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Chasing the Dream: League of Ireland Players Abroad

As a Dundalk fan, it’s impossible to describe the joys of watching Daryl Horgan this season, although this happiness is somewhat bittersweet. An all too familiar feeling lingers; a feeling which every fan experiences when their club stumbles across an outstanding talent. We all know if Daryl keeps this form going, we will inevitably have to say goodbye. We’ve been here before. We recently bid a reluctant farewell to Richie Towell and Pat Hoban one year earlier. Both men netted over 20 goals in title winning seasons, yet neither of them has made any significant impact in England. As we know, they aren’t the first players to leave these shores with such hope, only to disappear into thin air.

What is the explanation for players who can’t make the grade? Homesickness is a frequent complaint with the younger players. Some players have absolutely no luck: Brian Murphy for example. But do some players underestimate the gulf in class between our game and the English game? In Towell’s case; quite possibly. Before his big move, he expressed hopes of making Ireland’s Euro 2016 squad. In hindsight, that optimism was laughable (for people who don’t like Dundalk FC.) Perhaps this highlights one of the reasons some players don’t adjust. Maybe some go over with the wrong attitude; a little too confident. Pat Hoban rejected an offer to go on trial at Kilmarnock to sign for Oxford. He soon became another one of our forgotten departed. Perhaps he should have accepted the trial and gave the club the opportunity to properly study his style. Some of our lads like Paddy McCourt have achieved success in Scotland. Wes Hoolahan was with Falkirk before gradually building himself into the Premiership superstar we know today. Pat Hoban’s game simply never adjusted to Oxford’s.

Daryl Horgan’s professionalism is constantly praised as is his commitment in training. Identical words were once used to describe James McClean, who made an appearance for Ireland in Euro 2012 just two years after playing first division football with Derry. Having the right manager is an enormous advantage of course; a manager who can bring out the best in a player. Conor Sammon was never a prolific goal scorer during his time here, but Giovanni Trappatoni saw something in him and awarded him with 9 caps. But a player needs to be in the right frame of mind. They need to improve every aspect of their game, both mental and physical. There is a gap between our league and all of the English leagues. It is in the training, the facilities and lifestyle. But not necessarily in talent. The next Seamus Coleman could be in one of our run down old stadiums now. He will just need to step up to the mark should his chance come up.

If a move is imminent, I hope Daryl Horgan takes advice from Chris Forrester and not one of his old teammates. Forrester has done well at Peterborough and even received an international call up. Allegedly, one of Towell’s first moves was to buy a fancy new car. League of Ireland players are heroes to some, but not superstars. There is a difference. It takes time and A LOT of hard work to gain that status. But none of us can ever begrudge a player for leaving our league for a secure wage and a chance at greatness. I just hope a billionaire oil tycoon buys Dundalk FC and pays Daryl the astronomical wages he deserves.

Robbie Ryan

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