After a tumultuous first season with Galway United, Shane Keegan has a positive outlook for the coming season. The seasoned manager is embarking on his second year with Galway having taken the helm last season after his stint with Wexford. The Galway Eye caught up with Shane during a busy week of physical training in between sessions to find out what the coming season holds and the challenges facing a team eager to bounce back.
Players, the veterans and the newcomers
When asked about new signings, Shane said, a big one for us is Ryan Connolly. He was one of the clubs standout players in 2015 and 2016 but then he made the move to Shamrock Rovers last year, lucky for us he didn’t end up staying with them so we are delighted to have him back for the 2018 season. He’d have had a clatter of premier division sides that would have been very happy to snap him up from Shamrock Rovers so it’s a great boost for us to get him back, he’s always been a fans’ favourite.
In mid-January, we signed a guy called Robbie Williams (not that Robbie Williams, I asked). He picked up a League Winners medal last year after playing the first half of the season with Limerick and then transferred into Cork who went on to win the league title. That’s a significant signing for us, it’s great to be able to bring in a person with such quality experience behind him.
Another key signing for us is our new goalie, Tadhg Ryan. He is joining us from Huddersfield, originally a native of Limerick. He’s been playing a seriously high level over the last number of years and he’s been looking really good over the last couple of weeks in pre-season training. I reckon he’ll be a player that the fans will really appreciate over the coming months.
In terms of players from the youth team bring brought up Shane was very positive about a number of key players that have been cornerstones of the younger squads in previous seasons saying, there were two or three that were involved last year that were not regularly featured last season but that that would change this year. One of whom is Maurice Nugent, he was exceptional last year for our U19s’ and Aaron Conway who was in the U19s the year previously, he’d have gotten the most playing time last year and the one player who was pushing hardest to be a regular this year. There’s another guy called Ronan Manning. Supporters are quite interested in him because his brother, Brian Manning is with QPR and is the centre-forward for the Irish U21s. There seems to be a pedigree there, he looks to be an exciting player for the coming year. We’ve also got Adam Rooney coming up, he’s still young but stands at a towering 6’3 and looks to be a huge prospect for the team.
The standout moment from last season
The biggest moment was, of course, beating Dundalk who were the defending champions last year. To beat them 1-0 at home with an injury time winner, it really doesn’t get much better than that. Ultimately it was a disappointing season for us, while we did well in particular games over the season, at the same time you just can’t wait to get stuck into the new season because we want nothing more than to redeem ourselves.
It is intense, just this week gone we had one of the toughest trainings so far. The focus at the moment is very much on the physical fitness. Next week we will see a shift towards the soccer side of things and then by the final two weeks we’ll be focusing on tactics, plays and strategy. At the moment they are right in the middle of it and it is going great. We played our first pre-season game last Saturday night in which we played over an hour with 10 men because we’d a player sent off, we still managed to keep a draw against a tremendous Limerick side. This Friday (26th Jan) we face Sligo, that’ll be a good indicator of where are and how we’re doing.
What could be done to ensure more League of Ireland players get into the Irish Squad?
I’d have liked to have seen Stephen Kenny get the job owing to his track record with Dundalk over the past number of years. I’d like to think that League of Ireland players would get a bit more recognition because of his consistent involvement in the overall league for so long. I would agree though that it can be difficult to find great players who are playing domestically, if they are only playing domestically as it is a huge jump up. I was surprised to see that so many of the Dundalk lads were performing so well on the European stage which is a very high standard and yet they were not getting into the Irish squad. In saying that, when Irish players are with any of the European clubs and they are doing well individually within the teams, that should be enough to feature in an Irish squad.
Biggest challenge for you as a manager for 2018?
We have to bounce back. Our fans and followers have been nothing but supportive saying how unlucky we were to go down but at the end of the day we did go down and we have to bounce back, it’s as simple as that. Ideally we’d like to win the League so that we’d get to go up automatically, if we don’t we could place 2nd, 3rd or 4th which would put us in the play-offs. That, of course would be a more difficult route. It’s going to be tough, it’s an incredibly competitive league. We’ve at least 6 formidable sides capable of winning it and we’re seeing two sides emerging with substantial budgets who’ve already made a few big signings so it’ll be a challenge but our aim is to bounce back on our first attempt and I’ll tell you one thing, we will have a fair crack at it!
With a mere month to wait for the season to commence it is abundantly clear that Keegan and the Tribesmen are ready to make an impact in the First Division. Their opening game will be against a strong Athlone side on the 23rd February in Eamon Deacy Park, it is set to be an exciting year for Galway United and with Shane at the helm, we can see nothing only great things for the side.