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'I can’t hide in Galway, whereas other boys who get relegated can go back to where they’re from'

Tribesmen defender Stephen Folan accepts that they face an uphill battle to retain their Premier Division status with a win tonight.

Folan in action alongside Gary Shaw of Shamrock Rovers.
Folan in action alongside Gary Shaw of Shamrock Rovers.
Image: Gary Carr/INPHO

SO WHO WILL it be heading to the First Division with Finn Harps and Drogheda United?

Tonight marks the final round of fixtures in the SSE Airtricity League’s top flight for 2017 and three clubs remain embroiled in a relegation dog fight.

With St Patrick’s Athletic and Sligo Rovers holding a three-point advantage over 10th-placed Galway United heading into games against Derry City and Drogheda United respectively, it’s the Tribesmen who are favourites for the drop.

Shane Keegan’s side must win at home to Dundalk and hope that either the Saints of the Bit O’Red slip up. Otherwise, they are set for a return to the second tier of Irish football for the first time since 2014.

Galway defender Stephen Folan believes they’ve been unlucky at times, but accepts the situation they find themselves in.

“I don’t think our position is a fair reflection but, in saying that, the table doesn’t lie,” Folan told The42 this week. “We had a slow start, drew too many matches in that run and ultimately that’s what cost us.

“Over the second half of the season, we had a more settled team with better shape — apart from Lee Grace leaving for Shamrock Rovers and Vinny Faherty going to Sligo obviously.

“You look back over the last three games and we were the better team for large parts of them. It isn’t that sides have been cutting us apart but we’ve probably been caught out on concentration and positioning to concede bad goals.

“At the other end, we’ve had so many chances to win games and we haven’t been clinical enough. It’s been a mixed bag of a season.”

Results aside, Folan has enjoyed a productive season and the former Limerick, Sligo Rovers and Cork City centre-half takes pride in the fact that has played every minute of every league game.

It’s the best season I’ve had in terms of games,” he says. “I’m finally back fit and it’s just frustrating that we are where we are.

“I’ve come home and been here the last couple of years. Even though we’re down the table, I’ve enjoyed my football most this year. I like playing under Shane as you can go and speak to him a lot. He gives you criticism but does it in a way that shows there is a respect there.

“I wouldn’t like to see him lose his job because he’s one of the most hard-working managers I’ve played under.”

Shane Keegan Galway boss Shane Keegan. Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

Staying up was always going to be a particularly difficult task once it was announced that three clubs would be going down due to the restructuring to two 10-team divisions.

Galway now need a favour from elsewhere, but the 25-year-old insists they must to concentrate fully on their own job.

“We can’t be focused on anyone else but ourselves,” he says. “If it happens and we stay up, so be it. If not, we haven’t been good enough.

“We’re playing one of the best teams in the league over the past number of years. It’s going to be a tough job but we have to go out thinking we can come away with the three points. I can’t remember the last time Dundalk have lost back-to-back games in the league, so for that to happen we need a lot of things to go right on the day.

“Asking for other teams in this league to do us favours is no use. A few weeks ago you’d have expected Shamrock Rovers to beat Pats but they went there and lost.”

Relegation would be a bitter pill to take for everyone connected to the club, and Folan suggests that making an immediate return would be near impossible.

“To be brutally honest, I don’t think there would be a way back from it. The way I see it, who’s going to invest in us in the First Division?

“You look at Limerick, who went down and came back up, but they kept the squad together. I can’t see that happening at Galway — although I don’t know what the situation will be.

Galway going down? Jesus, what would it mean to the whole county and people who support the club? It’s not something you don’t want to be associated with.

“The bookies are probably making us favourites but if we can win on Friday and one of the other teams lose, that is all that matters.”

And the fact that Galway are his hometown club would make it that bit harder to take.

“I’ve got that extra baggage,” he says. “I can’t hide in Galway, whereas other boys who get relegated at other teams can go back to where they’re from and walk down the street without having anything said to them.

“The last couple of weeks, so many people have stopped me asking ‘Are you going down? What do you think?’. Listen, it wouldn’t be an enjoyable couple of months for anyone involved.”

Whatever happens tonight, Folan will have to deal with some uncertainty over his future as his current deal is about to expire.

“Unless you’re playing for a Cork, Dundalk, Derry or Shams, no one does more than 40-week contracts. I’ll have to sit down with the club.”

Predictions

Every week, we’re giving readers the chance to take us on in predicting the Premier Division results. After Week 29, here are the standings:

The Readers: 78
The42: 77

Next up is William Condon

St Patrick’s Athletic v Derry City – Derry win
Galway United v Dundalk – Galway win
Cork City v Bray Wanderers – Cork win
Drogheda United v Sligo Rovers – Sligo win
Bohemians v Finn Harps – Bohemians win
Shamrock Rovers v Limerick – Shamrock Rovers win

The42 (Ben Blake)

St Patrick’s Athletic v Derry City – Draw
Galway United v Dundalk – Galway win
Cork City v Bray Wanderers – Cork win
Drogheda United v Sligo Rovers – Sligo win
Bohemians v Finn Harps – Bohemians win
Shamrock Rovers v Limerick – Draw

Subscribe to The42 podcasts here:

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Ben Blake

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