Horgan: So Many Highlights
A key player in Dundalk FC’s unprecedented European success last season, former wing wizard and current Republic of Ireland international, Daryl Horgan, provides his assessment of last season while keeping an eye on the Lilywhites chances in 2017.
First of all Daryl, reflecting on last year’s European campaign, any particular highlights? How was it for you?
There are so many highlights…how long have you got?! There’s some big ones. That 2-2 draw against FH in Iceland which put us through and meant we won a round in the Champions League. Not only that but it made sure that we were guaranteed the two more rounds. That was special for us knowing that we could compete and progress at that level. The 3-0 then in Tallaght against BATE Borisov was amazing. It qualified us for group stages and that ensured we could go even further than we thought which was great. Obviously losing in the playoff was disappointing but even to get into the Europa League groups was great. The goal and getting 1-1 draw in Alkmaar after coming from behind in the last few minutes was really special. It got us off to a good start in the group and then we were able to back it up with the win against Maccabi Tel-Aviv. They were great nights, Tallaght was good to us! We felt at home and we were able to play some of our best football.
Playing Zenit St. Petersburg home and away. They are a massive club and looking back maybe we should have got something out of those games which would have been fantastic but to play against that calibre of player, in those atmospheres and to score in the competition was incredible. It was disappointing the way that the rest of the group went when we kind of fell away in the end but to even have a chance to qualify for the next stage is something nobody would have expected. We really held our own at that level and competed. We put it up and beat some very, very good players during that run. You’re playing against clubs who have teams even and budgets out of our world. It was never going to be easy for us but I felt we were brilliant. You could go all day with highlights.
When you look back at it, Europe will be something that will remain special to you?
Playing in Europe is something I’ll never forget and I’ll be honest it is something I am going to miss here at Preston. I am going to miss it massively. It was a big selling point playing in Ireland, it gives you the opportunity to play in European competition and that isn’t on offer at this level here. It can’t be underestimated how good Europe is. You are going to places first off that you’d never ever think of going in your life. You get to play against top players, full internationals with dozens of caps.
Superstars of the game and you are up against them which is incredible. Playing in the Champions League is the biggest stage of course but the Europa League isn’t too far behind and it was great.
Have you been following this season’s progress from afar?
I am keeping an eye on the league massively. I am a supporter of a quarter of the league! I am obligated to with the connections that I have here! I was at a few Dundalk games – St. Patricks Athletic away and Galway United at home. I have been at a few Galway United games, Shamrock Rovers as well. I think Dundalk are in good form and hitting form at the right time just around Rosenborg. The boys are on a good run at the minute so fingers crossed that form can be carried into Europe like we did last year.
It has been some 12 months for you! You made your Ireland debut back in March… describe that for us.
I say to people that half an hour in the first cap wasn’t enough but what I mean by that is that I didn’t want to come off. It was my debut and it was unbelievable. To experience playing with Ireland and get that opportunity is something I have dreamed of since I was a young boy growing up and playing football.
It was incredible and to make the national debut in front of all the family was special. It just gives you a taste for more. You just want to keep going and hopefully I will be able to do that and keep myself in future Ireland setups. It’s where you want to play. International football is the highest level and I want to kick on.
Finally, you have settled in well at Preston North End so far… going forward in the next period what are your ambitions?
The first few months were fantastic at Preston. The hopes for this season ahead are promotion. That is going to be the aim 100%. Coming into the last six games of last year we were three points off the playoffs and for whatever reason we completely fell away. Our confidence was hit maybe and we lost to Leeds which we thought maybe we aren’t going to get it
and that was disappointing but we will have learned from that. We will kick on again. We have just started pre-season, everyone is looking sharp and feeling good so we are ready for it. We have a new manager in with new ideas and we will be looking to get promoted. It’s going to be tough but anything can happen in the Championship as we have seen through many years so the ambition is to get promoted to the Premier League.