Monday 20 November 2017

Boys ready for Ireland's call

Shamrock Rovers v Dundalk (Tonight, 7.45pm, Live RTé 2)

Dundalk’s Daryl Horgan was presented with his SSE Airtricity/SWAI Player of the Month Award for September at Merrion Square Park, Dublin yesterday
Dundalk’s Daryl Horgan was presented with his SSE Airtricity/SWAI Player of the Month Award for September at Merrion Square Park, Dublin yesterday

With an astonishing six games to play in the next 14 days alone, Daryl Horgan doesn't have much time on his hands to sit around waiting for the phone to ring.

He even had to take more time out of his already-crammed schedule to pop down to Dublin, for the welcome reason of accepting the Player of the Month award from the SSE Airtricity Soccer Writers Association of Ireland (SWAI), before another trip to the capital tonight where Dundalk take on Shamrock Rovers.

The 24-year-old Galway native is currently dealing with the twin stories which usually only trouble players already based in England: a big transfer and a call-up to the senior Ireland squad.

To date, his only experience of international football was mundane: a late sub for the Irish U21s in a 0-0 draw in a friendly in Denmark three years ago, Shane Duffy one of his team-mates.

Horgan stresses that his focus is on club, not country, Dundalk aware that a slip-up tonight against Rovers (and Dundalk could only draw at home to the Hoops last month) could put Cork back into the title race and reduce the four-point gap.

But Horgan feels that displays by home-based players in Europe have put to bed the notion that Irish footballers can only aspire to playing for Ireland if they are with a club outside of Ireland.


"In the past, I think the school of thought always was that you had to be away to get into the Irish squad, but the fact that ourselves and Cork have done well against international players in the European games, maybe it shows there is quality in the league and that players can step up," Horgan says.

"At the start of the year I'd have said that you need to be in England to get into the Irish squad, but now that we've had the opportunity to play in the group stages of a European competition, it's different.

"You are playing against teams who are regulars in the Champions League, who have international-class players in their squads. You are not only competing with them but beating them. So that shows there is a lot of quality here.

"Playing in England is different financially and the Championship is a very competitive league - but you wouldn't get to play in the big European nights if you did go to England."

A glance at last week's international action backs up Horgan's theory: of the Maccabi Tel Aviv side beaten by Dundalk last month, six of their players were involved in the recent World Cup qualifiers, for Serbia, Bosnia, Iceland and Israel.

Horgan's exposure is no longer limited to England and if continental clubs have any sense, or any nose for talent, they will get involved in the chase if and when Horgan decides to leave.

But all that can wait.

"I am focused on Dundalk, we have a league to win, five cup finals. We have Rovers next and we know that won't be easy because they need a win to guarantee Europe."

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