Wednesday 23 January 2019

Kenny support helps Hoban move past UK frustration

Patrick Hoban celebrates a goal from Dundalk team-mate Robbie Benson at Oriel Park. Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile
Patrick Hoban celebrates a goal from Dundalk team-mate Robbie Benson at Oriel Park. Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

It is to safe to say that Patrick Hoban didn't plan on coming back to Dundalk just over three years after his departure for England.

The Galwegian is happy to be back home, however, as he has returned to a place where he fits into a manager's strategy.

Hoban was the first player to be plucked from Kenny's dressing room at the end of a successful campaign. The striker departed for Oxford after the final-day title win in 2014.

Since then, Richie Towell, Daryl Horgan, Andy Boyle, Patrick McEleney and Dave McMillan have all moved across the water for free.

They have sampled the ups and downs of the game too. Injury has prevented McMillan from getting started in Scotland. Horgan is very much on the fringes at Preston but in the Ireland squad. The other trio are all playing regularly in League One in an attempt to build their reputations.

Hoban is back home though, following an underwhelming experience. He played League Two football with Oxford, Stevenage and Mansfield and spent time on loan in the National League with Grimsby.

At Football League level, he started 39 games and was sub for 36, with a return of seven goals. He's already on six this term for Dundalk ahead of tonight's trip to Limerick.

Sean Maguire's transition to Preston shows that players who score a lot of goals at home can translate that form to a higher stage. Hoban found it much harder and suggests that a lot of it is down to finding a supportive boss.

"What I say about England is, if you don't score in a game or two, then you're not playing in the next one," he explains. "At least I have a manager here who, if I didn't score in one or two games, he's not going to be dropping me."

The stop-start nature of his English CV makes that point. He did get a run at Oxford when he joined and possibly didn't make enough of it.

Yet in the entire 2016-17 campaign at Mansfield, he made just two 90-minute appearances. There were niggling injuries too and then the absence of proper game time. The chopping and changing affected his fitness.

He spoke with Irish clubs last summer, but was carrying a problem that was an obstacle to any deal.

Kenny came knocking again over the winter - and says he would still have signed Hoban if McMillan was going nowhere - and he is reaping the rewards. Hoban is enjoying central responsibility back at a club where he is appreciated.

"There's a formation here (4-2-3-1) where I feel it suits me down to the ground," he explains.

"I was playing a lot in a 4-4-2 in England and felt like I was too deep. I basically felt like I was playing number 10 and when I was off the ball, it was like I was a defensive midfielder yards away from goal.

"I had to adapt, and I did adapt, but it's not my strength. My strengths are in the box. I'm enjoying being back with a smile on my face playing again, with a manager who believes in me and a team I'm happy to be at. It's all positive.

"You won't have that (manager support) over there. Every manager is different, and there's a lot of different ones over there," adds the 26-year-old, with a smile. I am more mature now.

"I feel like I'm a clever player, smarter on the pitch with my hold-up play. When I was 23, I would do mad running around the pitch."

Despite a quad injury that curtailed his pre-season, Hoban has comfortably slotted back in.

He may always have to deal with comments about how he didn't realise his English ambitions but he thinks his performances are reminding people of his ability and feels there is more to come from both himself and his unbeaten team.

"Look, you're always going to have doubters in life and people who are going to try and put you back down and all you can do is prov e them wrong," he explained.

"I feel like I'm doing that at the moment. I have to keep doing that."

Irish Independent

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