Dundalk supporter Padraig McKeown met up with a friendly face from the past when he was in London recently.

Padraig, along with his brother-in-law Fergal Marry and his nephew Conaill Marry, travelled to the English capital to take in Chelsea’s Premier League game with Aston Villa at Stamford Bridge on September 23rd, but when the fixture was put back 24 hours, it meant they were also able to take in a game on the Saturday.

The three lads settled on the League One encounter between Charlton Athletic and Wycombe Wanderers at The Valley, a game that had plenty of links to the League of Ireland.

Former St Patrick’s Athletic defender James Abankwah, who is on loan at Charlton from Udinese, played the full 90 minutes, while former Cork City star Kieran Sadlier and Drogheda United midfielder Killian Philips both came off the bench for Wycombe, who were beaten 3-1.

It was the Charlton number six that the lads were focussed on, however: Jamaican international defender Michael Hector, who spent six months on loan at Dundalk back in 2011.

Hector made 11 appearances for the Lilywhites during Ian Foster’s final season at the helm, scoring two goals, and was a favourite with the Oriel Park faithful before he returned to his host club Reading.

Further loan spells at the likes of Barnet, Cheltenham Town and Aberdeen followed before he moved to Chelsea for €5.4 million in 2015. After spending a season on loan at Eintracht Frankfurt in Germany in 2016, Hector moved back to England and spent two years with Fulham, lining out in the Premier League, before making the switch to Charlton in January 2023.

Hector has already lined out for 18 clubs across his career but, speaking to dundalkfc.com, Padraig said that ‘The Man Mountain’ hadn’t forgotten his time at Oriel Park!

“When we decided to go to the game, we managed to get word to someone at Charlton that we were over from Dundalk and that one of their players, Michael Hector, used to play with us,” he explained.

Padraig McKeown pictured with former Dundalk FC defender Michael Hector after Charlton Athletic’s game with Wycombe Wanderers

Conaill Marry, Fergal Marry and Padraig McKeown pictured with former Dundalk FC defender Michael Hector after Charlton Athletic’s game with Wycombe Wanderers

“I thought it was a shot in the dark but Michael came up after the game and spent over an hour chatting to us and even gave us one of his jerseys.

“He was delighted to speak about his time at Oriel Park and he was very hospitable. We were the last ones leaving The Valley!

“I told him I’d try and get something into the programme about it and he even texted me afterwards to remind me about it with a couple of Dundalk-coloured hearts.”

Padraig was the club’s licensing officer when Hector was a player at Oriel Park and he was able to recall a story from when the now 31-year-old arrived in Dundalk as a teenager from Reading.

“I picked him up and showed him around the area and he asked me to take him to the bank. Because he was from England, his bank card wouldn’t work in the machine,” smiled Padraig.

“I said, ‘I’ll take you somewhere where it will work,’ so we headed up to Crossmaglen! He went to the teller and he got sorted up there, so he was delighted with me!”

Hector’s parents also spent time with the Dundalk contingent at The Valley and Padraig said they all spoke very highly about their memories at Oriel Park.

“The last time I met Michael’s mother and father was after the Setanta Cup final in 2011 when everybody went back to the Youth Development Centre after the game for a drink.

“They both praised Dundalk and Michael said that there are only two clubs that he has played for that he has major respect for and that is Dundalk and Eintracht Frankfurt, as they both treated him very well.

“You have to remember that it’s only a few years ago since Michael signed for Chelsea and he also spent a couple of seasons with Fulham so I didn’t think he’d remember anything about Dundalk but he was very hospitable and he loved the craic.

“It was a pleasure seeing him again after all of this time and it was a great game to go to, far more entertaining than Chelsea and Aston Villa!”