‘About time’ might have been the feeling around the League of Ireland when Daryl Horgan’s move to Dundalk was concluded yesterday, but it is doubtful that manager Stephen Kenny cared as he finally got his man to sign on the dotted line.
In 2013, Horgan put in some starring performances for his old club Cork City, scoring magnificent goals against Drogheda and Derry to name a few. Appreciation for his displays were not confined to Turner’s Cross as he was rewarded with a call up to the Republic of Ireland under 21 squad as well as being selected by his peers for the PFAI Team of the Year and nominated for PFAI Young Player of the Year.
Having come so close to both the league title and an FAI Cup final, Kenny is regrouping his men as he plots another challenge and the former Cork City player is seen as a vital part of his plans.
At times it may have seemed that this transfer would never happen as it feels like an age since Extratime.ie first revealed that the Galwegian would not be returning to Leeside for 2014. As has been well publicised, the matter had been complicated owing to the fact that Horgan is under 23 and compensation would be due to Cork City. But an agreement was reached between the clubs and, after a public unveiling on Friday, Extratime.ie caught up with the player to get his reaction.
“I am delighted to sign for them now and I’m really looking forward to the season. Hopefully I can push on and keep developing as much as I can and who knows.”
Minutes before the 21 year old was unveiled at the Marshes Shopping Centre in Dundalk, the 2014 Airtricity Premier Division fixtures were announced, throwing up a Louth derby for Horgan and his new teammates to start the season with. When Extratime.ie caught up with the winger, he was already looking forward to the season opener.
“A bit of a baptism of fire really. Hopefully I’ll be playing, first and foremost. I need to prove myself and all that. But it will be a good game and it will be a good experience. First game…Louth derby…it’ll be good craic and I’m looking forward to it, I really am.”
Although ultimately opting to join Dundalk, the Republic of Ireland under 21 international had travelled to England for trials with Torquay and Barnsley and was also reported to have had offers from Shamrock Rovers and St Patrick’s Athletic. I asked Horgan was it a difficult decision to pick Dundalk over a big club like Shamrock Rovers or the champions, or if it was an easy decision.
“To be honest, one of the most difficult things I had to do was to leave Cork City. I’d a great time down there, I really enjoyed it and it was very very difficult to actually leave there. I’d spoken to a couple, as you say, but I met Stephen Kenny and immediately I was very impressed by him. I spoke to my dad after and I said exactly that, I thought he was excellent. I was really very impressed by him.
“Just looking at last year, the way Dundalk played, I really thought they played really fluid football. It’s very attack minded, but they’re very solid at the back. I think that could kinda suit my game as well. They play with a bit of flair and a bit of excitement with a lot of good young players. That’s something that drew me to it.
“Obviously, I’ve seen Stephen and he’s brilliant and he develops young players. He’s done it all of his career, especially in Derry, and that’s something that I looked at as well that could push me forward a small bit.”
There is no mistaking the former Sligo Rovers midfielder’s admiration for his new manager, but he is also excited at the prospect of playing in Europe next summer.
“I’ve never played there”, he said, “but it’s something that everyone wants to do as a footballer. You want to play in Europe, you want to play in big big nights, with trips away and all that. You just want to get a feel for it. I’ve got that here now in Dundalk and I’m really looking forward to it. We’ll try and get a couple of wins, maybe get a bit of momentum. Obviously it’s going to be difficult, along with the league form, but I think there’s a good enough squad there to do that, and that’s what you need.
“You always want to test yourself. You want to prove to yourself that you’re able to do it. There’s a style of football there that some European teams mightn’t be able for, there’s a very high intensity. Whereas you’re going to play against a complete different style of football, almost like Pats play. Not slow, but very calm and very technically good footballers.
Maybe it’s because he has come straight from his unveiling to his car for our interview, but all throughout our conversation the underage international talks excitedly about his new challenge and is looking forward to living in Dundalk. Relocating to Louth is a no-brainer for him.
Horgan’s move to Dundalk has been one of the more protracted transfers in recent times though and even when Extratime.ie reported last week that a deal was close, it still took another week and a half to finalise. We discuss the rumours that were circulating and the drawn out nature of the switch and the former Salthill Devon player revealed he was glad to have it finally resolved.
“I don’t know how much of them are true at times, it’s funny. I’m obviously delighted to have it done now, but as you said, things had to be sorted. Some of it though was that I couldn’t get up to Dundalk. It was sorted since last week,” Horgan confirmed. “I just couldn’t get up to Dundalk. But for me on a personal not I’m very happy to have it sorted before Christmas and I can settle down and relax now.”
Having spent two and a half years on Leeside, the conversation inevitably shifts to his time at Cork City as Horgan reflects fondly on his spell there. There is no hesitation when I ask him what his highlight was.
“The highlight was winning the First Division up in Tolka. I think that will be one of the hardest things to beat in my career, it was one of the best things I’ve ever done. It’s a great club. It’s a really good city and there’s top lads there. I think Cork will be very good next year, I really do. But I just had a feeling that Dundalk was going to be the place for me and I’m delighted to have it all done now.”
There has been a real buzz on Leeside since John Caulfield took over as the club prepare for the 2014 season opener which we now know will be against the champions St Patrick’s Athletic. Most of the 2013 squad have signed back and after a tough year, everyone at the club is looking forward with renewed optimism under ‘Johnny C’.
It is against this backdrop that Horgan is leaving Cork City and there is a feeling among some supporters that their former player is merely following the cash. When I put this to Horgan, he refutes the claim immediately.
“Money never came into it really. Obviously it’s important; it’s your job at the end of the day. But money wasn’t the be all and end all and I don’t like people saying that. It’s something that I would always feel myself, that I’ve never been motivated just as a money-grabbing player. Even in this league, it’s unfortunate that there isn’t really that much stability. Lads have families to support, and it is not an easy thing to give out to someone for going for more money. It’s unfortunate, but that’s the way the league is. But myself, no, it wasn’t a money-based decision, it was purely football based. I want to play in England someday. I want to play for Ireland. That’s my ambition.”
There is no ambiguity as to how Horgan feels on the matter, as he stresses and elaborates his point.
“You could make a good career here, on decent money all your whole life…or…you could make a bit less and then you could make very good money away in England. Sometimes you just have to look at it like that but you can say what you want about players going for money, but it’s not really a fair thing to say I feel myself. You don’t get paid that much, it’s not going to keep you ticking over after your career. It’s definitely much different for me at 21. I’ve got no family and no kids. Lads, when they’re reaching 28 or 29, they have to look after they’re family so it’s never an easy decision then.
While admitting that for older players money can become a factor, the Dundalk player again stresses that this was not the case for him
“It is a football based decision. There’s things like Europe, and you have to look at things like Stephen Kenny’s track record with young players. I’ve taken all of this into consideration. It wasn’t an easy decision, but I’m happy now that I’ve made it and I’m excited now for next season.”
When the conversation switches back to next season, the PFAI young player of the year nominee is quick to talk up another new arrival at Oriel Park, David McMillan. Of course Horgan can qualify his claim that McMillan is ‘a goal machine’, having seen the striker score 3 goals in the space of a week against Cork City last season – first a brace for UCD, and then a week later for Sligo Rovers.
It is players like McMillan, but also Hoban and Towel that Horgan can see making a real difference, but he is quick to point out that there is a whole squad there at Dundalk and they need not prioritise one competition over another.
“I want to win everything. If you’re a footballer, you want to win things. Everyone said last year, and I said it as well, ‘they’ve started well, but they’ll slip up…they’ll slip up’. They never did, and when we played them they were fit and they were strong and they were always ready for it. I don’t think that’s going to happen this year, I don’t think we are one of those one-season-wonders. I honestly feel we can challenge for everything.
“They were three points behind only in the league, and they were unfortunate in a cup final. You have to take all of that into consideration and I think that Dundalk can win. That’s what I’m hoping to do anyway. There’s strength right through the side. There’s a good mix of youth and experienced players and that will stand to them in good stead. There’s a good squad of twenty players hopefully for next year. When you got a squad like that you can mix and match and hopefully win things. That’s what football is all about, being a winner.
No-one wants to be remembered as the nice guy in football.”