Hulsizer happy to shoot for the stars with Champions League ambition

Hulsizer happy to shoot for the stars with Champions League ambition

“You may say I’m a dreamer
“But I’m not the only one
“I hope some day you’ll join us
“And the world will live as one.”

  • Imagine, John Lennon

Bill Hulsizer doesn’t stutter or bat an eyelid when he says he wants Dundalk FC to win the Champions League.

To most people that may seem a laughable prospect but to the club chairman, it’s part and parcel of dreaming big.

Shoot for the moon and you might not get there but you may reach the stars.

It’s not that long ago that Dundalk’s biggest ambitions were seeing another week, month or season. These days the ambitions are much more lofty and while no one who attends Oriel Park expects to see the modern day European Cup residing on the Carrick Road any time soon, the challenge of trying to do that certainly won’t be dull.

By his own admission, Bill dreams big but he makes no apologies for it.

So much has been made about PEAK6’s apparent focus on European success since they took over the running of the club from Paul Brown and Andy Connolly at the start of 2018 but while the process of qualifying for the group stages in Europe has got more difficult from when Dundalk achieved it four years ago, Bill maintains the belief that the club can get back there in the years to come.

When the fact another round now had to be negotiated compared to the club’s qualifier success of 2016, the club chairman said: “I really don’t care.

“My goal – and it’s what I’ve told the players and coaches – is to win the Champions League.

“Now if they don’t, is everybody going to get fired? Of course not but if you’re going to do something then the first thing you have to do is believe in it.

“Last year we got to the second round of the Champions League and then played Slovan Bratislava, who I thought we outplayed at times but their goalie was incredible. He probably should have been taken by a club in a better league than he’s in right now but that’s not my job but I can tell you that I wouldn’t apologise to anyone for the way my guys played.

“If you run up against a hot goalie, that’s what happens. Luck is a big part of the game. You can hit the inside of the post and the ball can come out or you can hit the inside of the post and it can go in and quite often than can decide your fortunes but what’s wrong with ambition?

“If I said to you what would you have bet that Iceland would make it to the finals of the World Cup? That would probably have been a better bet than Leicester City winning the Premier League, which was 5,000/1.”

While Champions League ambitions are indeed lofty, a more realistic aim is for Dundalk to become the club youngsters support throughout the country – regardless of where they’re located geographically.

“When kids in Galway say who’s the best club in Ireland, I want them to say Dundalk.

“Kids all over America rooted for the Yankees and it didn’t matter if they had a baseball team in their town or not. A lot of towns in Ireland don’t have a team so who do they root for? My goal is to have every 13-year-old tell his parents that he wants to play for Dundalk and Ireland and I hope I can get there. I don’t want to hear them saying they want to play for Manchester City.

“I’d like Dundalk to be the goal for every kid in Ireland and I’d like to be over to support that and for them to know that if you get here you can go anywhere in the world but I’m a bit of a dreamer. They’re free but at the same time if you don’t set your targets high enough then it’s probably not as much fun living.”

It’s hard to imagine the Bill Hulsizer era at Oriel Park being dull, that’s for sure.

Rovers a fitting opponent for Leahy’s Dundalk debut

Rovers a fitting opponent for Leahy’s Dundalk debut

Shamrock Rovers have been the opposition for three of the key moments in Darragh Leahy’s career to date so it is perhaps fitting that Stephen Bradley’s side will once again provide the opposition this Sunday for a game which could be the 21-year-old’s competitive debut for Dundalk.

It was against the Hoops that Leahy made his League of Ireland debut for Bohemians in a 3-1 win at Dalymount Park on February 16th 2018.

He would also go on to score his first goal at senior level against the Hoops when he pounced for a memorable 99th minute winner at Tallaght Stadium the following April.

Perhaps less memorable, but it was also against Rovers that Leahy made his last appearance for Bohs when they lost 1-0 courtesy of a Graham Burke goal at Tallaght Stadium on August 30th last year.

An injury playing for the Republic of Ireland U-21s in Sweden the following month brought an end to Leahy’s 2019 but having joined Dundalk just before Christmas, the left back has been making a good impression in his handful of outings to date.

Now he is hoping to land his first piece of silverware this Sunday when Rovers travel to Oriel Park to contest the President’s Cup final (kick-off 3pm).

Of course, you want to win every game and especially when there’s a trophy up for grabs,” he said when asked if he wanted to win the game.

“I’m really looking forward to that. We’ve two games next week so hopefully after that we’ll be flying for the President’s Cup final.”

When the Rovers link in his career was put to him, the Swords man couldn’t help but raise a smile.

“We beat them 3-1 that night (on my debut) and as you say there was the 99th minute goal. I don’t think that will be forgotten about any time soon,” he grinned.

“It’s obviously going to be a tough game, especially after the Cup final last year, but that’s behind us now and we just want to push on now and look forward to winning more silverware.”

Leahy feels he has settled well in his new surroundings and insists he is getting back to his best after his lay-off towards the end of last season.

“It’s been good,” he said of his first month with his new team-mates.

“The lads are all bang on and make you feel welcome straight away. I feel like I’ve settled in straight away and I’m just glad I’m back now playing games and getting minutes under my belt.

“I hadn’t played since last September so it was tough but I’ve been in with the physios and they’re both top class. They’ve got me in good condition and I’ve fit straight into the group. The minutes in pre-season are the most important so I’ve just been glad to get a few under my belt and hopefully now I can push on and get more.”

Leahy said the recent pre-season trip to Spain, where he featured against CFR Cluj and CSKA Moscow, was beneficial both from a playing perspective and in fitting in with his new team-mates.

“The two oppositions we played were top class so that was a very good experience but it was a great team bonding week. I got to know the lads so much and I’ve just clicked with them straight away. It was really good to have because now everyone knows each other really well.”

Now Leahy is just looking forward to the season getting going with Sunday’s President’s Cup final a real appetiser for what lies ahead.

“I can’t wait,” he said.

“It has been a very long off season, especially with being injured from September and being out for a while but the games are going to come thick and fast now so I can’t wait for that.”