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Saturday 10 December 2016

Oriel heroes are in no rush to leave: Sean

Dundalk’s Sean Gannon (left) with team-mate John McEleney. Pic: Sportsfile
Dundalk’s Sean Gannon (left) with team-mate John McEleney. Pic: Sportsfile

The bags are packed as Dundalk's players head off today on the 5,000km round trip to Russia for their Europa League date with Zenit St Petersburg,

But with scouts and spies hovering over the talented bunch at Oriel Park, young defender Sean Gannon admits it will take a very tempting offer to persuade him to pack up and leave the club.

The social media accounts, email addresses and mobile phones of many of this Dundalk squad are flooded with offers from agents and scouts, many of them bogus or dubious.

But there's no doubt that, with talents like Daryl Horgan, Andy Boyle, Sean Gannon and Patrick McEleney all out of contract when this season ends, these boys will be in demand.

Gannon, who has enjoyed a medal-laden three years with Dundalk after spells as a fringe player with Shamrock Rovers and St Pat's, is at an ideal age (25) to secure a move away, but the Dubliner says he's anything but desperate to leave.

Best time

"I haven't thought about a move or anything like that, we've had so many games no one has had time to think about it. I am at Dundalk three years now and I love it there, it's been the best time of my career. I am a Dundalk player and I enjoy it there so I will have to wait and see," Gannon told The Herald ahead of the team's charter flight to Russia today.

"It would have to be an exceptional offer for me to move, it would have to be the right move for me personally. I am playing week in week out, I get to play a lot of football for a brilliant team that's winning trophies. It would have to be the right offer, not just in terms of football."

The outcome of their last three Europa League games, the first in snowy Russia on Thursday, could have a big say, as players would be most reluctant to leave the Co Louth club if Dundalk are in the knock-out stages of the competition in February.

Currently second in the Europa League table, Dundalk would take a big step towards qualification if they can get a result away to a Zenit side whose impressive form took a nosedive with a 4-0 loss in the Russian Cup last week, though they did bounce back on Sunday with what was their fourth straight league win.

"Our aim is to be still in the Eurpoa League in February, definitely," added Gannon.

"We know it will be tough but we're in a good position and are there on merit. I don't know how the logistics of the contracts and that would be worked out if the season did go into February but our ambition is to be there and why not think like that?

"We are second in a tough group. People said before the BATE game that we hadn't a hope but we did it and the confidence comes from within."

Gannon says that belief was there even before this group phase campaign kicked off with that valuable and hard-earned draw away to AZ Alkmaar.

"Before we kicked a ball in the group stages of the Europa League, the manager told us he wanted us to compete, really compete. He wanted us to understand that we weren't there just to make up the numbers, he had the faith and confidence in us that we could compete in Europe and that's shown in our performances, we have played well in all of the European games," Gannon added.

No illusion

"We're under no illusions about this week, we played Zenit in Dublin and saw how good they are.

"I can't say they underestimated us but we showed we are a very good counter-attacking side in Europe, which we don't really show in the league games as we have so much possession in the league here, Zenit will be wary of us, we did cause them problems on the break, lads like Daryl, Ronan Finn, Patrick McEleney and Dave McMillan, everyone can carry the ball in this side and Thursday will be a different game.

"They will be looking to win, if they win they are through to the knock-out stages and they'd expect that. It's a big game but we have to go there in a positive manner, we will have a game plan and be well-prepared."

Gannon is eager to play a role in the final four games of 2016 having been sidelined. "I feel 100 percent now. I had a tear in my calf, that happened against Sligo and I ended up missing 10 days, with our schedule that meant missing three games," he says.

"Then I got a bad viral infection which knocked me back but I feel fit and well now and looking forward to a big week."

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