Wednesday 21 March 2018

Keegan looks to Cup for boost in relegation battle

Photo: Stock Image
Photo: Stock Image
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

Galway United manager Shane Keegan believes a prolonged FAI Cup run can help their league survival mission.

And he is under no illusions about the price he could pay if the latter mission ends unsuccessfully.

Galway are immersed in the battle to stay in the top flight and sit second from bottom with seven games remaining.

With the bottom three going down, they are in real trouble and last week's home defeat to Shamrock Rovers was a killer.

What really hurt Keegan was referee Anthony Buttimer's decision not to send off Dave Webster for the handball that denied Ronan Murray a clear goalscoring opportunity in the first half.

Murray did slot home the penalty, but Keegan was mystified that Webster was allowed to stay on the pitch and contribute to a Rovers comeback.

His anger was apparent in his animated TV interview that was a notch above the standard post-match fare and he told this week's LOI Weekly Podcast that he had no regrets about showing his emotions.

"I came across in the way I wanted," said Keegan, speaking ahead of tonight's all-Premier Division second round cup clash with St Patrick's Athletic. "I could have delayed the interview and allowed myself to calm down but I didn't want to calm down.

"I was absolutely fuming. We'd got to a crucial stage of the season and what I was trying to put across was - I'm not saying there was an agenda against us or that the referee did us for a particular reason - but he just got a decision really, really badly wrong."

Keegan knows that the consequences of going down could be grim.

"What does it normally mean for a manager who goes down?" he says, "It more than likely means the bullet, more often than not.

"I hope that's not a situation I find myself in, I hope it's not a question that's answered. I think we're good enough to stay up. It's a big challenge. We've got a lot of the teams around us still to come."

St Patrick's Athletic are not out of danger yet either but the Dubliners' form has improved since the last league meeting between the sides in July ended in a 1-1 draw at Richmond Park that convinced Saints owner Garrett Kelleher that money was required for fresh blood.

Keegan believes the benefit of cup progression can go beyond the simple prize of making the last eight.

"It's a nice distraction, it definitely is," he says. "There are a lot of positives that would come out of winning the game. Obviously it would give a morale boost, but there's also nothing worse than a weekend without a game.

"If we don't win, it means the weekend after next we've no game. I don't care what level you're operating at, training all week where you don't have a game at the weekend is a killer, an absolute killer.

"Boys train for the motivation of the game and when there's no game, it takes a bit out of your training sessions. The week can drag. One of the reasons we want to win is to be playing two weeks from now."

The other interesting FAI Cup tie tonight also takes place in the capital with First Division side Shelbourne hosting Shamrock Rovers in a game that used to have real top-flight significance.

Shels have fallen on hard times but they did shock Waterford in the previous round. The rest of their campaign hinges on this game, with manager Owen Heary looking to build bridges between the club hierarchy and supporters disenfranchised by a planned move to Dalymount Park.

Their old Tolka tenants Rovers will be going full tilt at this game with a view to meeting their domestic targets.

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