Farewell to the Lilywhite Legends – five players who won 67 medals for Dundalk

Farewell to the Lilywhite Legends – five players who won 67 medals for Dundalk

When Dundalk return to pre-season training at the end of the month there will be a few familiar faces missing. While Lilywhite supporters have had several weeks to contemplate a future without the likes of Gary Rogers, Sean Gannon, Dane Massey, John Mountney and Sean Hoare, James Rogers looks back on the contribution of five players who collectively won an incredible 67 honours during their time at Oriel Park.

The article as it appeared in The Argus on January 19th 2021

Gary Rogers
Perhaps the biggest compliment that can be paid to Gary Rogers is that he made people very quickly forget about his predecessor Peter Cherrie, the hugely popular goalkeeper he who he was brought in to replace just weeks after the first league win of this era at the end of 2014. Rogers had his critics at times, which you’d expect given his position, but even in his few bad moments he had a remarkable resilience to always be able to bounce back – even overcoming a broken bone in his hand to regain his place in the side after briefly being dropped in 2016. As someone who witnessed Rogers in action perhaps more than most, there are so many moments when he made a big save at 0-0 or 1-0 before Dundalk went on to win 2-0 or 3-0. To those just looking at results, it regularly looked like a comfortable win for his side but it could have been so different but for his contribution. On a grander scale, Dundalk would not have been able to pull off that memorable victory over BATE Borisov in Tallaght in 2016 were it not for some top saves from Rogers in the first leg in Belarus in which Stephen Kenny’s side were fortunate to escape with just a 1-0 defeat. As well as equalling Alan O’Neill’s record of 23 clean sheets in a league season – also achieved with Dundalk in 1990/91 – Rogers made crucial saves in shoot-out victories away to Riga and Sheriff in 2019 and 2020 which not only earned the club millions in revenue but also arguably saved Vinny Perth’s job in Latvia and earned Filippo Giovagnoli his in Moldova.

Sean Gannon
Had you told me Sean Gannon would go on to the career he had after his Dundalk debut in March 2014 I’d have laughed at you. A relative unknown when he was signed from St Patrick’s Athletic by Stephen Kenny, Gannon was given a truly torrid time by Gavin Brennan as Drogheda won 4-1 at United Park. He was taken out of the firing line after 80 minutes of that game and actually dropped for the following week’s victory at home to Limerick in which his replacement Mark Rossiter both scored and gave a man of the match display. A hamstring injury for Rossiter late on in that game gave Gannon an immediate route back into the side though and he never looked back, even scoring a memorable team goal to cap off a resounding 4-1 win for his side away to then champions St Patrick’s Athletic a few weeks later which really showed that Stephen Kenny’s side were ready to challenge for the title. He has been largely a fixture in the side since then and the fact Dundalk dropped 16 points in the eight league matches he missed in 2017 shows how important he became. He would chip in with some big goals over the years too, most notable the 1-0 win over Shamrock Rovers in Tallaght in 2019 and in the EA Sports Cup final away to Derry City in the same year. He was also one of the side’s biggest attacking threats with his cross for Patrick McEleney’s winner in the 2018 FAI Cup final one fo the most memorable of his many assists. It will be tough seeing him in Rovers colours next season but it shouldn’t taint his achievements for Dundalk.

John Mountney
Of all the departures from Oriel Park this winter, John Mountney’s probably tugs on the heart strings the most. Having been part of the squad which narrowly avoided relegation in the play-off in 2012 – a year when the club itself was perhaps fortunate to survive – his story, along with that of Chris Shields, was one of the best. The Mayo man had been there during the dark days but went on to play a big role in the best ones. While he might never have achieved the status of a regular, Mountney was frequently called upon for the big occasion and never really let the side down. Indeed, he was the side’s lucky general with Dundalk winning on each occasions in which he scored. Mountney would have been 10 seasons at Oriel Park this year but it’s understandable that he feels, at 27, that he needs a new challenge and to play more regularly. One of the biggest compliments you can give him is that he arrived at Oriel Park as a teenager and always carried himself with the utmost class and dignity when it would have been easy for someone of his age living away from home for the first time to let success go to their head. Dundalk will miss Mountney’s versatility going forward but hopefully as a town we haven’t seen the last of him. At the end of last year he got engaged to local girl Shannon Moran – a member of a well known family from Bay Estate – so he will still be a familiar sight in the area at least. A quiet lad overall, he’ll have some story to tell in years to come.

Dane Massey
Often the most overlooked of Dundalk’s famous back four in which he regularly featured alongside Gannon, Gartland and Boyle, there was definitely no lack of appreciation for Dane Massey from Dundalk supporters. For much of his time at Oriel Park he was Denis Irwin-like – solid in defence, a threat in attack and ultra consistent. While rightly remembered for his defensive displays, Dane scored some big goals over the years for the club as well. His superb double in the 3-2 EA Sports Cup final win over Shamrock Rovers at Oriel Park in September 2014 earned Stephen Kenny’s side the first trophy of this era while he also scored the first goals of both Vinny Perth and Filippo Giovagnoli’s reigns. A bit like Tommy McConville against Celtic in 1979, people in years from now will always wonder what might have happened had Massey’s effort – at a time in which Dundalk were 1-0 up – had gone in off the post rather than rebounded off it against Zenit St Petersburg in Tallaght in 2016. Of all the departures this off-season, the left back’s is perhaps the saddest. Having scored a cracker away to Cobh Ramblers in Giovagnoli’s first game in charge, he would suffer a hip injury in training in the days after that which required surgery that ended his season. It was cruel for all players who ended their time at the club this year that they didn’t get to sign off in front of fans who had adored them for so long but the fact Massey’s time at the club came to an end doing TV punditry was not what he deserved for his service at Oriel Park.

Sean Hoare
While it’s fair to say that Sean Hoare is perhaps not held in the same sort of bracket of affection as the other four long-serving members of the squad which departed Oriel Park this winter, I’d imagine history will remember him more fondly. Many players can only dream of scoring a goal in an FAI Cup final but Hoare got to do it twice as Dundalk lifted the trophy in 2018 and 2020. While he perhaps isn’t as adored as the others having only joined in the days after the memorable 2016 season came to an end, Hoare made a superb contribution to title wins in 2018 and 2019 which shouldn’t be forgotten. His leap to score against Rovers when Dundalk clinched the title at Oriel Park in September 2019 summed up the sort of threat he offered at set pieces. He was a player with a fantastic attitude who was often selfless to his own detriment. An accomplished centre half, he was often asked to fill in at either right back or in central midfield. While he did many a fine job there, at times he was exposed as well from not playing in his best position. Another who has departed for Shamrock Rovers, his legacy at the club shouldn’t be forgotten just because of where he has ended up. It sums up how successful the last decade or so has been in the club’s history that another departure this week, Jordan Flores, won every trophy possible during his time here and yet will probably only be a footnote in the club’s history. Hoare made a big contribution to recent success and that shouldn’t be forgotten or overlooked.

Gary Rogers: One of the all-time great League of Ireland careers

Gary Rogers: One of the all-time great League of Ireland careers

Gary Rogers announced his retirement after more than 20 years this evening. For the night that’s in it I thought I’d share some stats on one of the League of Ireland’s all time greats.

Gary Rogers made 752 career appearances in over 20 years as a professional. This included 575 league appearances, second only to Al Finucane in the all-time list, who played 634 league matches. He also made 520 Premier Division appearances, second only to Peter Hutton with 537. Sixteen of Rogers’ appearances were expunged following Dublin City’s demise in 2006.

Gary’s honours list reads as:
5 Premier Division titles
1 First Division title
5 FAI Cups
3 League Cups
1 Unite the Union Champions Cup
1 Setanta Sports Cup
2 Leinster Senior Cups
1 Connacht Senior Cup

He holds the record appearances for a League of Ireland player in Europe with 54 games, 13 clear of Ollie Cahill and Ronan Finn in second.

Shay Given with 23 is the only Irish goalkeeper with more clean sheets in European football than Rogers, who ends his career with 14. This is 4 clear of Bonner and seven ahead of Mick Devine.

Gary Rogers has won three SWAI Goalkeeper of the Year awards (2012, 2015 and 2019) – a joint record with Mark McNulty (2014, 2016 and 2017) and Brian Murphy (2007, 2008, 2009).

Gary made his League of Ireland debut for St Francis in a 2-1 defeat away to Sligo Rovers at The Showgrounds on Sunday October 22nd 2000. Carel van der Velden (49) and Steve Birks (53) got the goals for Sligo. Paul Irwin scored a penalty on the hour mark as a consolation for St Francis.

The heaviest defeat of Gary Rogers’ career came on his first visit to Oriel Park 20 years ago this week on December 14th 2000 when Dundalk beat St Francis 7-0 with goals from David Ward, Anto Reilly (2), Tommy Byrne, Donal Broughan, Martin Reilly and John Flanagan.

His first clean sheet in the League of Ireland came on January 28th 2001 in a 3-0 win over Cobh Ramblers for St Francis at John Hyland Park. Wayne Fitzell (2), Shane Doherty (35) and John Chandler (62) got the goals on the day. It would be his only clean sheet in 25 matches for St Francis.

In total Rogers would keep 291 clean sheets throughout his career. This included 114 in 225 matches for Dundalk FC. He also kept 54 for Drogheda Utd, 49 each for Sligo Rovers and St Patrick’s Athletic, 20 for Galway Utd, four for Dublin City but none in a brief seven match tenure at Bray Wanderers in 2006.

Rogers would end his domestic career with an FAI Cup win over Shamrock Rovers. It was his 68th game in a competition he would win 5 times. The first man to score against him in the FAI Cup was Alan Reynolds for Waterford in 2000. Earlier this year Reynolds was his assistant manager briefly at Dundalk.

Rogers may not have ever played League of Ireland football were it not for a red card for his club St Ultan’s in a Leinster Club Championship in 2000. The Bohermeen/Martry club won their first Meath JFC in September 2000. Gary’s father Dessie was the first secretary of St Ultan’s when they were founded in 1991 and captain when the Meath juniors reached the All-Ireland final in 1987. Gary would score two of five late points as St Ultan’s came from 0-9 to 0-5 behind with seven minutes to go against Ballinabrackey in the semi-final to set up a final pairing with St Peter’s Dunboyne. He would also score a number of times in the final which his side won 1-11 to 0-6. That saw him elevated to the Meath senior panel from the juniors under the guidance of Sean Boylan but a red card in a Leinster Club Championship match meant he was dropped from the panel. A three month suspension saw him turn his focus to soccer. “I suppose a combination of going on loan to St Francis and actually getting games and then the sending off with my local club probably played its part in the role I took,” said Rogers, who had started out at Shelbourne in 1999 under his last goalkeeping coach Steve Williams.

Rogers would return to GAA in 2006 after Dublin City went bust, earning a couple of starts for Colm Coyle’s Meath in the National League and helping St Ultan’s to another Meath JFC title with a 1-10 to 1-6 win over Kilmainham. Coyle had been the St Ultan’s manager when they won the JFC title six years earlier with Rogers on board. He would score four points in the final

Gary’s uncle was legendary Dundalk player Liam Devine, a scorer of goals against Linfield and Hibernians of Malta in the club’s memorable European Cup run of 1978/79. Having being diagnosed with cancer at the age of 29, Devine passed away a year before Gary’s birth in September 1980. His death would have a big role in his nephew becoming a goalkeeper. The tragedy led to Liam’s son Lee spending more and more time in the Rogers household and it was him who decided his cousin should take up a role guarding goal. “We would always have been out playing on the pitch beside my house. He was five or six years older than me so I was the goalkeeper for his shooting practice,” said Rogers in March 2018. “That’s how I really got into it and I always really enjoyed it. I suppose he would have a big part to play in my interest in goalkeeping.I played all my Gaelic outfield and all my soccer in goals barring a few exceptions.”

Rogers’ earlierest footballing memory related to a goalkeeper was Packie Bonner saving Daniel Timofte’s penalty in the Italia 90 World Cup. Bonner would later present Rogers with his third SWAI Goalkeeper of the Year award for 2019 in January of this year. “Packie Bonner’s iconic penalty save against Romania is my first memory of football,” he said.
“I remember watching it in Navan swimming pool. I was doing a swimming lesson and the penalties came on and we went in to watch it in the lifeguard’s hut. That penalty save still sticks with me and I was a massive fan then of Packie growing up.”

Rogers’ heroes other than Bonner were Bruce Grobbelaar, being a Liverpool fan, as well as the Italian duo of Gianluca Pagliuca and Gianluigi Buffon

Gary’s first clean sheet for Drogheda Utd came, like with St Francis, against Cobh Ramblers in a 1-0 win away at St Colman’s Park on August 11th 2001. Declan ‘Fabio’ O’Brien got the goal for the Boynesiders. They would win the First Division title that season with Gary an ever present in what was his first piece of League of Ireland silverware.

His Premier Division debut came in a 2-1 win over Derry City at United Park on 5th July 2002. Mark Dempsey and Shaun Gallagher scored the goals for Drogheda either side of a Liam Coyle penalty

Gary came off the bench just three times in his career. The first came on April 2nd 2004 when he replaced Tony O’Dowd at half-time in a 3-0 defeat away to Shelbourne at Tolka Park.

Rogers was also sent off three times in his career. The first came for St Pat’s in a 2-2 draw at home to UCD on August 7th 2011 for a foul on Darren Meenan. Pat’s had been 2-0 up at the time. He was also sent-off in an FAI Cup semi-final replay – a 3-1 defeat to Shels – on October 17th 2011 for bring down Kevin Dawson in the box. His third and final red card was in a 2-2 draw away Shamrock Rovers in Tallaght on April 17th 2015. Dundalk were 2-0 up at the time when he was sent-off by Neil Doyle for a foul on Ryan Brennan.

Gary’s European debut came on July 16th 2009 in a 1-1 draw with Valletta in Richmond Park. Fabio O’Brien with the goal for Pat’s and Gilbert Agius for Valletta.

He went 497 minutes without conceding at the start of the 2010 season for St Pat’s before Jason Byrne’s equaliser for Bohs in a 1-1 draw at Dalymount on April 6th 2010. Vinny Faherty had got the Pat’s goal on 19 mins. He would later go 540 minutes without conceding for Dundalk at the start of the 2015 season before Paul O’Conor’s goal earned Limerick a last gasp share of the points in a 1-1 draw at Jackman Park on April 4th.

Gary Rogers’ two best seasons as a goalkeeper saw him keep 26 clean sheets. This came in 2013 for Sligo and 2019 for Dundalk. His 23 clean sheets for Dundalk in the league in 2019 equalled the league record held by Alan O’Neill from Dundalk’s successful 1990/91 league campaign.

Gary’s Dundalk debut came on February 10th 2015 in a 2-1 LSC win over UCD at Oriel Park – Ronan Finn and David McMillan with the goals and Dylan Watts for UCD.

The only time he was beaten by a namesake was in a 4-3 defeat to Drogheda Utd for St Pat’s in October 2011 when Dave Rogers scored a 31st minute penalty that had cancelled out David McMillan’s opener at United Park.

Twice called in the Republic of Ireland senior squad, he is one of just a handful of players to have played in two Europa League group stage campaigns. His 33 starts is a joint record for Dundalk along with Sean Gannon, although the latter has featured five more times off the bench.

PFAI chairman from 2015 until earlier this year, he helped Irish football through some of its most difficult times including helping the Irish women’s team in their battle for better rights in recent years.

His shoot-out saves against Riga in 2019 and Sheriff Tiraspol in 2020 for Dundalk were the most valuable in League of Ireland history, earning the club where he was home to from November 2014 to December 2020 millions in the process.

Rogers looking to end a topsy turvy year on a high with Cup winners’ medal

Rogers looking to end a topsy turvy year on a high with Cup winners’ medal

Gary Rogers is one of a handful of Dundalk players looking forward to their sixth successive FAI Cup final at the weekend.

While that record equaling tally is something special, he’s determined not to end the year with any regrets.

In five finals to date, Dundalk have won just two in 2015 and 2018. Two of their defeats have been via penalty shoot-outs, the most heartbreaking way to lose, including last year against their opponents on Sunday, Shamrock Rovers.

While 2019 was a good year for Dundalk, missing out on a domestic clean sweep still stings a little. Now Rogers and co are determined to get the Cup back on Sunday to ensure a topsy turvy 2020 finishes on a high.

“A Cup final is a very special game to play in regardless of the situation at the minute without fans,” said the goalkeeper.

“It’s still where you want to be at the end of the season, in a Cup final and fighting it out for that trophy. We were disappointed last year to lose out on it.

“We’ve had some ups and downs in Cup finals but hopefully we’ll go and put in a really good performance and try and claim back the trophy.”

While many will feel Dundalk have a point to prove against Rovers, Rogers is purely focused on winning on Sunday.

“It’s about winning the Cup regardless of who the opposition are,” he said.

“For the last six years it has been the top two or top three as it is this year. It’s a great game to look forward to.

“Last year it went to a penalty shoot out. They’re always tight games. I wouldn’t look too much at the 4-0 one because we had so many changes that it’s difficult to know where we really were for that one but the game in Tallaght was probably the game of the year so you’d just be hoping that something like that again will take place in the Aviva on Sunday and hopefully we come out the right side of the result,” he said.

Rogers calls on Dundalk to bring their A-game to the Emirates

Rogers calls on Dundalk to bring their A-game to the Emirates

Dundalk goalkeeper Gary Rogers has called on his side to bring their A-game to the Emirates on Thursday for his side’s clash with Arsenal.

The Lilywhites will go into the Group B encounter as rank outsiders to get a result but the 39-year-old said the team are relishing the prospect of testing themselves against some of the Premier League’s finest players.

“We just need to prepare as best we can,” he said.

“It’s a massive occasion for everyone at the club but we’re going to go there and really enjoy it. If we can enjoy it and put our best performance in then there’s no doubt that that will help but there’s no denying that Arsenal are a top class outfit. It would be foolish to say anything else.

“We know we’ll have to play our very best stuff both defensively and attacking wise to get anything out of the game. There’s no way around that but it’s certainly something we’re relishing and we’re looking forward to going and testing ourselves at the very top of the game.”

Rogers is hoping that the fine margins that went against his side against Molde in Tallaght Stadium last week go in their favour this time around.

“We’ll have to be defensively sound when we go to the Emirates but there are positives to be taken out of the Molde performance.

“I don’t think we were overawed. We created probably as many chances as they did but we didn’t get the rub of the green that we would have liked to have got and that you need in European games. It’s those fine margins that see you through.

“Every team that we play are going to be ranked higher than us but we’re under no illusions that the Europa League group stages is very tough and we’ll have to be at our very best to get points.

“We’re disappointed not to have picked anything up against Molde because I felt our play overall deserved it but hopefully we’ll get that rub of the green later on in the group stages,” he said.

Evergreen Rogers looking forward to his 50th against Molde

Evergreen Rogers looking forward to his 50th against Molde

Dundalk’s very own Benjamin Button Gary Rogers will reach yet another landmark in his storied career when he lines out against Molde at Tallaght Stadium on Thursday.

Should he take his place between the sticks for the clash with the Norwegian champions then it will be the goalkeeper’s 50th European appearance of his career.

At 39, many footballers have either hung up their boots or have seen their powers begin to wane but after big contributions in the victories over Sheriff Tiraspol and KÍ Klaksvik and back-to-back clean sheets in the league last week against Cork City and Bohemians, Rogers is in flying form ahead of what he hopes will be another memorable few months.

“To get to 50 European appearances, I’m pretty happy with that in general but for the 50th one to be in the group stages is pretty special,” he said of Thursday’s landmark.

“Hopefully now I can put in a good performance and mark it with a good result.

“It’s brilliant to have this to look forward to because they’re huge games.

“For the lads who have been here before we’ve tasted it and for the new lads in the squad, it’s a great opportunity and occasion to go and embrace and enjoy. Obviously it’s disappointing that there’s going to be no fans there but it’s still a hell of an achievement to get there and it’s something we’re all looking forward to.

“We’ve had some big games and moments in Europe as well so it’s a big turnaround from six or eight weeks ago. We’re just hoping to go out there and play as well as we can and try and get some points on the board in the group stages.”

Rogers admits that players will have to raise their game to perform in the group stages, like they did in 2016, but he feels the current group are capable of doing that.

“The benefit of having played in it before is that lads know what it’s about. It’s obviously a huge level of football to be playing at and little things will be punished so you’ve got to be on your game. Everyone has got to be eight or nine out of 10 and really playing to the best of their ability but you’ll find our players are good enough to play at that standard and they’ll relish the opportunity to go and show their talents on the big stage. It’s certainly something that we’re all delighted to be there but we all want to go and give a good account of ourselves and the league.

“People have been talking about 2016 for the last four years and all the great nights that we had there. Now we’ve another great experience ahead of us and for lads who are at the same stage as me in their career it’s something that you’ve just really got to cherish and try to make the most of.

“It’s really good to be going into big European nights at this stage of my career and I’m really looking forward to it and I’m sure the rest of the lads are the same.”

Rogers, who lost home and away to Molde in 2013 while at Sligo, is expecting a tough test on Thursday but is hopeful of another memorable night in Tallaght.

“We know they’re a very talented team. There’s a really good standard of football over there. You don’t win their league easily, especially when you’ve a team like Rosenborg in it who we’d all be familiar with. They’ll be difficult opponents but it’s not an insurmountable task.

“Hopefully it’s a good omen to be going back to Tallaght. We picked up our first group stage win there against Maccabi. Hopefully we’ll get off to a really good start. It would be great to get three points on the board and really kick on into the group stages with a positive start,” said the goalkeeper.