Dundalk striker Patrick Hoban is hoping his side can land European football sooner rather than later before his own big delivery.
Fresh from their 3-0 defeat away to Arsenal on Thursday, Filippo Giovagnoli’s side travel to Richmond Park on Sunday in the knowledge that victory over St Patrick’s Athletic will secure Europa League football once again next season.
However, should they fail to beat Stephen O’Donnell’s men the race for third place will go down to the final day when the Louth men will be at home to Sligo Rovers on November 8th.
That fixture comes just five days before the league’s top scorer Hoban is due to welcome his first baby into the world. As a result, he is more anxious than most to ensure Dundalk get the job done on Sunday ahead of their trip to Vienna to face Rapid Wien next Thursday.
“The baby is due on November 13th,” said the dad-to-be.
“Everything seems to be going well so far but hopefully it happens in between fixtures,” he laughed.
“If it happens while I’m away in Vienna next week there’s nothing I can do because we’re going Tuesday so if it happened Wednesday I can’t get back. Luckily there’s a gap between the two Vienna games which sort of works in my favour but hopefully we get Europe wrapped up on Sunday so the Sligo game is not as much as a concern but we need to win regardless. We drew with Finn Harps and lost to Waterford and drew with Bohs and in my eyes we should have won all three so we need to fix that.”
Hoban said playing at the Emirates on Thursday had given everyone at Dundalk an extra drive to ensure they have a chance for a similar memorable journey next year.
“All the players want to be in European football every year,” he said.
“That’s not an easy achievement. Obviously we managed to do it this year but we want to be doing it all the time.
“It’s a short career. Some lads have got to do this twice but I’d love to do it twice or three times. It’s a phenomenal experience playing against quality teams that you probably never thought you’d play against playing in the League of Ireland. It gives you a great opportunity to try and achieve things but we’ve a very difficult game now against St Pat’s first.
“They’re going to be hurting after losing their last game but we have to concentrate on cementing down third place before we think about anything else.
“At the end of the day we’ve two league games left so in my eyes we need to win both. I know if we beat Pat’s it puts everyone out of the equation but for own sake we need to win both because our results this year in the league haven’t been good enough and we need to start winning football to get that air of confidence.
“That will feed into the Europa League games as well. Our last four performances in Europe have been quite good but for some reason we’re not able to translate that into the league but hopefully we can do it on Sunday.”
The 29-year-old said his side would learn a lot from their outing against Arsenal.
“It was disappointing the way we conceded but there was definitely a lot of positives.
“At times I thought we kept the ball very well against them. Obviously mistakes can kill you but as a team I thought we did really, really well. The quality we were playing against was very good but I thought we gave a good account of ourselves against what was Premier League opposition.”
Patrick McEleney will miss the trip to Richmond Park for Dundalk with a groin problem while there is also an injury doubt over Sean Murray.
Patrick Hoban will be hoping to shoot down Sheriff for the second time in his Dundalk career on Thursday night.
The striker scored his first goal for the Lilywhites on his debut away to Dublin-based Sheriff YC in the Leinster Senior Cup way back in February 2013.
It’s a sign of how far the club has come in that period that seven-and-a-half years on it is Moldovan champions Sheriff Tiraspol that he and his team-mates are now preparing for.
Bar the name, there is no comparison between the two Sheriffs but Hoban’s ambition now remains the same as back then: to score away from home and help his side into the next round of a Cup competition.
“That was a long time ago now,” he said reflecting back on the game at the Clontarf Road Complex that was decided in extra-time.
“I’d love to score against the other Sheriff on Thursday obviously but getting through is the main thing to do.
“Since I’ve came back to the club the goal has always been to get to the group stages and we have a chance now but we have to do the business on Thursday.”
While the two matches are a world apart, Hoban said it’s a sign of how far Dundalk have come over the years that they’re now preparing to visit another new country in Moldova this week.
“You’d never have imagined that we’d be here in 2013 but obviously what Stephen built was superb and it has been continued on.
“When I came here we weren’t thinking about Europe but now it’s a huge focus. You get to see different countries. You might only get two or three days but it’s still great to see them and play in different places. It is brilliant but we’re there on business, not on a holiday.
“We have to go there in the right frame of mind and try to win a game of football,” he said.
Hoban has yet to start under new interim head coach Filippo Giovagnoli after pulling out of his first game in charge away to Cobh Ramblers at the end of last month with a groin problem but he insists that is fully behind him now after coming off the bench in Andorra last week.
“I’m feeling good so hopefully I’m over that injury now.
“It was very hard because I’m not used to missing games here so that was quite hard to take. It’s just one of those frustrating injuries where there’s a bad inflammation in the groin so I needed to wait to see would it heal by itself but I feel grand now so that’s the main thing.
“I’m looking forward to playing for Filippo. He has brought a new approach to it and people from the outside can probably see that for themselves.
“There’s a lot more intensity to our game and you can say we’re a lot more solid. We’ve had three good results in the last three games but we’ve still got a lot of improvements to do.
“We should be putting teams like Inter Club away. Last Thursday we had a host of chances to do that and we didn’t and that kind of made the game difficult for us. To get through was the main thing but we as players know we still have a lot of improving to do and hopefully we can do that under Filippo,” he said.
Dundalk will be at home to either KÍ or Dinamo Tiblisi in the Europa League play-offs should they win on Thursday and Hoban, who missed the last Europa League group stage campaign after departing for England, knows it is a big opportunity to possibly repeat the 2016 run.
“It was definitely an ambition of mine coming back here to make the group stages again.
“It is possible to do that now but we have to take it a game at a time and if we get through the next one it’s still not going to be easy to get there because the other teams that are there aren’t there for no reason either. It’s never easy but we’ll see how it goes on Thursday because we’re playing a very good side and we have to make sure we’re right on it.
“Sheriff are a very, very good side. If you look through their team they have a lot of different internationals playing there so it won’t be easy at all but with the right frame of mind we definitely have a chance of winning.
“At the end of the day it’s about the team trying to do it now for the fans who can’t come and watch the games. We want to do it for ourselves as well. We all have goals that we want to achieve and especially in Europe it’s the pinnacle of your career so these are opportunities that you need to take and we’ll be right up for it now on Thursday,” he said.
A striker can be forgiven for wondering when his next goal will come but Dundalk’s Patrick Hoban has extra reason to look forward to the next time he makes the net bulge.
Having scored the 100th league goal of his career last time out against Finn Harps in Ballybofey, the 28-year-old now has another century in his sights. Having scored five goals in the club’s opening five games before the season was halted due to the Coronavirus pandemic, Hoban now sits on 99 goals in all competitions for Dundalk.
Needless to say, he can’t wait for his next one.
“It’s going to be a big one all right,” he laughed.
“It’s a funny one to get to 99 and then the season just stops but I’m sure we’ll be out on the pitch again whenever that may be so hopefully I can finish that off sooner rather than later and keep scoring goals for Dundalk.
“99 goals in four and a bit seasons isn’t bad in terms of goal ratio so I just want to keep that up. I think I’m on to 81 league goals for the club so I’d like to get to 100 league goals for Dundalk as well. That would definitely be my aim for this season.
“It would be some achievement to do that in five seasons. That’s another goal that I’d like to achieve sooner rather than later but it will be that bit more difficult with the season being cut a small bit but it’s definitely something I want to achieve.”
If and when he joins the illustrious 100 club with his next strike, Hoban will become just the sixth player to do so after Joey Donnelly (142 goals), Eddie Carroll (113), Joe Martin (109), Paddy Turner (104) and Jimmy Hasty (103).
Ironically it will be a year this weekend since the Galwegian surpassed Donnelly’s 80-year record as the club’s leading league goalscorer with the opener in a 2-1 win over Shamrock Rovers. The two title contenders were due to meet again at Oriel Park this Friday night and despite Stephen Bradley’s side coming out on top when the sides met in Tallaght Stadium at the end of February, Hoban insists Vinny Perth’s side were only really getting going when the season stopped.
“That game was a real turning point for us last season and getting such a big goal in it to beat the record was obviously brilliant.
“Unfortunately at this moment in time I can’t increase the record because it would be good to leave a good target for someone else to come in and beat in a few years’ time.
“We actually started the season quite well apart from maybe the result in Tallaght. I know people were saying it was a cracker but I don’t think we played well at all apart from maybe about 20 minutes but it has been a killer for me personally because I started the season so well.
“I was getting to play 90 minutes and that meant my match fitness was quite high early doors.
“We were definitely all coming together when the season stopped. There were lads coming back from injuries and a few new lads who hadn’t really played yet so we were only going to get stronger from where we were.
“You’d be looking at good times ahead but with everything that has gone on it has put a stop to that but we just have to make sure that when we come back we’re ready to go again.
“There’s going to be at least a series of games taken out so that means that every three points is even more important. You can’t afford to drop many points and the head to heads are going to be massive as well but it will probably make the season that bit more interesting.”
Hoban had looked sharper than ever in the early stages of the season and he puts that down to a new diet and having a full pre-season under his belt.
“I changed a few things but the fact I had no niggles in pre-season was massive.
“I didn’t come into pre-season with any injuries like I had in recent years. I wasn’t behind so I got to hit the ground running.
“I did change a few things in my diet as well. I was eating half vegetarian and half not. I changed how I was eating as well, eating smaller portions but more frequently instead of the three big meals with snacks in between. I scrapped all that and tried something of my own and it was working. I changed a few other things and they were working out well so whenever we do get back I just have to get back into that really.
“I’m just trying to stay fit now, that’s all you can do. We’re six days on and one day off. There’s something every day, three runs and three gym sessions as well.”
In between, Hoban has been playing his part in the community and recently dropped off PPE supplies to four nursing homes in the area following a club fundraiser online.
He said he was happy to play his part.
“When I got the call to go do it I said yes straight away because those in our nursing homes are the ones right in the firing line of everything that is going on. They’re facing it every day and they’re doing a fantastic job.
“They’re the heroes now. To many people we’re the heroes on a Friday night but we’re only trying to win a game of football. They’re the real heroes who are facing into this crazy time.”
This is a difficult time for Hoban too personally as he is unable to visit his family in Loughrea at a time when they are cocooning.
“It’s all Zoom or video calls at the moment,” he said.
“My mother, step dad and my nanny would all have underlying issues so they’re not leaving the house at all. My brothers and sisters are looking after them with whatever they need.
“The last time I was home was after the St Pat’s game got called off. I used that time to go home because I had a feeling we would be going into lockdown. Seeing them through the window is not the same as giving them a hug or anything like that.
“It is difficult but we just have to get through it together and make sure we come out the right side of it,” he said.
After hitting the 100th league goal of his career with a double against Finn Harps last weekend, Dundalk striker Patrick Hoban will be hoping to hit another landmark when he lines out against St Patrick’s Athletic at Oriel Park this Friday night (kick-off 8pm, live on eirSport).
While he reached the century after scoring 19 league goals for Mervue Utd and 81 for Dundalk, Hoban’s next goal for the Lilywhites will be his 100th for the club.
That’s a target he now looks destined to hit and the 28-year-old told The Argus he hopes it is against St Pat’s on Friday.
“Hopefully I’ll get that sooner rather than later,” he said.
“I know how it feels to go on a run not scoring goals. I’m happy enough with the second goal today because it was something that fell for me and just being in the right place at the right time. I didn’t get much of them last year so I’m quite happy with how things have started this season.”
Hoban said he was thrilled with his latest landmark as he became just the 44th player in the league’s history to hit 100 goals.
“Yeah, it’s great,” he said.
“When you start playing football they’re the kind of goals you want to reach. I’m buzzing to have hit 100 but hopefully there are a lot more to come.”
With five goals already this season, it is Hoban’s best ever start to a season in terms of goals scored and he puts that down to having a good pre-season under his belt.
“To be honest I feel great. I’m probably in the shape of my life as well.
“This off season has suited me very well. I wasn’t carrying any knocks from the previous seasons like I had been in other years and I think that has helped. I’ve been working hard in the off season to come back in the right shape and then I worked hard in pre season. Long may it continue now because I know how quick it can change. I just have to keep striving forward.”
Hoban was equally pleased with his side’s response to win 4-0 in Ballybofey after their defeat away to Shamrock Rovers the previous week.
“During the week we knew it was going to be a difficult game. The pitch is not great out there to be honest with you and we knew it was going to be a difficult night. We came here this time last year and they made it really difficult for us and we were lucky to come out with a draw. The way we started tonight, pressing from the front, was the main thing to do tonight and I thought we did it very well but scoring an early goal definitely helps.
“Like I said, this is not an easy place to come and their record shows that for itself. They’re very hard to play against and they make it difficult for you. The main thing tonight was to get the three points but the performance was a good one as well. I thought we moved the ball very well and it was a great response after the result last Friday.”
Hoban said his opener after just 140 seconds was a big moment in the game.
“I knew once it got laid to me that I had hit it very well. I know it got a bit of a deflection but I think it was on its way anyway to be honest with you. You need to come up here and start the game like that because Harps can make it very difficult for you.
“The pitch was brought in about a metre on the far side and that just makes things a lot harder for you but I thought we played a lot of decent stuff tonight considering the pitch.”
Hoban now expects another tough test against St Patrick’s Athletic this week.
“They don’t come easy. Pat’s try to play the right way as well so it’ll be another difficult task for us on Friday. We just need to prepare right, recover right and get ourselves right for Friday to kick on again.”
Last season contract talks were like a dark cloud hanging over Dundalk striker Patrick Hoban. With that all resolved, a move into a new house completed and injury problems overcome, he told James Rogers ahead of the new league campaign that he was feeling the best he has been for a new season in a long time and how he is determined to break two 100 goal targets in the coming weeks.
James Rogers: How are you feeling after pre-season?
Patrick Hoban: Yeah, this pre-season has gone very well for me. My last two pre-seasons haven’t gone so well. I was injured coming into the first one when I first came back and I didn’t get any pre-season games in at all. Then last year I was carrying an injury in from the Bohemians game 10 days before the Cup final. I played in the Cup final and I wasn’t right but I wasn’t going to miss that. Then during that whole off season I had a swollen ankle on and off so there were points when I couldn’t train. I felt I was behind last year but this year, touch wood, I haven’t had any injuries and I’m not nursing anything so I actually feel quite good coming into pre-season. We’re at the back end of it now and I’m just looking forward to the season starting now.
JR: You’ve looked sharp from what I’ve seen of you. I know you didn’t score but I thought you played very well against Cluj and then you got the two up in Belfast against Crusaders the other night so you must be pleased with your performances when you have played?
PH: Definitely. The Cluj and CSKA Moscow games were good tests. I played 45 minutes against UCD and then the game against Cluj. That was a really good workout because I got 60 odd minutes in my legs that day and I felt good after it. The pre-season this year in general has gone very, very well so I feel like we’re in a good place at the minute. Playing high quality opposition in Spain definitely helped. Obviously getting beat by Longford wasn’t a good thing but at the end of the day it’s only a pre-season friendly and it’s 90 minutes that the lads got in their legs so it was a well thought out pre-season this year.
JR: It’s a tough start obviously as Derry were one of the teams who gave you the most problems last year. I’m sure you’re expecting a close game on Friday.
PH: Definitely. For the last two years since I’ve come back we haven’t started well in the league, which isn’t a good thing but we’d be hoping to set that right on Friday. All we can do is concentrate on ourselves. Yeah, Derry were very good last year and they caused us some problems but we just have to focus on ourselves and make sure we’re performing to the best of our ability from the first game. Sometimes it can take a while to get going but we’d like to hit the ground running from the start this year and not be behind like we were last year and playing catch up. Hopefully we can start a bit better than we have in recent years.
JR: It must be nice from your point of view that you’ve your future sorted. Most of last year there was talk of your contract but now that that is out of the way and you know where you’re going to be for the next couple of years is that a weight off your shoulders?
PH: Well it definitely helps. I feel more settled and off the football side of things I’m not living on edge at the moment which puts your mind at ease. I feel like this year with the pre-season that I’ve just had that I’m in a good place in terms of having no injuries or little niggles. I feel quite good coming into this season so I’m really looking forward to it.
JR: I see you’re favourite for top scorer again. Last year you got 13 league goals. Were you disappointed with that personally?
PH: Yeah, definitely. I wasn’t happy with it. I said in an interview before the Cup final that if you’re happy as a striker with 13 goals in 36 games or whatever I played then there’s something wrong. In my opinion, it’s not good enough. I ended up with 20 in all competitions and something like 14 or 15 assists but unfortunately no one remembers your assists. They only remember the goals. Having said that, I felt I did well for the team last year in all round play, especially with the injuries we had at the start of the season and stuff like that. I had a bit more responsibility than ever you could say but I wasn’t totally happy with my tally of league goals for the season. Hopefully we can make that better this year.
JR: A lot of the new signings are lads who you’d hope can help in that regard. If you look at the lads who have come in, obviously Will Patching and Cammy Smith will be playing behind you and Cammy already set you up for one against Crusaders. Then there’s the new Serbian winger Stefan Colovic. You probably don’t know much about him yet but I’m sure you’d hope he’ll be supplying you with a few goals.
PH: Yeah, hopefully, but at the end of the day it’s all about winning football matches and we won our fair share last year. As long as everyone is chipping in in terms of what they do on the pitch, knowing their jobs and stuff like that, then we’ll definitely be there or thereabouts hopefully. As long as we hit the ground running at the start of the season, that’s definitely my aim now to make sure that everyone hits the ground running to make sure we’re not trying to come from behind like we did last year. We just have to make sure we start well.
JR: The hunger is definitely still there anyway?
PH: Oh, one million per cent yeah! I don’t think that will ever go away to be honest with you, that will to win. There’s a lot up for grabs this year and we’ll definitely have a real test on our hands trying to retain the league again but it’s a test that we all relish. We’re all preparing very well for it and we welcome the challenge. We’re looking forward to it.
JR: On a personal level as well, you’re currently on 94 goals for Dundalk and 95 league goals between your time here and with Mervue so you’d like to think you’re going to hit the 100 mark at some point this season, hopefully sooner rather than later. That’s a nice target for you isn’t it?
PH: Yeah, definitely. It would be nice to hit 100 league goals sooner rather than later. Preferably within five games but you never know how football goes. The first year I came back all the goals were going in but I know what it feels like when they’re not going in, when you’re not getting chances etc. That can be frustrating but there’s definitely lessons for me to be learned from last year. I need to be a bit more patient and hopefully things come my way this year. I definitely like to think that I’ll score one out of two chances so hopefully I get those chances this year.
JR: I’d say you just can’t wait to get going now but the games come thick and fast once it does get going.
PH: Yeah, the schedule of the league wasn’t the best last year. We were playing a game nearly every three or four days for a good few months but we’d be well used to that. We have a good squad there as well which will be used I’m sure. We’re definitely ready on that part in terms of the fixture list. As long as we start well, that’s the main thing. It was a bit of a pain that our game was called off today, to be honest, because it would have been good to get another 70-90 minutes under your belt again but so be it, we just have to look forward to the test now against Derry and let’s make sure we get the positive result that we need.