Boyle and Horgan earn place in Irish squad 'on merit'
Respect - that is something Stephen Kenny and his players have achieved for the Airtricity League as was evident by the welcome accorded Daryl Horgan and Andy Boyle when they joined the international squad.
Dundalk's performances in the Europa League, where they still have a chance of qualifying for the knockout stages, had to be sandwiched into a hectic Premier Division and FAI Cup challenge.
The league title was retained, the cup lost to an extra-time goal on Sunday, but for two of Dundalk's heroes, this week brings a new dimension to their epic campaign.
Central defender Boyle and flying midfielder-cum-winger Horgan deserved their place in Martin O'Neill's 28-man squad for the European Championship qualifier away to Austria on Saturday.
And if they were in any doubt, Roy Keane made sure to dispel notions of tokenism.
The Irish assistant manager welcomed Horgan and Boyle to the camp on Monday and told them: "Look, you're in on merit. It's not just a token gesture."
The Dundalk players appreciated his confirmation of their status.
"That helped a lot, it was good of him to do that. Looking forward to it now. It's going to be a good week, and hopefully I can make a mark in some way," said Horgan.
Boyle concurred with his team-mate's views.
He and Horgan were itching to get involved in the training session yesterday and show what they can do, but after their exertions in Russia last week and the FAI Cup final on Sunday, they were stood down after the warm-up and a short workout by the management.
Irish players, some of whom they knew from underage days, also put out the welcome mat, although the matter of the ritual 'sing a song in front of the group' remained to be settled.
"I don't know if me and Daryl will do a duet or not.
"I'm not the best singer so he'd be lucky to get a chorus out of me, it's just something you have to do. It's all part of the fun.
"I won't say I look forward to it but I will do it," said Boyle.
The two League of Ireland players have already hit the high notes on the pitch so far this year, with hopefully more to come in Europe against AZ Alkmaar and Maccabi Tel-Aviv.
Away from the tumult and rampant emotions of high-profile matches, however, a note of reality was interjected into their world when the PFAI released the names of players out of contract now the season has ended.
Horgan and Boyle have this international week, and another six weeks to go before the 2016 journey ends.
Many of their peers around the league now have to go on the dole until the pre-season begins again after Christmas.
"Unfortunately, that's how the league works, I suppose. Lads are out of contract. I was talking to a Cork lad who won the Cup yesterday and he was saying, 'I've got to go on the dole this morning.'
"It's obviously a difficult time for lads to be out of work. Christmas is the time of year when you need the money the most, to be honest. A few lads put a few bob away which is a bit of a help, but it's not ideal," said Boyle.
Dundalk placed their players on a six-week contract extension until the European adventure ends next month.
"We'll see how it goes after that, but it's been a fantastic season and I don't want to take the shine off with talks of contract stuff," said Boyle.
Inevitably came a question about the physical and mental tiredness that would be expected after 52 games and thousands of miles of travel on European duty.
The answer was emphatic: they don't want to hear the 'f-word' as in fatigue.
"No, Jesus, any chance you get to play in the Irish team, it's a massive buzz and a massive lift," said Horgan.
"We're professional footballers, we look after ourselves. It doesn't matter when you're called in, you get a chance to represent your country, you try to grab it with two hands.
"It's no bother. We have a week to the game in Austria, which I suppose we haven't been used to recently, so that's good, and then a week and a half to the Alkmaar game.
"There's definitely no issue with that whatsoever."