Friday 24 November 2017

Dundalk mount' FAI cup mission

Dundalk midfielder John Mountney
Dundalk midfielder John Mountney
Dundalk manager Stephen Kenny is pictured with the FAI Cup during a media day at Oriel Park ahead of Sunday’s final clash with Cork City at the Aviva Stadium

One of Mayo's soccer exports has managed to do what the county's Gaelic footballers were unable to do this season and bring a national title back there.

But Bohola lad John Mountney still has the hunger to take more medals back to his home place, the Dundalk player planning an FAI Cup success in Sunday's final against Cork City to add to the league medal which he has already tucked away.

It's said that in Kerry, if you throw a stone you'll hit an all-Ireland medal holder but Mayo men with an FAI Cup success on their CVs are very rare. Simon Webb won it with Bohemians and Drogheda United while fellow Mayo men Ciaran Kelly and David Cawley earned their medals with Sligo Rovers, so Mountney is keen to join the select crew.

"I follow Mayo all the way in the GAA, it didn't happen for them in the All-Ireland this year the way they'd have liked," says Mountney.

"It means a lot to me to go back home, having won something. I got a great reception when I went back there last year when we'd won the league for the first time.

"To go back to my parish with a winner's medal in the League of Ireland was a big deal and I'd love to add the FAI Cup to that as well as I know people there are proud of me and what I have done with Dundalk.

"So few Mayo lads have won things in soccer, it's all about winning the Connacht title and going for the All-Ireland, it's still a real GAA county so it's nice for me to fly the other flag."

Mountney was a handy Gaelic player in his youth ("all my mates played so I just played with them") but by the age of 16, the soccer bug had struck.

Trials in England, at clubs like Charlton, followed as did underage caps with Ireland. "I played for the U18s along with Michael Keane, we were both at centre back, and Patrick Bamford, who, funnily enough, are both on the fringes of the England squad now," he recalls.

"England didn't work out for me so I decided to focus on doing well in Ireland and making a success of it here."

His LOI debut came with Mervue United and he earned a move to Dundalk in 2012, making the 22-year-old one of the longest-serving players at the club.

His first season at Oriel Park almost ended in relegation but the arrival of Stephen Kenny sparked that remarkable revival that's yielded back-to-back league titles and European successes, but there's more to be won.

"We know that Cork will be very hungry to win it on Sunday, having finished second in the league for two years in a row," says Mountney, who showed his faith in the club by agreeing a new contract last week.

"But we're hungry as well, not many teams win a double, it's a very hard thing to do but we feel we can do it,"

Often used as a sub this season. Mountney knows he's not guaranteed a place in the starting XI.

"It's a squad game, and often in the Cup final it's the sub off the bench who is the hero, if that's the case for me on Sunday I'll settle for that," he added.

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