Towell out to take bate
Dundalk star wants 'double' of Euro progress and title success
IT HAPPENED during the interregnum between Giovanni Trapattoni and Martin O'Neill, but Dundalk man Richie Towell enjoyed a spell under the international spotlight.
That was in the build-up to the World Cup qualifiers against Kazakhstan and Germany, when Noel King was in temporary charge of the national side and King called in some extra bodies from the League of Ireland to bulk out the numbers for a training game.
Towell knows that a summons from Martin O'Neill to the squad proper could be a long way off, but the former Celtic man also hopes that success for his side in their Champions League bouts with BATE Borisov could make the senior team boss - and others who usually shun the domestic league - sit up and take notice.
O'Neill attended one leg of Dundalk's Europa League tie with Hajduk Split last year, unfortunately for the players involved, he went to the home leg, where Dundalk played below themselves and lost 2-0 and not the away leg, where the Irish side won 2-1
"It could be a great thing if we did cause an upset," Towell said, as Dundalk try to keep their focus on the defence of their league title - they take on bottom side Limerick at home tonight - while also looking to Europe.
"When Shamrock Rovers did it (2011) they got a lot of recognition.
"And when Shelbourne played Deportivo, I wasn't a Shelbourne fan but I went to watch that as a little boy with my dad.
"I'm sure if we did get a result that a lot more people might support an Irish team such as Dundalk," added Towell, aware that should Dundalk get past BATE next month, they would be guaranteed at least four more games in Europe, four more occasions and stages.
"It would be great, that's how Rovers got into the group stages, we're well aware of all those things but we don't want to go out. We think we have a good enough squad to cause an upset and that's what we want to do."
His club manager, Stephen Kenny, has consistently made a case for promotion to the senior squad for players like Towell, Daryl Horgan and Andy Boyle, and ex-U21 cap Towell admits that he savoured his chance when Ireland caretaker boss Noel King drafted in Towell and Dundalk team-mates Andy Boyle and John Sullivan.
"It was great," he says. "The senior team have a lot of quality and you can learn a lot from players like that, the little tips in training and little things they work on.
"It would be great if there was more of it. Me, Sullo and Andy Boyle were lucky enough to take part and it's something I'd love to do again.
"You see the amount of lads in the international set-up who have played in the league: Coleman, Long, Doyle, Meyler. They have all played in the league.
"I don't see why more couldn't step up to the plate but you do need to be playing abroad to get a bit more recognition."
With all that talk about higher things - Champions League success and Ireland caps - Dundalk could be accused to losing focus, but Towell maintains that the attention this week is on tonight's tussle with Limerick.
"We're expecting a really tough game," says Towell, clearly aware that his side drew with Limerick already this season, the first time the champions dropped points this season.
"I don't think their position in the league really is a fair reflection on how they play.
"Martin Russell has them playing good football and they were really good against us, we were fortunate to go 1-0 up, and I was lucky enough to get a good goal from outside the box.
"I don't think we were great on the day but they showed how resilient they are with a last minute equaliser.
"It's going to be tough but we're ready," added Towell.
With Europe on the horizon, managers start thinking of how they can cope with domestic and European ambitions, something which causes problems for many teams, as English Premier League sides often struggle in the weekend after a Europa League clash, and Towell says that Dundalk won't let their guard drop.
"We only won the league by two points so you cant let little lapses in concentration happen no matter when it is, then you're going to be chasing games," he says.
"We want to stay where we are, at the top of the league, we don't want to be playing catch up.
"We'll stay focused on our games and that's why we're not talking about BATE as much as people probably think we are. We're just fully focused on Limerick."