Shamrock Rovers have been the opposition for three of the key moments in Darragh Leahy’s career to date so it is perhaps fitting that Stephen Bradley’s side will once again provide the opposition this Sunday for a game which could be the 21-year-old’s competitive debut for Dundalk.
It was against the Hoops that Leahy made his League of Ireland debut for Bohemians in a 3-1 win at Dalymount Park on February 16th 2018.
He would also go on to score his first goal at senior level against the Hoops when he pounced for a memorable 99th minute winner at Tallaght Stadium the following April.
Perhaps less memorable, but it was also against Rovers that Leahy made his last appearance for Bohs when they lost 1-0 courtesy of a Graham Burke goal at Tallaght Stadium on August 30th last year.
An injury playing for the Republic of Ireland U-21s in Sweden the following month brought an end to Leahy’s 2019 but having joined Dundalk just before Christmas, the left back has been making a good impression in his handful of outings to date.
Now he is hoping to land his first piece of silverware this Sunday when Rovers travel to Oriel Park to contest the President’s Cup final (kick-off 3pm).
Of course, you want to win every game and especially when there’s a trophy up for grabs,” he said when asked if he wanted to win the game.
“I’m really looking forward to that. We’ve two games next week so hopefully after that we’ll be flying for the President’s Cup final.”
When the Rovers link in his career was put to him, the Swords man couldn’t help but raise a smile.
“We beat them 3-1 that night (on my debut) and as you say there was the 99th minute goal. I don’t think that will be forgotten about any time soon,” he grinned.
“It’s obviously going to be a tough game, especially after the Cup final last year, but that’s behind us now and we just want to push on now and look forward to winning more silverware.”
Leahy feels he has settled well in his new surroundings and insists he is getting back to his best after his lay-off towards the end of last season.
“It’s been good,” he said of his first month with his new team-mates.
“The lads are all bang on and make you feel welcome straight away. I feel like I’ve settled in straight away and I’m just glad I’m back now playing games and getting minutes under my belt.
“I hadn’t played since last September so it was tough but I’ve been in with the physios and they’re both top class. They’ve got me in good condition and I’ve fit straight into the group. The minutes in pre-season are the most important so I’ve just been glad to get a few under my belt and hopefully now I can push on and get more.”
Leahy said the recent pre-season trip to Spain, where he featured against CFR Cluj and CSKA Moscow, was beneficial both from a playing perspective and in fitting in with his new team-mates.
“The two oppositions we played were top class so that was a very good experience but it was a great team bonding week. I got to know the lads so much and I’ve just clicked with them straight away. It was really good to have because now everyone knows each other really well.”
Now Leahy is just looking forward to the season getting going with Sunday’s President’s Cup final a real appetiser for what lies ahead.
“I can’t wait,” he said.
“It has been a very long off season, especially with being injured from September and being out for a while but the games are going to come thick and fast now so I can’t wait for that.”
Stephen Kenny might have departed Dundalk over a year ago but his influence had a major role in his former employers landing Darragh Leahy from Bohemians last week.
The 21-year-old put pen to paper on a two-year deal at Oriel Park last Thursday.
Having worked under Kenny with the Republic of Ireland U-21 squad this year, Leahy was only too happy to sign for Vinny Perth’s side having thrived in the eight caps he was won this season under his new coach’s predecessor.
“That’s what I was really excited about,” he said when asked about the style of football at Dundalk suiting his attacking instincts.
“Obviously Vinny worked with Stephen while he was at Dundalk and I’ve worked with Stephen for Ireland so I got a good taste for that. I absolutely love working under Stephen and I’d imagine Vinny will have similar sort of style at Dundalk along with everything else that goes with it so I’m really looking forward to it.”
The former Coventry City player said he loved his two season at Bohs but admitted he simply couldn’t say no to Dundalk once interest in him became known towards the end of last season.
“I think Dundalk had just played Linfield in the second leg of the Unite the Union Champions Cup when I learned they were interested. I obviously absolutely loved my time at Bohs and I’m so grateful to them. We had a great season and got Europe but when Dundalk, the champions, come knocking on the door you just can’t turn it down.
“I did want a new challenge to challenge myself again because you always have to challenge yourself. I just felt the time was right for this step up. It’s back to full-time football as well and everything else that comes with it so I just couldn’t turn the champions down.
“Talks had been going on for a couple of weeks so I was delighted just to get it done and dusted and now I can’t wait to get started.”
Leahy hasn’t played for either club or country since picking up an ankle injury in the Republic of Ireland’s 3-1 win away to Sweden in September but he insists he is on track to be back before the start of the season on February 14th.
“I’m where I should be,” he said when asked about his recovery.
“It’s going well but I just have to keep doing what I’m doing with regard to my rehab programme and I should be all right.”
Daniel Kelly is the only current Dundalk player who Leahy has played with to date and the Swords man admitted he would be only too happy to replicate his former Bohs colleague’s first season at Oriel Park.
“Absolutely, Dickie had a great season,” he said.
“He came from us as well so I’ve played a few games with him but if I can do half of what he done in his first year then I’ll be very happy.”
Leahy also said he was keen to learn from the man who he will compete with for the left back role, Dane Massey.
“Absolutely. He has won five out of the last six titles along with all the other pieces of silverware he has won so he’s going to be a great player to learn off and pick up little things from both in training and from watching him play. I can’t wait for that.
“At the end of the day you want to look back on your career at medals and trophies. I want to win everything that we’re in the same way the likes of Dane have done here for years.”
The full back was also pleasantly surprised by the facilities that await him at Oriel Park.
“The training facilities are very impressive. I’d never have seen them before. I’d have only seen the changing rooms in the stand in the away changing rooms which are tiny but the far side all got renovated and there’s a canteen, gym, changing rooms, analysis room and indoor and outdoor astros so there’s everything you could need,” said Leahy.