Noel Connolly- Galway.
How did you become interested in Galway United?
I have been a fan of GUFC ever since I was a teenager in the late seventies going to the very first games in the league cup, having been invited to take part as the then Galway Rovers FC. I haven’t missed many home games since then either. Have always been involved since, from helping run the early supporters club to serving on club committee.
What is your earliest memory of Galway United?
As above heading up the Dyke Road to Terryland Park on a Sunday afternoon and the atmosphere in “the Shed”.
What has been your favourite moments as United fan?
Happy to say I have been at all the great days and nights. Winning the league cup for first time in Tolka Park in 1985 and in 1997 were great occasions, but winning the FAI cup has to be the stand out moment. The Johnny Glynn goal was delivered on a plate by the legendary Tommy Keane and travelling back with the team on Monday Night to Galway was special.
What are your worst memories as a United fan?
The collapse of the Club in 2012 and going out of the league was a horrible time for GUFC fans, but on the pitch the worst memory would be the 3-0 away playoff defeat to Drogheada in 2003. Having led 2-0 in the first leg we went to United Park in confident mood, but on a wet night everything went against us including some dubious refeering decisions which relegated us 3-2.
What does your role as stadium manager involve?
My role as stadium manager has been broad and interesting. I have been in this role since 1994 and have to say it’s been most enjoyable. It has involved obviously planning and preparation of the ground in recent years as developments took place and preparation for match day, keeping stadium areas safe and in good condition. As well as managing the playing surface throughout the year, which can be challenging as we have a 12 month season here with local football in winter and overlapping to summer national league both ladies and gents. I also manage the community employment project which has a staff of 32 with 10 based in EDP and remainder at local soccer rugby and gaa clubs around the city, some I help train in groundkeeping skills. The stadium is open every day with the Galway FA office a busy location for all local football issues.
What are matchday preparations like?
It often depends a lot on the weather! I usually would be monitoring the conditions on what work is carried out before match day. It’s normally a long day for GUFC games normally starting at 9am and usually locking up the gates around 11pm. Match day prep will be carried out with the help of CE staff. The pitch is usually cut twice on match day to look as good a possible and the pitch is lined in afternoon. Then flags are put up and the ground is checked for anything dangerous or any H&S issues. The toilets opened and checked and any new signage is put up. The away fans area prepared, the seating is checked, the turnstiles are opened and operating. Just to mention the most important tasks… others would be arranging for any visiting teams and half time pitch use, helping to organise stewards etc.
What is something about EDP that most people wouldn’t know?
Obviously most wouldn’t know the amount of games we host, which normally around 100 per year. Theres a big demand in March-June as we have all the local finals during that period, as well as the league of Ireland and ladies national league starting.
Probably a useless piece of information would be that the boundary wall of the ground was built in 94/95 by the community employment project with a massive 45,000 blocks.
Who are the best away fans you have seen at EDP?
In the history of the ground the best fans were from Derry when they first entered the league in the mid eighties. They brought thousands to their away games, with colourful and vocal supporters, as well as adding to the home teams finances. In recent years Shamrock Rovers always have big vocal numbers, but not always the best behaved. Limerick in the 2017 season had great away support in EDP as well.
What is your favourite away ground?
It has to be Turners Cross, good pitch great stands close to play and nice local pubs. Tallaght Stadium has set the standards for new modern facilities though.
What would be your reflection on last season?
Like in 2017, we were disappointing. We underperformed and underachieved with the squads we had, and some senior players were disappointing with attitude and performance. Obviously we had and been favourates for promotion, so it was a deflating season from the start to finish. We were always waiting for that expected performance to spark the team into life but, bar the early vctory over UCD, it never happened. After long match days and trying to have everything prepared in the ground to a high standard as possible, it sometimes would be deflating watching us defeated regulary at home.
What lessons should be taken from last season, and what should be done by the team to improve this season?
Hopefully we can make EDP a fortress and a difficult place for visiting teams to come and win. Our home form needs to improve and we must learn when in front to close out games, we gave away to many late goals at home last few seasons.
Which signing has impressed you so far?
Been delighted that Conor Barry has stayed with us for another season, as well as getting Iarfhlaith Davoren back and Kevin Horgan, a local lad, back in goals.
What are your predictions for the coming season?
League Table. 4th.
Top scorer, player of the year. Conor Barry.
The rest of the league. I think Shels will win the division with Longford and Bray close behind.
Thoughts on pre-season?
We have had a quite pre season, would have liked to get one game in EDP but weather and other games didn’t allow.
What have you missed most during the off-season?
The regular Friday night football home and away.
Thoughts on the new merchandise deal with Puma?
It looks well, especially the yellow away kit. It’s a well recognized brand and being the only club in the league that I’m aware of that are using the PUMA brand hopefully we can perform well for them.