Dundalk assistant manager Ruaidhrí Higgins believes his old friend Stephen O’Donnell will be a success at St Patrick’s Athletic but insists his old side will be doing him no favours when he returns to Oriel Park on Friday night (kick-off 8pm, live on eirSport).
The pair played and coached together during many successful days at Dundalk before O’Donnell departed to become the new head coach at Richmond Park at the end of last August.
While he returned to Oriel Park in the opposite dug out at the end of last season, O’Donnell has now begun to put his own stamp on a Pat’s side who sit fourth in the table after the opening five games.
While Higgins has high hopes for his good friend, he says Dundalk will be ready for them on Friday.
“There’s very few easy games in this league,” he said.
“I’ve no doubt Stevie will be a huge success at Pat’s. He’ll know a lot about us but we’ll do our homework on them now this week.
“It’s important that we only take one game at a time. We’ll do our homework starting from tomorrow and get the lads in the best possible shape for next week.”
Higgins – who handled media duties after the 4-0 win over Finn Harps as head coach Vinny Perth was feeling unwell – took huge positives from the game.
“It was a brilliant performance I thought. It was really, really professional from start to finish.
“We set our stall out properly. We had drummed it into the players during the week that this is a really difficult venue. Their home form has been exceptional from the mid-season break last year. We needed to start fast and we did that. We got a goal after about a minute. The attitude and professionalism of the players was top notch.
“We were clinical. Although we had a lot of the ball, we were probably at our most threatening when they had the ball and we hit them on the break. We caused them huge problems in wide areas but as you say we were clinical.
“It was great for Pat to get another two and for other attacking players to get on the scoresheet. Getting Kelly, McEleney and Colovic on the pitch as well is a huge plus for us because they’re going to be three important players for us between now and the end of the season.”
Higgins was particularly full of praise for Hoban.
He said: “He has five in five now and that’s where he wants to be. He’s a hungry man for goals and that’s his biggest strength in my opinion is his will to win.
“The most impressive thing for me tonight was that when we were under a small bit of pressure when they had won three or four set plays that he went back and was winning big headers in our box. People don’t see that but he gives us real sort of power and aggression in our box and he is great at it. His all round play tonight from start to finish was exceptional.”
The Derry man, who won a league title with Dundalk as a player in 2014, also praised Hoban for reaching the 100 goal mark in the league.
“It’s an amazing achievement, especially in the space of time that he has done it in.
“Again, he has been an exceptional player for this club and I don’t think he gets the credit he deserves personally. He’ll keep scoring goals and keep proving people wrong. Not that he has to prove people wrong but there are people who have knocked him probably but I think he keeps answering questions.
“We’ve got Georgie Kelly as well and let’s not forget that he is a top, top player. He scored 14 in 15 starts last year so we’ve great options in the attacking area of the pitch but at this time Pat is leading the line exceptionally well.”
Higgins said he also believed Greg Sloggett could chip in with more goals now that he was off the mark for the club.
“Personally I think Greg should score more goals with his power and athleticism,” he said.
“He can get in the box regularly so I think Greg can score more goals and add that to his game. He’s still a young player, he’s only 23, so I think that will come. His all round game is very good and he has got off to a good start with us.”
The Dundalk assistant boss also has high hopes for Serbian Stefan Colovic, who came off the bench for his debut on Friday.
“He’s a real talent. He has a lovely left foot and he finds great areas of space. He’s just a real clever player with a brilliant left foot. His form in the season before this season, he scored a lot of goals and created a lot of goals so we hope to get him back into that form as soon as possible but we obviously have to be patient.
“We all know that coming to Ireland there is a bedding in process but he has taken to it very, very well. He’s a nice lad and the lads have warmed to him very well.”
Dundalk could have an additional player in their ranks for Friday’s game with a deal for free agent Nathan Oduwa understood to be in the offing at the time of going to press.