Patrick Hoban is hoping that by firing Dundalk FC to the title he can also land himself a place in the Republic of Ireland senior panel.
There have been increasing calls for Martin O’Neill to include the 27 goal striker in his squad given his form this season for Stephen Kenny’s side.
Hoban hasn’t hidden his ambition to one day represent his country but tonight he will have a green jersey in his crosshairs as he spearheads Dundalk’s bid to open up a nine point gap over reigning champions Cork City in their top of the table clash at Turner’s Cross.
A goal on what will be his 100th Dundalk start would see him equal the Premier Division record of 25 goals in a season, previously achieved by Richie Towell in 2015, Jason Byrne in 2004 and Glen Crowe in 2000/01. The latter pair were both handed international call-ups on the back of their fine scoring form domestically and Hoban feels he is equipped to make a similar step up if called upon.
“I feel that from where I was last year to where I am this year, I’ve kicked on and massively improved. I’d like to think I’m in my prime now,” he said.
“I’m just smarter and cleverer on the pitch now. I don’t know if that means I’m due a call up but I just have to keep doing what I’m doing and I might get one.
“I’ve a league to win and a cup to try and win with this fantastic side and that’s my main aim but a call-up for Ireland would be a dream come true to be honest.”
The 27-year-old admits his time in England is often held against him, even if 12 goals from 48 starts is not as bad as some critics make the three year spell out to be.
“England was frustrating with the injuries that I got at the wrong time. Like after my first training session with Oxford I went over on my ankle and was out for three months.
“I was basically playing as a number 10 as well and I think that took a lot away from my game. I found myself playing too far away from goal which wasn’t really playing to my strengths.
“Obviously the stats aren’t as good as what they are here so people will say it’s a different standard but we played in the Europa League and I’ve scored two in that and felt quite comfortable playing at that level.
“England was just one of those things where it didn’t really go my way but I feel I’ve learnt and improved from that. I know that period probably doesn’t stand to me and is probably holding me back a bit but I’d like to think what I’m doing here is making people forget about that to be honest.
“The likes of Sean Maguire and Graham Burke have shown that it doesn’t always work out in England the first time. I had options to stay in England but I felt coming home was the right option for me to start over again and what I’ve done since, I always felt I had that in me.”
If Hoban can bag his first Turner’s Cross goal this evening it will make the appeals for a call-up grow ever louder.
“I haven’t scored there before but I’ll be looking to put that right,” he said.
“It would be a massive three points and it would give us a great chance to go nine points ahead with a game in hand as well.
“Obviously Cork losing last week makes the gap even bigger now if we do beat them but I still don’t think it changes a lot. Cork have a game played more than us now but they’ll be thinking if they beat us then they’re only three points behind so we’ve to make sure we’re ready for them,” said Hoban.
A point at Turner’s Cross would arguably leave Stephen Kenny’s side well placed to make it four league titles in five seasons but Hoban and co will be aiming for all three as he bids to add to his previous title win of 2014.
“Obviously I wasn’t there for the last few seasons but when we beat them on the last day of 2014 to win the league I think that was the start of a bitter old rivalry. It has become a bit like Arsenal and Man Utd back in the day and it has just got spicier since I left.
“You hear stuff about what players have said and the games have always been feisty. They’ve always been close and there’s never a lot between the teams on the day but that’s only a good thing for the league to have such good competitiveness.
“Credit to Cork, they’re very good at what they do. They’re always very strong at home but we’ll be going into the game to win it, not just to draw. We’ll be trying to win like we always do.
“I don’t think anything could ever really top what happened in 2014 with winning the league on the last day of the season but obviously after everything I’ve been through for the last year and having a lot of doubters as well, you just want to prove people wrong. Coming back to Dundalk and helping them regain the title would be a great achievement for me and everyone else because there are a lot of lads in there who haven’t won the league yet. To win it would be special,” he said.