Hoban Intent On Making A Winning Start
After getting off to a relatively slow start in each of the two previous years, Patrick Hoban says that Dundalk are determined to burst out of the traps when they host Derry City in their SSE Airtricity League opener at Oriel Park on Friday night.
Bray Wanderers and Sligo Rovers both held the Lilywhites to a draw on the opening night of the 2018 and 2019 campaigns respectively and even though Dundalk went on to win the title in both of those years, Hoban said that he was keen to avoid a repeat this time around.
“There’s no doubt it’s a tough opening game but we need to put things right. We haven’t won our first game of the season since 2017 and we don’t want to start the way we have over the past two years. Derry are a good side but we’re focused on getting off to a good start.”
The postponement of last Sunday’s President’s Cup tie with Shamrock Rovers has given Vinny Perth a free week to work with his players but Hoban said he would have preferred the game to have gone ahead.
“It gave us more of a regular week in training but it was also a bit of a pain, to be honest. It would have been a very competitive game so I was disappointed it was called off.
“It would have been nice to get another 65 to 90 minutes into the legs but I feel that I’m a lot fitter now than I was at this stage last year. I carried a knock from 2018 into the last pre-season but I’m in a better place this year and team-wise, I feel that we’re all raring to go.”
The Dundalk squad has been bolstered by the addition of five new players over the winter. Three of them, Cammy Smith, Will Patching and Serbian winger Stefan Colovic, play in attacking areas and Hoban said he was looking forward to working closely with them.
“They’re all different types of players and they’ll bring something different so it gives us a lot of options. I haven’t seen Stefan yet so I can’t really comment on him but Cammy and Will have done really well since they’ve come in.
“I can’t wait to get playing with them week in, week out,” he added. “I feel that having those options will be more beneficial for me. I won’t have to come as deep as often and that will definitely help my game.”
Talk of three-in-a-row has dominated the pre-season chit chat around Dundalk. Hunger certainly won’t be an issue with Hoban saying that the pain of losing the FAI Cup final to Shamrock Rovers last November dominated his thoughts over the winter months.
“We’re going into the season and the aim is to win every competition that we’re in,” he said. “Whether that’s the Leinster Senior Cup, the FAI Cup or the league, I want to win everything there is to win and it’s the same with all of the lads in the dressing room.
“Losing the FAI Cup final hurt,” he added. “We would have made history by winning it and it was a bitter pill to swallow. I don’t think we needed it, but it has definitely given us an extra bit of drive to go one better this year.”
Friday night’s game is certainly one to whet the appetite for the season ahead. Dundalk and Derry City enjoyed some ding-dong battles last year in the league, the FAI Cup and, most notably, the EA Sports Cup final in September where the Lilywhites won on penalties.
The Candystripes enjoyed a fine campaign in 2019, securing European football with a fourth-place finish, but manager Declan Devine has had to contend with the loss of his two top goalscorers, Junior Ogedi-Uzokwe and David Parkhouse, over the winter. As a result, nine new faces have arrived at the Brandywell with Tim Nilsen, Adam Liddle and Walter Figueira expected to lead the attack.
“We may have lost our top scorers from last season but I’m excited about the players we have brought in,” said Devine. “We only scored six goals from midfield last year so we’re looking for much more support in that department.
“Obviously, you can’t get a much tougher assignment for your first game, but we’ll embrace it,” he added Devine. “Dundalk and Shamrock Rovers continue to set the standard but it’s up to us to look to close the gap.”
Tickets for Friday night’s game are available online at this link.