Robbie Benson said he felt he had achieved all he could at Oriel Park and needed a new challenge after departing Dundalk for St Patrick’s Athletic last week.
The 27-year-old, who joined the Lilywhites from UCD before the start of the 2016 season, brought his tenure at the club to a successful ending when he chipped in with his 28th goal on what was his 141st appearance as Dundalk won the Unite the Union Champions Cup in some style against Linfield on Monday last.
Speaking afterwards, the Athlone native said bowing out with silverware was a good way to go.
“It was a nice night to finish on,” he said.
‘To finish with silverware here kind of felt right. I informed the club that I wouldn’t be signing a new contract during the week. It was a hard decision but it just felt like the right time for me to move on and search for a new challenge.
“I just felt like the time was right for me. It would have been amazing to go out having won the treble and five trophies this year. That would have been more fitting but I think just overall I’ve done everything that I can possibly do here from a personal point of view. I’ve achieved everything that I can achieve.”
Benson said it was a tough decision to leave Dundalk.
“It was an emotional night. I’m going to miss it here. I’ve enjoyed my time here but the lads have been great about it and very supportive. I said to most of them tonight that this is my last day working with them but we’ll be friends forever.
“I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my time here. Thanks to everyone, the staff, the players, the fans and everyone involved in the club that made my time here so enjoyable and successful as well.
“There’s no doubt that this club is going to be successful in the future but I like the story of my career in the early days, the middle days now and then going onto what could be my final chapter. I like the story and narrative of that.”
Benson, who has a degree in Actuarial Science, also denied that he was leaving to start his career in that field.
“It’s a football decision,” he said.
“It was hard walking away from here but to walk away from football entirely would be another matter. That’s down the line. I could play until I’m 30 or I could play until I’m 35 but once I’m enjoying it and I can feel like I can contribute and offer stuff to a team, there’s no better job in the world.
“The beginning, middle and end just felt right. Being able to choose when I go out myself, that it’s in my hands and it wasn’t that I wasn’t offered a new deal or that an injury ended stuff, I was able to choose that this was the ending to my time at Dundalk. When I made the decision it just felt right.
“It’s an emotional evening but at the same time it still feels good that I’m moving on. This team will be successful next year and beyond and I’m just glad I was able to share in some of the big nights that we’ve had over the last four seasons.
“Winning isn’t the be all and end all. I can’t really say there’s one particular reason. I’ve had a tough year this year myself. I think overall it’s just the right time to go. Something just feels right in my gut. It’s time for a new challenge and I look forward to playing for St Pat’s.”
Benson highlighted the club’s European adventure of 2016 – where he scored goals against BATE Borisov, Legia Warsaw and Zenit St Petersburg – as the highlight of his time at Dundalk.
“I’ve been so successful here. I’ve won three leagues, an FAI Cup, two League Cups and this one (the Unite the Union Champions Cup) but I think the night that was unique was probably the night at home to BATE and that kind of two or three month period where we were kind of on top of the world, as high as we can get as an Irish club really. I’d probably be lying if I said anything other than those are the nights that I’ll remember most,” he said.
Dundalk midfielder Robbie Benson has opened up about the “incredibly difficult period” he has endured on the sidelines.
The 27-year-old suffered a leg break in the season opener against Sligo Rovers back on February 15th and would remain on the sidelines for some four-and-a-half months before coming off the bench 11 minutes from the end of last Friday’s 1-0 win away to Shamrock Rovers in Tallaght Stadium.
He stepped up that recovery with another 24 minute cameo in last night’s 3-0 win at home to Waterford FC.
While the year to date has been one of frustration for the Athlone native, Benson says he is hopeful of making whatever contribution he can between now and the end of the season.
“It’s been an incredible difficult period for me so just to be back in a proper routine now is nice after a long period out,” he said.
“The team are in good form now. I don’t know how many wins that is in-a-row now but we’re in good form going into Europe and I’m just hoping to contribute in any way that I can now for the second half of the season.”
The former UCD player admitted there were some dark days during his recovery period but praised his team-mates and, in particular, the club’s medical staff for keeping his spirits up.
Benson said: “I actually found the first couple of weeks the easiest because you know you’ve a long time in front of you but it’s when you get to the sixth, seventh and eighth week and it’s dragging on and you have a little setback that it gets really hard.
“Every time you step forward you feel like you’ve another problem and the finish line just seems so far away and you feel no closer.
“They were particularly tough weeks but I’m through the other side of it. Having said that I’ve a long way to go before I’m back to tip-top shape but half hour periods like that will help me for sure.
“All the medical staff from Danny Miller, David Murphy and Dr David Connolly have been tremendous to me in keeping my spirits up and going out of their way for me. I can’t speak highly enough of them and all the lads who are injured at any one time really row in behind each other to keep each other’s spirits up. It’s a great little family we have here and I’m grateful for all the help I’ve got from team-mates and staff over the last while while I’ve been going through a tough time.”
Benson said he still feels he is some way off full fitness but reiterated his desire to help the side out in any way he could.
“I’ve obviously spent a long time out so I’m not going to be at the levels that the lads are.
“I remember about two or three weeks ago when I knew I’d be back relatively soon I was watching the little 8v8s in training and I just said ‘Jesus, I’m so far off the standards that are being shown at training’.
“Coming off a broken leg half way through the season, I’m just looking to contribute in any way that I can whether that’s getting a half hour to see out games, 10 minutes to see out games or to start when lads need a break. Whatever way I can contribute for the rest of the season I’ll be happy and I’ll get great satisfaction in helping this team go as far as we can on all fronts.”
Having not played too much in his debut season, it was put to Robbie that he came into prominence in the memorable 2016 European run – netting three goals – while he was also reminded of his strong record over the years against Friday night’s opponents Derry City.
“That’s it, you never know how things will go,” he said.
“Lads can pick up injuries like myself at the start of the season. That created opportunities for lots of lads to impress. Obviously you’d never wish injuries on any lads in the team especially when you go through a situation like that yourself but things can change overnight or someone can lose form or anything.
“Any combination of players we put on the pitch though we’d be expecting to give it a right crack against anyone. The manager will have a job on his hands now keeping everyone happy but that’s his job. Everyone rows behind everyone though.
I’ve a good record against Derry and Rovers. I was reminding Vinny, Higs and Giller over the break of my record against Rovers just to make sure that I was in their thoughts.
“I’ve done well against Derry too, especially in the Brandywell. In the last few years I’ve scored a fair few goals up there so I’ll be sure to remind him again of that during the week,” he grinned.
It’s good to have Benson back. He might feel he’s a bit away from being back to his full powers at the moment but it surely won’t be long until he’s lighting up games like he was never away.
Dundalk FC return to action on Friday night with a chance to go eight points clear at the top of the SSE Airtricity League table when they travel to Tallaght Stadium to face second placed Shamrock Rovers (kick-off 8pm, live on eirSport).
By the time they take to the pitch against Stephen Bradley’s side it will have been 20 days since the Lilywhites were last in action in their 3-0 win away to Finn Harps in Ballybofey.
However, despite their recent inactivity head coach Vinny Perth believes the side are in a good place after a good couple of weeks training at home and abroad.
“The week before we went to Spain was a brilliant week because we got some extra work into our players and a couple of players who needed extra fitness work got it.
“Then we played a behind closed door friendly between ourselves fully kitted out. It was two 35 minutes of a half and the GPS reports from that game tell us we covered the same distance if everyone had played 70 minutes of a normal league game. That was a really competitive game and the two 11s really went at each other so I don’t feel we’ve missed out too much or that it will be a problem.
“We’re probably on a de-load week this week having trained really hard for two weeks. We’ve got to keep the players fresh over the next two weeks, which we will, but we’re exactly where we want to be.”
Jamie McGrath and Sean Murray are back in contention for the trip to Tallaght after recent injury lay-offs but the clash with Rovers is likely to be a bit too soon for Robbie Benson, who is also back in training having not featured since breaking his leg in the season opener at home to Sligo Rovers in February.
“It’s probably a bit early for Robbie because the others have played and trained up to a couple of weeks ago,” said Perth.
“It’s only a matter of time before he gets back on the pitch. Friday might be a bit early for him but he might get some game time next week.”
There are also doubts over the availability of Jordan Flores for the match while new signing Andy Boyle is not eligible to play until July.
Definitely out for Dundalk are defensive duo Daniel Cleary and Dean Jarvis but Perth feels his squad are capable of coping without the suspended pair.
“That’s why we’ve rotated the squad this year,” he said.
“We’ve had very little injury anywhere across the back. Dean had an injury at the start of the season that kept him out for about three weeks but other than that we haven’t had injuries. I think they’ve all played 12 or 13 games between them minimum so they’re in a good place.
“We have strength in depth in the squad, albeit you’d like the lads available we’ve known for some time that they’d be unavailable and we’ve prepared accordingly.”
Dundalk have a chance to open up an eight point lead at the top if they can beat Rovers but Perth says he will not be getting too carried away no matter the outcome on Friday.
“I genuinely don’t think the eight point lead part is important,” he said.
“Rovers could end up having six or eight European games which would mean a huge amount of games being called off or we could have that so I think the league is going to be skewed over the next two months and there will be games in hand here, there and everywhere.
“We may find ourselves behind because of games in hand or vice versa.
“I think it’s important that we’re on a really strong run at the moment so we just want to keep that going and see where that takes us. The players are hungry for success and winning every match so hopefully we keep that going,” he said.
Referee for Friday’s game is Rob Harvey.