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‘I’m focused on Dundalk’

IF HE maintains his current form with a table-topping Dundalk side, it can only be a matter of time before former Celtic man Richie Towell finds himself across the water once again.

But the level-headed midfielder maintains that he will not allow himself get swayed by talk about a second chance in the club scene in Britain, the Tallaght man’s focus very much on that title challenge by Dundalk.

Still only 22, Towell admits that his career has gone through troughs as well as peaks, as he made the drop from playing in front of 45,0000 people at Ibrox in the SPL to lining out in non-league football for Crumlin United.

An ever-present for Dundalk this season and second-top scorer in a side which is currently top of the table, it’s no wonder than Towell believes he’s enjoying the best spell of his career.

It’s also no surprise that he has been linked with a move to Britain in the summer, with Championship and League one sides tracking a player who made 31 SPL appearances in his time at Celtic and Hibernians, but Towell is experienced enough to put that to one side.

“There has been talk and speculation about a move in the summer but nothing concrete so to me it’s all just talk,” says Towell, his Dundalk side heading to Dublin tonight to face Bohemians.

“I am keeping my mind on my football with Dundalk and I won’t let anything side-track me. You can let speculation like that get to you, your game will be affected, you can start thinking about things that may not happen.

“If I was younger and had never been away before it might get into my head, when you hear rumours and speculation, but I am 22 now, I was abroad for six years so I am able to deal with all this, put it all out of my mind and do my job, which is helping Dundalk to win matches,” says Towell.

The Tallaght man is not the only footballer who, somehow, found himself playing in the non-league scene after early promise in a career failed to materialise (Keith Fahey, like Towell, had a spell in the junior soccer scene in Dublin before working his way back into the senior ranks).

But it’s still amazing to think that after his time in Scotland, a regular U21 international like Towell wound up at Bluebell United, before Stephen Kenny offered him a route back, via Dundalk.

“I have had setbacks in my career, no doubt about that,” Towell admits. “But I firmly believe that setbacks make you stronger, and help you learn more, than your achievements do.

“I am enjoying this season with Dundalk, I have played in every league game so far and I want to play in as many games as I can. I didn’t play in the EA Sports Cup game in Derry on Tuesday as Stephen Kenny wanted to give some of us a rest and try out the younger lads but I hate missing any game, I’d have loved to play, though it was great to see the younger lads do so well and win the game.”

One of the fears about Dundalk this season was whether they’d have the squad to deal with the many challenges ahead: they have already played more competitive games this term than any other club (21) and unlike their league title rivals Shamrock Rovers and Cork City, Dundalk face the added burden of a Europa League campaign.

So for Dundalk to beat Derry 2-1 away from home in a League Cup tie was just another reason for long-suffering Lilywhites supporters to smile, as fringe players like Georgie Poynton, Manuel Kaguako and Conor McDonald all made an impression in that midweek game.

“Georgie Poynton is a real talent and a great prospect, it’s brilliant for the club to see younger players come through,” says Towell.

As they prepare to face Bohs at Dalymount Park, Dundalk have a superb record in Dublin this season (apart from the Setanta Cup final defeat) with convincing wins away to St Pat’s and UCD already under their belts.

“We like playing in Dublin, a lot of the lads in the squad are Dubs so these are like home matches for us,” says Towell. “But we are wary of Bohs. They had a very good draw away to Shamrock Rovers last week and they held us to a draw at our place earlier in the season. They are very dangerous from set pieces and while I know their home record isn’t great this season, it’s a hard game for us.

“We are in good form and we want the games to keep coming,” says Towell. “There’s a mid-season break on the way in a few weeks and while it could be good for some players to get a rest but we’d love to keep going.”

Bohs boss Owen Heary says he’s a fan of this Dundalk side.

“Their recent results show you the calibre of the team. I said at the start of the season I thought Dundalk were the most likely to win the league. They have that extra hunger after last year’s disappointment,” said Heary.

“We can’t go out thinking we’ll sit back because, if you do that, Dundalk will punish you. We have to take the game to them, without leaving gaps they can exploit.”