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Foster welcomes double capture

First Team News
// 3 Feb 2011

Dundalk FC manager Ian Foster has welcomed the additions of defensive duo Michael Hector, who has agreed a loan switch from English Championship club Reading FC until June, and Eoghan Osborne, who put pen to paper on an amateur contract on Saturday having departed Drogheda United FC. Foster is currently in the process of doing his UEFA Pro Licence, spending part of the course in Reading over the winter, and he has used those links to secure the capture of Hector, whose competitive debut could be a baptism of fire against defending league champions Shamrock Rovers in the Leinster Senior Cup on 22 February. Meanwhile, Osborne has given his reaction to becoming a Lilywhite, stating his “delight” to sign for his “hometown” club.

Reading ‘fantastic’
“It has not been easy to get quality central defenders into the football club,” Foster told dundalkfc.com on Tuesday morning. “Reading have helped us out there and done us a favour. They know that we’ll look after Michael and that playing in the League of Ireland and playing for Dundalk will improve him as a player. It will certainly give him some grounding in his career. Reading have been fantastic, and hopefully we can be fantastic for Michael’s career as well. I’ve been at Reading over the close season and obviously I’ve seen him play. It’s one of those questions you ask but you don’t expect to get a positive answer, but I asked it nonetheless and I was pleased to get a positive answer. Michael will come in this week, he’ll settle in and hopefully we can get a couple of pre-season friendlies for him, although his fitness levels are fine because he has been playing – he played last week for Reading Reserves and scored, against Watford, so he’s ready.”

Hector debut
Hector, however, will not sign on at Oriel Park until 16 February because of a ban incurred in England which he is going to serve before his move becomes official. “He won’t be able to play in the first leg of the Setanta Cup; he won’t actually sign until 16 February,” Foster explained. “He is going to serve his ban.” But he could be in line for his non-competitive debut this weekend when Dundalk take on Muirhevnamor at Oriel Park on Sunday afternoon. “We’re hoping to get Michael into the country by this weekend,” Ian said. “I’m hoping that’s the case, but we’ll see. We’ll look at the logistics of it and see if we can get him in.” The loan deal will last from the middle of this month until 30 June. Speaking on the addition of Osborne, Foster revealed that the youngster could have been a Dundalk played 12 months ago. “Eoghan is a player that I spoke to this time last year,” the 34-year-old said. “His parents came in and we had a conversation.

Local prospect
“Obviously we had Wayne (Hatswell) and Nathan Murphy on the books,” Foster added, “and I think at the time Eoghan and his parents thought he was more likely to get games at Drogheda than at Dundalk and he made the decision to go down the road. I saw Eoghan a few times last year. He has got quality, he’s left-footed and he has got a decent delivery on that side. He defends properly, he’s strong in the tackle, he’s young and he’s local and he’s someone that we believe that we can develop. We’re delighted to get him on board and hopefully he’ll be a prospect for Dundalk.” Osborne, who has 11 appearances for the Republic of Ireland between U17, U18 and U19 level, has signed a one-year amateur contract at the border venue, with the youngster still studying, at Dublin City University. “Eoghan is still at college,” Ian explained. “We won’t see Eoghan as often as we will everybody else. He’s not with us full-time. He will train in the evenings sometimes. There are certain days of the week that he can make, and there are evenings that he can make as well where he will train with the younger boys and the A-Championship players. We’ll get enough training into him. He’s a student and you have got to respect that and let him concentrate on his studies as well.”

‘Hometown club’
Hector, described as a stylish central defender, has spent the past three months on loan at Isthmian League Premier Division club Horsham FC. The 18-year-old, who does not turn 19 until July, had previously featured regularly for Reading Reserves. He currently holds the No35 shirt at Reading, having joined the Royals on scholarship terms at the start of the 2009/10 season after being spotted at Thurrock Youth. The 6ft3 defender went on to gain valuable experience on loan at Havant & Waterlooville and Bracknell Town. Hector signed his first professional contract last summer and soon after joined Oxford City on loan, before heading to Horsham on similar terms in November. Osborne, meanwhile, made his senior League of Ireland debut as a substitute against Shamrock Rovers at Tallaght Stadium in 2009 and incidentally was handed his first start against Dundalk at Oriel Park the following July. The Togher left-back was one of the best performers for the Boynesiders last term, making 23 appearances in total, adding to five outings in 2009. Commenting on his move, Osborne said: “I’m delighted to sign; it’s my hometown. I went to school here and all my friends are in Dundalk so I’m thrilled to be here. I made a good few appearances with Drogheda. I’m still young; I’m only 18, so it’s good to have that experience under my belt. I worked with Darius (Kierans) there; he took me from U16s up to the first team in Drogheda. He got me into Drogheda in the first place so I’m delighted that he’s here as well. I’m looking forward to it. I can’t wait for the season to start now.”

Building backline
Meanwhile, Foster is also continuing work behind the scenes to add more strength to his backline. “We’re still trying to bring in defensive cover,” he said. “Hopefully, we can do something in that area within the next 7-10 days before the trip to Linfield. It’s not easy because, as I said before, the centre-halves I have my eye on are looking for money that we just don’t have. That’s why we have got to look a little bit further afield and see if we can get in quality from somewhere else. We just can’t afford to pay the money that some clubs are offering.” The Dundalk squad now stands at 16 players, and ‘The Gaffer’ admits that he is happy with his progress in the transfer market. “I’m pleased with the 16 boys we’ve got in,” he said. “We’re very young, but on the flipside of that, we have got loads of energy and we’ve got players who are desperate to improve and desperate to do well. There are bags of potential in the squad, and hopefully before the end of the season we can see plenty of that potential from this group.”

Miller departure
While Foster has added two players, the departure of Tom Miller was confirmed on Friday when the 20-year-old midfielder joined ex-Dundalk teammate Wayne Hatswell at Newport County, where former striker Steven Lennon is also training. Miller played a starring role for the Lilywhites last term, appearing in 41 of the club’s 46 competitive games, scoring his first senior goal in football with a bullet header in a 5-1 annihilation of Shamrock Rovers at Oriel Park in September. However, Foster stated that he is not overly disappointed at the Ely-born star leaving. “Not really; we got an undisclosed fee for Tom in the end,” Ian said. “I made it clear in the past and I’ll make it clear in the future; we don’t want any player in the football club that doesn’t want to be here. I scouted Tom from Glasgow Rangers. He wasn’t playing any football at all, we had a look at him, we brought him in for the season, we opened his eyes to professional football, we improved him, made him a better player, gave him European football, and he’s gone to a Conference club.”

Solitude test
Dundalk get their official pre-season match schedule underway when they travel to play Cliftonville at Solitude on Wednesday evening (kick-off 7.45pm), having defeated an FAI/FÁS team from Irishtown in a behind-closed-doors friendly at Oriel Park last Friday. The Lilywhites, who fielded four trialists in the game (team named below) including Osborne, won 2-1 thanks to first-half goals from Jason Byrne and Daniel Kearns, who finished off a fine move on the stroke of half-time involving himself and Johnny Breen. And Foster is hopeful that Cliftonville, who consolidated fourth place in the Irish League with a 2-0 win at Glenavon on Monday night, will provide a stern task for his side, whose Setanta Sports Cup campaign gets underway on Saint Valentine’s Day at Linfield, currently runaway leaders in Northern Ireland. “Obviously, we’re at the hands of Cliftonville; we’re not sure what sort of side they’re going to put out,” Foster told DFCTV when previewing the game.

Fine line
“But it’s against players who are fit, strong and halfway through their season,” the Liverpool-born boss added. “There will be lads probably trying to show the manager that they want to get into the first team. I’m looking forward to it, to be honest. It’s on the same artificial surface that we play on, so I’m looking forward to the game. Because the squad is small, lads will get minutes in pre-season in the friendly games, so the likes of the lads that played against the FÁS lads will get minutes on Wednesday. The players will get plenty of time against Muirhevnamor on Sunday (6 February) and then we have got Newry on Thursday (10 February). It’s a fine line between getting fitness and making sure they’re not tired at the same time. We’ll rotate one or two. I’m sure come Linfield that, we won’t be at their level fitness wise because that’s impossible, but that fatigue and things like that will only creep in towards the latter stages of the game.”

The Dundalk team last Friday v FAI/FÁS Irishtown was as follows: Paul Murphy (Peter Cherrie HT); Simon Madden ©, Gareth Whelan, Eoghan Osborne, Nathan Murphy (Stephen Last HT); Daniel Kearns, Dean Bennett (Ryan Brennan HT), Stephen McDonnell, Keith Ward; Jason Byrne (Mark Griffin HT), Johnny Breen.

GK: Peter Cherrie
GK: Paul Murphy
DF: Simon Madden
DF: Michael Hector
DF: Nathan Murphy
DF: Eoghan Osborne
MF: Daniel Kearns
MF: Dean Bennett
MF: Stephen Maher
MF: Stephen McDonnell
MF: Ross Gaynor
MF: Keith Ward
FW: Jason Byrne
FW: Mark Quigley
FW: Johnny Breen
FW: Mark Griffin

Wednesday 2 February – Cliftonville v Dundalk – Solitude, 7.45pm
Sunday 6 February – Muirhevnamor v Dundalk – Oriel Park, 2pm
Thursday 10 February – Dundalk v Newry City – Oriel Park, 7.45pm
Monday 14 February – Linfield v Dundalk – Windsor Park, 7.45pm (kick-off time may change if game is televised live)
Thursday 17 February – Dundalk v Limerick – Oriel Park, 8pm
Sunday 20 February – Rock Celtic v Dundalk – Rock Celtic Grounds, 2pm
Monday 28 February – Dundalk v Linfield – Oriel Park, 7.45pm (kick-off time may change if game is televised live)