By Robert O’Reilly
Drogheda United will make their return to Premier Division football on Friday night when they travel to Eamonn Deacy Park to face Galway United, kick-off 7.45pm.
The Drogs ensured that it was only a one-year absence from top flight football after they achieved promotion last November in a dramatic play-off with Wexford Youths, then managed by new Galway boss Shane Keegan.
With a vigorous six-week pre-season under their belts, coupled with an exciting blend of fresh faces and the core of last year’s side, Drogheda United manager Pete Mahon is eagerly awaiting Friday’s big kick-off.
“I’m really looking forward to it, it’s what all the hard work over the last couple of months have been for,” Mahon explained Wednesday evening. “This moment seemed a long time away at this stage last year in the First Division but we stuck at it and deserve to be where we are.
“I’ve been delighted with how pre-season has gone, I think we’re in great condition fitness wise but that has to be a given in today’s game. We’ve been fortunate not to have had many disruptions or injuries in pre-season and we feel raring to go for Galway.
“It was important that we kept the core of last season’s side together because they did what we asked of them and we believe that they are capable of making the step-up in quality. We’ve added good experience and quality with some of the new faces and I’m hopeful that we can surprise a few people this year.”
With the bottom three sides to be relegated to the First Division at the end of the season, Mahon is all too aware that his side can not afford a slow start in such a fiercely competitive league.
“If we’re being honest, there’s only maybe four teams that are capable of winning the league and everyone else will have one eye on avoiding relegation. In the big picture, nothing is going to be won or lost Friday night but the last thing we want is a slow start and run the risk of getting cut adrift.
“I know that all the media outlets and the pundits have Drogheda and Galway, along with Finn Harps, down as three of the favourites for relegation but that doesn’t affect us one bit.
“We are going to embrace this experience, there is nothing to fear. Once we give 100% and play the football that I know we’re capable of, I’m very confident we’ll be finishing clear of the bottom three.”
Marc Griffin is an injury doubt for the Boynesiders with a tight hamstring while Mark Doyle is struggling with an ankle complaint. Sean Brennan will miss out having only recently returned to training following his honeymoon while the club is still awaiting international clearance for Ryan McEvoy.