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.
JR: Thanks Pat and best of luck this season.