Tuesday 20 August 2019

Daryl Horgan explains why Preston is perfect move for him

Being signed on basis of his Dundalk form makes move all the sweeter for Preston's new recruit

Daryl Horgan at Deepdale
Daryl Horgan at Deepdale
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

This week, the challenge for Daryl Horgan has been to try and enjoy a brief window for calm before the storm.

His life is about to change. With the deal to make him a Preston player signed and sealed, he now has to get his head around the big move to England with his girlfriend Donna and son Jack. They have to tick all the boxes that go with relocating to another country. Finding a place to live is just one part of it.

But the 24-year-old has also recognised the importance of simply just chilling out and recharging the batteries after a long season with Dundalk that kicked off last January.

He spent a few days in Prague after getting the Preston deal done and, on Wednesday, he headed west to prepare for the wedding of his sister Emma tomorrow. There may be a day or two across the water next week before returning to Galway for Christmas.

"I'm just happy to get the time to relax," admitted Horgan yesterday, taking a break from a busy house that is building up for the weekend of celebration. "I've really looked forward to the little break, especially with everything that's happened in the last few months. It's been hectic. I wasn't back at home to see the family at all in Galway. And a lot of the minding of the little fella ended up falling on Donna.

"So I'm just happy out to just be able to rest, to take everything in and take it easy because Preston is looming and that's going to be a new challenge for the three of us."

Daryl Horgan shakes hands with Yossi Benayoun of Maccabi Tel Aviv following the UEFA Europa League match at Netanya Stadium. Photo: NirKeidar/Sportsfile
Daryl Horgan shakes hands with Yossi Benayoun of Maccabi Tel Aviv following the UEFA Europa League match at Netanya Stadium. Photo: NirKeidar/Sportsfile

It was an opportunity that he had to embrace after a head-spinning year where he stepped into the limelight after Richie Towell's departure to become the hottest property in the country, the most recognisable face in the Dundalk side that broke down barriers in Europe to put their main men on Martin O'Neill's radar. Horgan and Andy Boyle got the Irish nod last month as recognition for their performances and they remain team-mates after Preston made a concerted effort to sign both of them up.

"It's great that Andy is there too," stresses Horgan. "But at the same time, it wouldn't have affected me if he wasn't going. It was the right move for me to make."

He had plenty of options, but Deepdale felt right from the start.

"I'd met the manager (Simon Grayson) and spoken to him and that was massive for me, to see how keen they were to get me in and bring me over," he says. "The club itself, it has a lot of history, it has a fanbase and great potential. I've watched a bit of them and they try and play as much football as they can.

"It's not a case that they launch the ball, they have good footballers. In some ways, it probably something similar to when I moved to Dundalk - I saw there was potential there and it all just fitted together nicely."

What's satisfying for Horgan is that Preston were committed to signing him on the strength of what he did in a Dundalk jersey. That was the value of sticking around for 2016.

Andy Boyle, left, and Daryl Horgan, right, will join Preston in January
Andy Boyle, left, and Daryl Horgan, right, will join Preston in January

In the past, he'd gone on the trial circuit, a process that gives all the power to the clubs. He went to Torquay a few years back and, 12 months ago, there was a short stint at Peterborough which didn't amount to anything. At that point, faraway fields were not greener and having a crack at a third title with Dundalk turned out to be a much more effective shop window strategy.

"I wouldn't have gone over with the profile that I have now," he admits. "Now there's a big Championship club coming in wanting to sign you rather than going on trial somewhere. What we did this year was massive and it has been noticed.

"Look, it's great to be able to say it from the position I'm in now but if I went back again now, I wouldn't do the trial thing. You go over and you can be out of season, you might not be fit, you can get played out of position, and you may not know anyone. It's not easy.

"You train but you can't create a competitive match situation no matter what happens. Even if you organise a friendly, it's not the same. It's still a training ground somewhere. And I suppose, in a sense, it can be a bit demeaning that you've played a full season and they still haven't seen enough of you to decide if you're good enough.

"You might get a contract, but not the contract you would have envisaged. The fact that someone has come in this time and has said, 'We've seen enough of you and we're happy to take you'. That's brilliant. That's all because of the profile of Dundalk and the incredible season we had."

With experience came confidence. Horgan was conscious that a variety of clubs were keeping tabs on his progress as the Lilywhites' story gained traction; the numbers grew as the competition advanced. Yet he also believed that Stephen Kenny's group had earned the benefit of the doubt if they happened to endure a bad day such as the deflating reverse to AZ Alkmaar in Tallaght that ultimately ended their ambitions of qualifying for the Europa League round of 32.

Struggled

Daryl Horgan celebrates his goal against Zenit St Petersburg. Photo: David Maher. Photo: Sportsfile
Daryl Horgan celebrates his goal against Zenit St Petersburg. Photo: David Maher. Photo: Sportsfile

"Maybe when I was younger, I'd have struggled because I would have thought I needed to do something big," he explains. "But this year, the worry wasn't there that if you have one bad game, that (scouts would think) 'he's useless' and you're gone. I felt like I had done enough so it wasn't all down to one game. Sometimes, I didn't play particularly well.

"But in the qualifiers, there was so much on the line and we had played well. And the group games were so high profile (and they were guaranteed six of them) so there was going to be opportunities to show what you could do against the top echelon."

At a higher level, sterner tests will be more regular if he can force his way into Grayson's plans. Deep down, he knew he had to take the leap, especially when Irish recognition gave him a taste of a World Cup qualifying campaign.

"The manager (O'Neill) had spoken about the importance of playing at a higher level," he said, "And once you get your foot in the door, that's another step you want to take. I think there's a limited amount of games in Ireland that would be seen as competitive enough. So when it came down to it, I had to take the move. If I didn't, I would have regretted it."

Dundalk changed his life too, in ways that go beyond football. That's where he met Donna, a local girl, and became a young father. He enjoyed memories that will never leave him. "It was an unbelievable time," he asserts. "A special three years."

Irish Independent

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