Greg Sloggett has gone from being Dundalk’s New Kid on the Block to Home Alone in the space of the last few weeks.
The 23-year-old midfielder was undoubtedly the most impressive of Vinny Perth’s pre-season signings in the opening five games of the season – even chipping in with his first goal for the club in their last outing at the start of March away to Finn Harps in Ballybofey.
The former Derry City and UCD player was quickly becoming a fan’s favourite before Covid-19 brought a halt to the league a month ago.
While the Coronavirus has had an impact on everyone, for Sloggett it has meant he has gone from living in a house with three other team-mates to being stuck there alone for the foreseeable future.
While originally from Gormanston in Co Meath, Sloggett opted to live locally rather than commute the half hour or so home in order to focus on breaking into the Dundalk side following his move from Derry City last November.
That saw him move into a house in Belfry in Dundalk along with fellow new signing Will Patching, midfield colleague Jordan Flores and his former UCD team-mate Georgie Kelly.
With Patching and Flores now both back in the UK and Kelly back in his native Donegal, the once busy house Sloggett shared is now eerily quiet.
Speaking to The Argus on Sunday, he admits he can’t wait to have things back to normal but said he has no regrets about moving to Dundalk.
“There are pros and cons to everything I guess. I could have moved home to Gormanston but I like my independence and I felt like I would benefit more from being closer to the town and to live with some of the lads.
“When that was available I wanted to make the most of it. I’m delighted to be here and to be training hard and doing well so it was a no brainer for me to opt to stay here rather than at home.”
Sloggett feels he had been settling in well in his new surroundings but admitted it was a bit of a struggle adjusting to the changed world he has now found himself in due to Covid-19.
“The lads have been great,” he said.
“I knew Georgie from my time at UCD and he would be a good friend of mine and then Jordan and Will are also living in the house and I get on great with them so things are brilliant.
“It’s not just them though, it’s everyone in the team and everyone in the club. They’ve all been brilliant and been really great to work with so I’ll look forward to getting back in and getting going again.
“I’m here by myself at the moment so it’s quiet enough.
“It’s a bit weird but I’m just trying to train away individually. It’s difficult because you don’t want to train too hard and you’ve got to find the right motivation to train as well, which can be difficult especially when there are no games to work towards. It’s about finding the right balance but the management and in particular Graham Norton is doing a good job at structuring everyone to make sure there’s a well balanced fitness regime to keep us ticking over while not blowing us away.”
A home which several players have resided in down through the years, residents of the Belfry house have become huge hits with the local community in the past but Sloggett says it is a strange feeling to have to keep his distance now from his new neighbours.
“It’s a bit mad. You’re nearly looking for people to have fun with and have a kick around with but you can’t do it with your own friends let alone kids who might look up to you so it’s definitely difficult.
“While you might be going through one scenario, you don’t know how others are feeling about the situation so you have to respect other people’s wishes and just keep your distance.
“It is difficult though. I miss friends and I miss family. You miss that closeness and that bond that you have with people, particularly those who support you. You try to get the most you can out of things like FaceTime to keep you sane but there are definitely a lot of things you miss but hopefully they will all be back soon.”
The weekend just gone should have been a special one for Sloggett. On Good Friday he was due to return to the Ryan McBride Brandywell Stadium with Dundalk to face his old side Derry City while on Easter Saturday he was due to celebrate his mum’s birthday.
While he did get to see her, he had to be content with doing so from afar due to the social distancing guidelines in place at present.
“I’ve been staying away as much as I can,” he said.
“I’m staying in Dundalk but I do pop home and do a few bits and bobs around the house when I can and just chat to them outside the home from afar really because my da would be quite elderly.
“I’ve been trying to keep my distance really but at the same time I’ve been trying to keep some sanity in my life so I try see my close family as much as possible where it’s safe to do so.
“To be honest ever since we shut up shop, I’ve lost track of things a little. I didn’t know we were due to play Derry away this weekend but I would have loved it. I’m looking forward to getting back up there because there are plenty of great people up there. I loved my time up there.
“It would have been a good weekend. Knowing my mum, she would have drove up and been front and centre to support me but it was nice to see her yesterday and wish her a happy birthday in person because she has been a big supporter of mine and I wouldn’t be here without her.”
While there are bigger priorities in the world right now, Sloggett admitted it was frustrating to have his bright start to life at Oriel Park halted in the manner that it was.
“It’s hard to say that it’s disappointing personally in light of everything else that’s going on but it is frustrating for every player who has gone through pre-season, built up their fitness, started the season and got into their rhythm and then for it just to be taken away like that… it’s just like an injury.
“It’s just total frustration to be pegged back like that and have to down tools for a while and maybe not train as hard.
“You have to give yourself breathing space so you can go again. You don’t want to go too hard now incase you burn out in the summer when things come back. We’re all definitely losing fitness a little bit but you have to do that to give yourself space to train hard when things do come back.
“It’s just frustrating because I genuinely do feel like I had a decent start here. I was getting in the team and getting opportunities. It’s tough now but everyone has their own bits and pieces going on. I’m just grateful that all the people closest to me in my life are all healthy and safe. That’s all I ask out of this really and then getting back to football will be a bonus.”
As things stand, Sloggett is the last player to have scored for Dundalk and while he has been far from prolific in his career to date, he says chipping in with more goals is a definite target of his when the action returns.
“I do think I can and should,” he said when asked about could he get more goals.
“I’d have been more prolific when I was younger but for whatever reason, I guess maybe because I gradually became more defensively minded over the years, I lost that a little.
“It’s something I want to contribute more with and definitely feel like I can do more in front of goal.
“Even though it was the fourth goal and a relatively lucky goal, I was glad to get off the mark and open my account the last day.”
Hopefully for Sloggett there will be more to celebrate in the weeks ahead. A free house sounds brilliant but he can’t wait to share his again with his team-mates and get back in action again.
“May 5th is the next target but hopefully we can all come together and make that date the last date of lockdown.
“They’re difficult times we live in at the moment but hopefully it will all be over soon,” he said.