Sean Hoare has heard all the stories about Dundalk’s memorable 2016 European run more than once. Now he is hoping to create his own memories by helping the Lilywhites return to the Europa League group stages this season.
The defender was the club’s first signing in the wake of that historic European run in December 2016 with the hope of repeating that feat a large reason for his decision to transfer from St Patrick’s Athletic.
Four years on, the Louth club are still trying to get back to the promised land but if they can beat Sheriff Tiraspol in Moldova on Thursday evening then Filippo Giovagnoli’s side will be just 90 minutes away achieving their dream, with a home tie to follow against either KÍ Klaksvik from the Faroe Islands or Dynamo Tbilisi of Georgia in the Europa League play-off.
Hoare said Dundalk would rarely have a better chance of achieving their aim than this year.
“On the first day of pre-season every single year you come in and talk about Europe and where you want to get to. Obviously we all want to win the league because that’s your bread and butter but we’d talk about Europe.
“I came in just after the Europa League run in 2016 but it’s still something that’s talked about almost every day here. To be involved in that again would be unbelievable,” he said.
“To have a home tie in the play-offs is a massive carrot for us. It’s in front of us now and it’s in our own hands.
“It would be brilliant to get a home tie in the play-offs but we have to do our business right in Moldova first.
“We have to give them the respect they deserve. In the third round of the Europa League, you’re never going to get an easy tie. We’re happy to have a potential home draw to follow but we have to get through this first,” he said.
While Dundalk are daring to dream, Hoare is well aware they will get nothing easy at the SC Sheriff Stadium on Thursday night.
“We’re under no illusions that it’s going to be a very tough game. We’ve done our homework though and we’ll be prepared,” he said.
The 26-year-old has been playing at right back since Giovagnoli arrived to replace Vinny Perth as interim head coach at the end of last month. He feels he has been growing into the role but admits he’d prefer to be in his favoured centre back position.
“It’s been all right,” he said of his full back role.
“I feel it takes a couple of games just to get used to it physically because it demands a different amount of running and you use different aspects of your body but when you get used to it then it’s a good position because you get a lot of the ball and you can get forward a bit more than at centre back.
“Look, I am a centre back and I do prefer playing there but if they want me to play right back then I’m more than happy to do so. I’d play up front if needs be once I’m on the starting 11,” said Hoare.