Having equaled Alan O’Neill’s record for most clean sheets in a league campaign last season, Gary Rogers has set a new target of surpassing that total in 2020.
O’Neill, who presented Rogers with the SSE Airtricity/Soccer Writers’ Association of Ireland Goalkeeper of the Year award on Friday night, had proudly held the league’s record for most clean sheets in a campaign since helping Dundalk to the league title in 1990/91.
After winning the Goalkeeper of the Year award for a second time in 2015, O’Neill made Rogers aware of his 23 shut outs and he revealed has been determined to beat it ever since.
“I think in 2015 I was here and Alan pointed out to me that there was a record there that he held which would take a bit of beating. It hasn’t been beaten yet but we at least equalled it last year,” smiled Gary.
“Alan is a great fella. I have a lot of time for him. He was the goalkeeping coach when I was in with the Irish U-21s and he has always been a good source of knowledge and guidance for me throughout my career. To be matching records that he has held is a great honour.”
Asked would he be looking to keep at least 24 clean sheets in the season ahead, Rogers said: “Absolutely. You’ve got to set yourself big targets. You’ve got to be getting better.
I try to get better every year and I feel I’ve been closing in on the 23 for the last couple of years but we’ll be trying to keep as many as we can next season as we always do and if we can get 24 next season in the league it would be fantastic.”
The 38-year-old paid tribute to his fellow goalkeeping team of coach Steve Williams, Aaron McCarey and the since departed Ross Treacy after winning the award.
“It comes at the end of a long season and it’s a reward for the effort that I put in along with Willo, Aaron, Ross and the whole team really.
“We had such a good defence last year. Obviously I get recognised tonight but there’s a lot of work that goes in with the rest of the team in order to get these awards.”
The Meathman admitted his highlight of the year came in Riga where his penalty saves helped Dundalk FC advance to the third qualifying round of the Champions League.
“The experience and the atmosphere and coming out on the right side of the penalty shoot-out in Riga was definitely the highlight in terms of games throughout the year.
“To win the league though is what is all about and that is what entitles you to go and play in them Champions League games in Europe. That has got to be the goal again for this season, to go and retain the league title and have a good go at Europe.”
Now into his 22nd pre-season, Rogers said he’s still as hungry as ever and can’t wait to take to the field again this Friday against UCD.
“I was only saying to my wife yesterday that I was looking forward to going training. Obviously we’re only back a couple of days but I’m really looking forward to the game and that’s important that you still have that hunger to go and play football,” he said.