Galway native Stephen O’Donnell is happy to see his hometown club on course for a return to the Premier Division but he is hoping to smash their dream of FAI Cup glory when Dundalk make the trip west on Friday night.
After setting a scorching pace, The Tribesmen sit 15 points clear at the top of the First Division table and barring an unprecedented collapse in their final six games, John Caulfield’s men will take their place in the top flight next season for the first time since 2017.
O’Donnell played with Galway United back in 2010 but he said any fond memories would be thrown out the window come Friday night when the teams do battle for a place in the final four.
“I’m looking forward to the tie,” he said. “I know from the messages I’ve been getting since the draw was made that there’s a buzz around the city and they’re riding the crest of a wave.
“I think the League of Ireland needs a club like Galway United. It’s a massive club, they play in a good venue, they have good support and it’s good for the league to have a balance and a spread where the whole country is represented.
“It can only be a good thing when there’s a team from a city like Galway getting back up to the Premier Division but I’d like to be leaving Eamonn Deacy Park with the locals disappointed and us preparing for an FAI Cup semi-final.”
This will be the ninth time that the clubs have met in the competition – Dundalk have won six and drawn two – and the third that the sides have faced off at Eamonn Deacy Park.
On the previous two occasions, back in the 2001/2002 season and 2015, Dundalk went on to lift the trophy and O’Donnell is hoping that run continues, although he knows it won’t be easy against a Galway outfit that has won all 15 of their home matches this season and booked their place in the last eight of the Sports Direct Men’s FAI Cup with a 5-1 win over UCD in the second round.
“They’re obviously flying high,” said O’Donnell. “They’re dismantling the first division and they’ve had a flawless home record and it’ll be a long time since there was as big a crowd in Eamonn Deacy as there will be on Friday night.
“From our point of view, it’s an FAI Cup quarter-final and it’ll be great to play in that kind of atmosphere in a good venue and on a good pitch.
“We’ve had a two-week break since the Derry game so we are chomping at the bit to get going again. We’ve had good preparation for the game and we’re looking forward to going down there.”
O’Donnell described Dundalk’s performance in the 3-1 defeat to Derry City as the best of his tenure but he agreed that poor defending was costing his side dearly.
“My honest opinion is that we played well in the last two games, against Shamrock Rovers and Derry, and we need to maintain the energy and the crispness that we showed.
“At the same time, we’re not naive. We know the goals we gave up were unacceptable and, structurally, we need to be more solid throughout. We’re not giving up goals from periods of pressure, they’re coming from isolated moments so it’s about staying focused at all times and being a bit more resilient.
“We’re getting a lot of chances at the other end of the pitch so it’s about cutting out the lapses and being razor-focused at all times throughout the 95 or 96 minutes.”
Team News: John Martin and Ryan O’Kane are back in the squad after missing the game with Derry City two weeks ago but Louie Annesley, Andy Boyle and Keith Ward are out.