at the back post. Within a minute the post was rattled when Sheppard found space in the box, with subsequent penalty claims ignored.
Gormley realised drastic action was needed as he withdrew Byrne and sent on Knight, but could hardly have hoped for the immediacy of the return from the defender's introduction. Robbie Doyle had a half-chance on 37 in attempting to lob the advanced Ryan, but the 'keeper recovered in time to gather.
Four minutes later, Knight struck to drag his side back into the contest when a corner was not dealt with properly by the home defence and the substitute shot through a crowded box and beat Ryan. A soft goal for the home side to concede given their prior dominance, and Connor no doubt had stern words at the break.
Within seconds his side should have been two up again when Sheppard broke into the box, dinked the ball over Bray 'keeper Brian Kane, but while he tried to adjust himself and poke the ball in, Knight and Daire Doyle put in a strong tackle to clear. More goals were looking inevitable as both sides appeared permeable when faced with any sort of decent attacking play.
Yet again it was Sheppard who was next to go close as Bobby Ryan scampered down the wing and pulled back for the young Dubliner whose sidefooted shot was blocked en route to the bottom corner. Derek O'Brien then somehow struck the butt of the post from less than six yards after good work from Molloy.
Bray responded with two good efforts of their own as Robbie Doyle and Richie Baker carved out opportunities that came to nothing, and the home crowd were becoming restless as their ire increasingly became vented in the direction of referee Alan Kelly, a regular source of displeasure for United fans.
With a lead in hand, though, the game was there to be won without the referee's assistance. Bray, though, continued to threaten and Robbie Doyle first had a header saved before pouncing on a Thomas Heary mistake to gallop clear and force a good save from Ryan; Rhys Meynell was brave in the scramble to avert the danger.
That looked to be the last action of note until Robbie Doyle was presented with a glorious chance to level in the dying seconds, getting on the end of David Tyrell's delivery, but was denied by a stunning save from Ryan at close quarters and Galway played out the three remaining minutes to cling onto the three points.
Galway United: Barry Ryan; Seamus Conneely, Thomas Heary, Jamie McKenzie, Rhys Meynell; Bobby Ryan (Cian McBrien, 76), Ciaran Foley, Gary Curran, Derek O'Brien; Karl Sheppard, Jason Molloy (Jonathan Keane, 83).
Unused Substitutes: Paul Sinnott, James Creaney, Tom King.
Bray Wanderers: Brian Kane; Daire Doyle, Shane O'Connor, Nicky Byrne (Philip Knight, 34), Dane Massey (Andrei Georgescu 85); Richie Baker, James Kavanagh, Chris Shields, Jake Kelly (David Tyrell, 54); Robbie Doyle, Shane O'Neill.
Unused Substitutes: Carl Donnelly, Ian Tuohy.
Referee: Alan Kelly.
Official Attendance: 902.
Extratime Man of the Match: Karl Sheppard.