Having gone to school in the town and grown up just 14km away from Head in the Game Park in Gormanston, a winner against Drogheda Utd – even in a friendly setting such as the Malone Cup – should have been a big moment for Greg Sloggett.
Just like many events in the last year, however, the significance of his header to earn Dundalk a 3-2 win over their Co Louth rivals on Saturday was diluted somewhat by the lack of fans in attendance as the country continues to struggle to get on top of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Sloggett’s 68th minute goal from Patrick McEleney’s free kick ironically came a year to the day since the midfielder scored the last Dundalk goal in front of supporters in the 4-0 victory over Finn Harps in Ballybofey.
While he will remember that goal fondly as being his first for Dundalk, the 24-year-old admitted after Saturday’s win that not having fans there had taken away some of the joy associated with everything he has achieved in the white shirt since then.
“It absolutely took away from the win today,” he said of the lack of fans, “and I can say that many times over the course of the last year.
“I can’t wait to have them back. You miss the atmosphere, you miss the adrenaline rush, you miss even that feeling when you score.
“I know it’s a friendly and it’s pre-season but I scored there and I just kind of cheered and there was nothing. You do kind of lose sight of that a little bit after a year without them but I’m definitely looking forward to having everyone back and the sooner the better.”
While bigger challenges lie ahead than the Malone Cup, Sloggett said Saturday’s victory and performance was another step in the right direction as Filippo Giovagnoli’s side prepare for the start of the new league campaign away to Sligo Rovers on March 20th.
“I mean, it doesn’t really matter who the team is, we just want to have a consistent winning run going into the season.
“We missed out on the game in Derry so we need to make the games we have count now going into the season.
“It was a good performance and I think we created a lot of chances out there and possibly should have scored more but we’re happy overall probably.”
Sloggett was particularly happy to score a rare headed goal, even if it did bring back memories of a big chance he missed in Europe towards the end of last season.
“A couple of the lads were joking about one of the headers I missed in the Europa League, the big chance against Rapid Vienna.
“This was similar, a kind of a glancing one but this one went in.
“I wish it was the other way around but I was just happy to help us continue our winning run into the season,” he smiled.
Before Dundalk really get down to business, there’s the small matter of the President’s Cup final against Shamrock Rovers this Friday. The game at Tallaght Stadium might be a glorified friendly rather than a must-win but Sloggett insists it’s a game he wants to win to help his side put down a marker that they want their league title back.
“Any game you play against Shamrock Rovers you’re not going to take lightly,” he said.
“This will be my first President’s Cup because we didn’t have one last year and I’ll be looking forward to that and if I can nurse my calves properly then things will be looking good for me next week but we’re really looking forward to that game.
“I think the big disappointment last year was not achieving in the league what we felt we should have. We should have been right up there and we need to make that right this year.
“Personally it was good that I broke into the team and and played very consistently all through the year and had a good Europa League group stages but I want to kick on from that, add goals and add different bits and pieces to my game and I think this is the right place to do it,” said Sloggett.