Wednesday 12 December 2018

Airtricity League relegation permutations explained - Galway will need some help to avoid painful fall

Shane Keegan is hoping for an unlikely set of results to ensure Galway’s survival. Photo: Sportsfile
Shane Keegan is hoping for an unlikely set of results to ensure Galway’s survival. Photo: Sportsfile
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

It was always going to come down to the last day.

But for everyone involved with Galway United, there is a danger that the final night of a season-long battle to avoid relegation could be devoid of suspense.

Last weekend's results were a killer for Shane Keegan's side. In isolation, a 2-2 draw away to Limerick could be considered a reasonable result.

But victories for St Patrick's Athletic and Sligo Rovers against Cork and Derry respectively meant it was two points dropped for the Tribesmen. They are now three points behind their rivals with a superior goal difference.

The simple consequence is that their only route to survival is beating Dundalk at home tonight and hoping that either the Saints or Sligo lose their concluding match of the campaign.

Danger

In other words, St Patrick's Athletic (away to Derry) and Sligo Rovers (away to Drogheda) only need a point to be safe from danger.

They would have paid good money if offered that position a fortnight ago with the decision to cull the Premier Division from 12 teams to 10 making this a stressful year for managers and club administrators.

Finn Harps' relegation was confirmed last week and Drogheda were put out of their misery last month and both of those sides were always going to be struggle due to financial limitations.

St Pat''s, Sligo and Galway would all expect to be higher up the table given they are effectively full-time operations although the Saints have scaled things back a little this term and needed summer signings to raise spirits.

The real problem for Galway across the year has been an inability to turn draws into wins; that is reflected in the goal difference which has given them a slim chance of escaping a return to the wilderness of the First Division.

They have drawn 14 of their 32 matches and won just seven. Sligo have 14 draws and eight wins to their name while the Saints have lost more games (12) than the Connacht duo but have registered nine victories.

Galway boss Keegan knows it will take a serious effort for his team to make the other results relevant and give themselves a chance of escaping a return to the wilderness of the First Division.

"We're playing one of the form teams in the country, on the last day of the season, needing a win," says Keegan. "It's not exactly who you would want to play, but we have to look after our own performance and be in control of that.

"There is no reason that we can't produce another good performance and if that's good enough on the day, then we can take a look around at the results elsewhere."

Dundalk have a cup final on their mind and Stephen Kenny has injury problems that should impact on the side he fields but they are keen to bounce back from a loss to Bohemians last Friday and that could spell bad news for the natives.

Sligo supremo Ger Lyttle is warning against complacency ahead of their clash with the division's worst team. "I have too much respect for Drogheda's manager and management team to treat the game lightly," he said. "To think that Drogheda are just waiting for the season to end and that they will go through the motions would be stupidity."

In reality, Galway followers are more likely to be waiting on score updates from Derry's final game in Maginn Park. There was a mini pitch invasion at Inchicore when St Pat's defeated Cork, but they still have work to do.

The Leesiders will receive the league trophy after their game with Bray and John Caulfield has completed some important work ahead of that match by agreeing a new two-year deal with Conor McCormack.

Galway v Dundalk, live, RTE2, 7.45

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