Date: 7:45 p.m. Nov. 2, 2010
Venue: Terryland Park
Whether Connor will be at the helm to guide the Westerners through the 2011 campaign will be subject to some debate, as his continued pleas for consistent support to help increase the playing budget fall mainly on deaf ears. The crowd was up tonight, of course, as nothing brings out the latent support in Galway more than an everything-on-the-line clash such as this one.
After a frenzied opening 15 minutes in which both sides looked dangerous and vulnerable as the play switched from end to end in the blink of an eye, the home side took the lead when Sheppard grabbed his most important, and probably easiest, goal of the season.
Little danger was evident when Galway won a throw in the right corner, but Bray inexplicably switched off and allowed Jamie McKenzie time to control the ball and send in a cross which Derek O'Brien did very well to head towards the bottom corner, forcing Gregg to scramble across and parry straight into Sheppard's path, and United's top scorer needed no second invitation to slam the ball home.
While Bray had their fair share of possession, they struggled to create any real moments of anxiety for a dominant centre half pairing of McKenzie and Rhys Meynell. Not that Galway's creative juices were flowing either, although Gary Curran, Stephen O'Donnell, and Seamus Conneely were trying admirably to thread their way through the Wanderers rearguard.
Too often, though, Jason Molloy, so influential against Bohemians, and Sheppard, were on different wavelengths, and the half drew to a close without a further notable chance for either team as Bray were unable to get their talisman Jake Kelly into the game in any meaningful way.
With a precious lead in hand and a place at the top table almost secured, Galway became ragged and made a crowd inclined towards pessimism fear the worst. Bray's impotence showed no signs of abating, though.
With 17 minutes remaining Derek O'Brien got the home fans on their feet with a slamoming run that culminated with a low shot across Gregg's six yard box that flashed narrowly wide. O'Brien should then have made the tie safe three minutes later, after substitute Tom King did well down the right and, via O'Donnell, played in the winger who blazed well and truly over the bar from close range.
Bray's chances for redemption suffered further on 83 minutes when Adam Mitchell received a straight red card for hauling down Tom King 35 yards from goal. The defendfer was technically the last man but as King was in the inside right channel the decision evoked ire from the Bray contingent.
He wasn't the only one to see an early shower, however, as O'Brien was ordered off in inury time after playing on after a close offside call. Bray won a brace of corners in the dying seconds and threw their 'keeper forward in a last ditch attempt for parity, but Galway dealt bravely with both set pieces and were worthy of their place in the top flight.
Galway United: Barry Ryan; Seamus Conneely, Jamie McKenzie, Paul Sinnott, Rhys Meynell; Derek O'Brien, Stephen O'Donnell, Gary Curran, Stephen Walsh; Karl Sheppard, Jason Molloy (Tom King, 72 ( Jonathan Keane, 93).
Subs not used: Conor Winn, Philip Reilly, Neil Keane.
Bray Wanderers: Matt Gregg; Daire Doyle, Dave Webster, Adam Mitchell, Dane Massey; Graham Kelly (Colm Tresson, 77), Danny O'Connor, Gary Dempsey, Jake Kelly; Chris Shields (Shane O'Neill, 46), Gary Shaw.
Subs not used: Brian Kane, Nicky Byrne, Shane O'Connor.
Referee: Damien Hancock.
extratime Man of the Match: Seamus Conneely.