England can wait as Sean Gannon has unfinished business with Dundalk
Ex-Saint Sean happy to turn down his cross-channel chance and stay at Oriel Park
LONDON was calling but Seán Gannon said no as he had unfinished business with his current employers, Dundalk FC.
And while the young defender says he does want to progress his career, the lure of England was not enough to tempt him away from Oriel Park and Dundalk's aims of retaining their league title and also making an impact in the Champions League this summer.
While Dundalk team-mate Richie Towell had a high-profile trial at Cardiff City, where he played in a reserve game against Chelsea, Gannon also had the option of a cross-channel move over the winter, as Millwall wanted to take him on trial, but the 23-year-old was not that interested.
"There was never anything set in stone but there was an offer there to go on trial to Millwall," says Gannon, the Dubliner preparing for a tip to Inchicore to face his former club St Patrick's Athletic.
"I just felt it wasn't right, I had only had one full season of football here, with Dundalk, and I wanted more of that. I wanted to play in as many games as possible and develop as a player so I really just wanted to stay at Dundalk and have another season here. The chance might come again, it might not, no one knows.
"But I just felt, after I had thought about it, that for me, at this stage of my career, and with what we are trying to achieve here, that Dundalk was the best place to be," he added.
Still only 23, Gannon has progressed from being a fringe player with Shamrock Rovers and then St Pats into the LOI's Denis Irwin, an always-reliable full back who never misses a game or has a bad one: Gannon has played in every single league game since he joined the club at the start of last season.
"It's a nice record to have," says Gannon, who started just three times games in the Saints' title-winning season of 2013 but has now started 45 league games for Dundalk.
"I have loved every minute of it since I came here and if you'd said to me that I would start 40-odd league games I would never have believed it. But it's not about me, I am happy just to be part of a winning team."
The Dubliner says he has developed as a player since he moved to Oriel Park after those fleeting spells with Rovers and Pats. "It's about getting minutes on the pitch," he says. "You can do all the training you want, but to develop as a player, you need matches.
"Even playing in the European matches, in the Europa League, with Dundalk last season was a big help to me, it's a step-up in terms of the standard and that's great experience for a young player.
"I loved being at Rovers and Pats, but they had really good squads and there was always another player ahead of me. At Pats I had Ger O'Brien in front of me, and Ger probably was - still is - one of the best right backs in the league. It was the same when I was at Rovers, I had Pat Sullivan ahead of me and for a young player it's very hard to get your nose in front when they are so experienced. I learned a lot from the likes of Ger and Pat and I am getting the benefits now."
One reason for Gannon's steady run in the side is the Dundalk manager's policy of not rotating his squad, as continuity is key and no fewer than eight of the Lilywhites squad are ever-presents in the league.
As one of those regulars, Gannon says it's down to pressure for places. "You just want to be part of it every week, no one wants to have a night off because someone else could come in, play in your place, play a stormer and stay in the side," he says.
"Paddy Barrett has come into the team for the last two games as Brian Gartland was injured, Paddy scored two screamers in the EA Sports Cup win on Monday and he's doing all he can to stay in the team once Brian is fit again."
While tonight's clash is a big game for leaders Dundalk, it's potentially a season-defining game for the Saints. A Dundalk win would leave Liam Buckley's side a massive 16 points behind the table-toppers and would, on paper, end their interest in the title race but Gannon is not so sure.
"There's still a lot of football to be played and we're not even near the halfway point so I think it's way too early to talk about Pats, or anyone else, being out of the running," says Gannon.
"With the squad, and the quality of players that Liam Buckley has, they won't settle for that at this stage.
"You have a lot of teams fighting at the top end, Pats are still very much in contention, as are Cork, Rovers and Bohs, so anything could happen in the next few weeks. No matter what happens tonight, Pats will still fancy themselves to be there or thereabouts."
While Pats scrap for the win they need to stay in touch with Dundalk, down in Cork tonight third-placed Shamrock Rovers take on Cork City with the same aim, of keeping pace with the leaders.
Despite a midweek defeat (on penalties) to St Pats in the EA Sports Cup, confidence remains high in Cork after a tricky spell earlier in the season. "We have bounced back, getting three wins in the space of a week," says Cork boss John Caulfield.
"Obviously we are expecting a huge crowd tonight, it is two teams near the top of the table, both with an eye on winning it and certainly keeping the pressure on Dundalk, so it is a huge game.
"Under Pat Fenlon, Rovers have changed their style, so it will be a difficult game but we are really looking forward to it."