Tuesday 19 February 2019

Folan came to Dundalk to win medals

Soccer - Dundalk FC

James Rogers

Sunday's President's Cup final could be a landmark day in more ways than one for Stephen Folan. The pre-Christmas arrival from Galway Utd is not only in line to make his competitive debut for Dundalk in the Oriel Park clash but it will also be his 150th game in senior football should he feature.

The fact that milestone is set to come against former club Cork City is pretty apt as well. Since arriving at Dundalk, the defender has made no secret of his desire to win the medals that have so far eluded him in his career. He thought his chance to win something had come a little over two-and-a-half years ago when he joined Sunday's opponents from Sligo Rovers on July 22nd 2015.

Folan was an unused sub from John Caulfield's side at Oriel Park four days later for a game which finished 1-1 before making his debut as a 79th minute sub for Alan Bennett in a 4-0 win over Bohemians five days later. He would come off the bench again a week later in stoppage time of a 2-0 win away to Sligo at The Showgrounds that saw Cork close the gap on Dundalk at the top of the table to four points.

He wouldn't feature for the Rebels again though, not even making the match day squad for that November's FAI Cup final defeat to Stephen Kenny's side at the Aviva Stadium. Including added on time, he played just 17 minutes for Cork before cutting his deal short at the end of that year to join his hometown club Galway Utd.

Looking back on that time, which was disrupted by the death of his father Stephen Snr that September, Folan has no axe to grind. He believes everything happens for a reason and feels he is better equipped to flourish now at Dundalk. 'Having been at Cork and not kicked a ball there has been a lot of frustration there for me over the years but I think everything happens for a reason and I'm very glad the way everything has worked out,' he told The Argus.

'There was nothing major that happened there. I just didn't get picked. I don't think the manager fancied me as much as what he probably thought before I signed. 'I don't know whether it was down to fitness or the personal stuff I had going on in my life but it's all in the past now and I'm just looking forward to representing Dundalk now and hopefully pushing on in my career.

'To get the chance to pull on a Dundalk jersey has been a privilege and honour for me. I know it is only pre-season but I've enjoyed absolutely every minute of everything so far. You can see why the club has had success over the last few years. The coaching, the management and the players are phenomenal. 'It's a great sight when you walk into a dressing room and see people littered with accolades. It bodes well. I'm just really glad that I'm in this dressing room.

'I'm 26 now and I feel like I'm coming into the prime of my career so hopefully I can be here for a couple of years and lift some silverware with the lads. 'That's the main reason I've come here because I felt like this gives me the best possible chance that when I retire I'll have a few league and cup winners' medals and European football to look back on. 'That's what it's about, being the best I can be and here is definitely a place I can do that,' he said. Dundalk fans have quickly taken a shine to the former Newcastle Utd trainee. He scored on both of his Oriel outings so far against Cabinteely and Drogheda Utd and arguably could have had more goals in both matches.

He insists his primary objective though is to keep clean sheets and has targeted plenty of those in the year ahead. 'It's always nice to score but my job is obviously to keep clean sheets,' he said. I'll take the goals but I'd have preferred not to have scored and kept a clean sheet. In an ideal world that's what you'd want but it wasn't the case. 'Having said that we're going into the game against Brentford now still unbeaten in pre-season so hopefully we can bring that confidence into the game now on Wednesday and then hopefully bring the confidence from that into the President's Cup.

'Beating your rivals and the team that won the league last year is always going to help your confidence if you can manage it. 'All we need to do now is just perform on the day and hopefully the result will be the right one. We'll try to keep it nice and compact and then play the football that we know that we can play.'

Folan's threat at the other end of the pitch is relatively new thing. After netting the fourth in a 4-1 win over Shamrock Rovers for Limerick FC on August 1st 2014, he would go 2 years, 9 months and 11 days (1,015 days in total) before scoring again. That came at Eamonn Deacy Park on May 12th last year when he cancelled out Conor McCormack's opener to end Cork's 100% start to the season which had extended to 12 matches by that stage. Four more goals would follow before the end of the campaign, including one on the final day against Dundalk.

Folan has stopped a Cork charge before, now he aims to do it again on Sunday. There might be bigger prizes than the President's Cup to tussle for this year but on a landmark day for the 26-year-old how fitting would it be if his first ever medal was presented by his fellow Galwegian Michael D Higgins.

The Argus