Dundalk’s elder statesman Gary Rogers believes the club’s continued drive for honours is what is keeping him young.
The 38-year-old goalkeeper will be aiming to secure his fifth league title in six seasons at Oriel Park this year. The second oldest player in the league after Mark McNulty, the Meathman will be hoping to get his hands on more silverware come the end of the season.
While Dundalk will no doubt be challenging on all fronts, Rogers told The Argus ahead of Friday’s league opener against Derry City that the Premier Division title is the main aim.
“At the start of the season it’s always the main objective,” he said.
“Last year there was a lot of talk about the treble and we were only a kick of the ball away from it but at the start of the season you’re always looking at the league.
“That’s your route to Champions League football and it’s the one that everyone really wants. It will certainly be our main objective again this year. Obviously we’ll be looking for a good run in Europe and to do what we did in 2016 again but first and foremost it’s about getting points on the board to try get yourself in a good position to go and win the league again.”
Despite playing in the league longer than some of his team-mates and opponents have been alive, Rogers says the determination to win hasn’t gone away.
“No, that’s the reason why you do it,” he said.
“I wouldn’t say you get accustomed to success but it has been a great run for all who have been involved with the club, including the supporters. It’s a real purple patch in the club’s history and it gives you that incentive to try and keep the habit going.
“If you need any extra encouragement to play on at my stage of my career it’s the possibility of winning trophies and leagues and competing at the top end of European competition. That’s the driving force for a lot of the players in the dressing room and it’s why players come to this club as well – to go and try win leagues and compete in Europe.
“Players coming into the group want to achieve what those who have gone before them have so I don’t think it gets harder. It’s great to be part of this group and competing at the top end of the table,” he said.
The recently named SWAI Goalkeeper of the Year expects a tough opening game on Friday against a Derry City side who drew twice with the Lilywhites last season, as well as taking them to extra-time in both Cup competitions.
“It’s a real tough game,” he said.
“I think Derry had an outstanding season last year. We were very familiar with them because we played them in the Cup and the EA Sports Cup final as well so we had some really tough games against them.
“We’re under no illusions that it’s a real tough game to start the season off with. It’s an old saying but there are no easy games. You have to go out and perform. If we can perform to the best of our abilities we’re confident of picking up points against any opposition but, like you say, Derry have been formidable opponents. They really tested us last year and I’m sure they’ll be confident of doing the same again this year.
“The games will come thick and fast and there will be plenty of games straight away really so it’s just about how you cope with that and hopefully we have a better run with injuries than we had last year. Hopefully we stay clear of them this year and get off to a good start.
“You always want to have a good start. Our start last year probably wasn’t as bad as suggested, just that Rovers had a couple of games extra played. They got off to a good start themselves but we’ll be eager to start well and get off on the right foot. Having said that if it doesn’t go to play we won’t panic either because it is a long season.”
Key to any success will be a good home record and with Vinny Perth yet to taste defeat at Oriel Park in the league since taking over, Rogers feels keeping that run going could be pivotal throughout the year.
“We’ve always been good at home so you’d hope that that trend will continue,” he said.
“Any team with title aspirations needs a good home record and we’re no different. We’ll be looking to pick up as many points as possible at home. A lot of teams come and try to make it really difficult for us but we have to find a way to break down teams and get results. Thankfully we were good at that last year and hopefully that will continue again this season,” he said.