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Mountney keen to build on success

Sport

GOOD TIMES Bohola native John Mountney celebrates Dundalk’s victory over BATE Borisov in the UEFA Champions League in Tallaght. Pic: Sportsfile

Bohola man has had a remarkable rise to the top

Interview
Ger Flanagan

IT was January 2012 when John Mountney put pen to paper on a deal with Dundalk FC. At the time, the Louth club were scraping the bottom of the barrel in the League of Ireland standings.
Fours year on, the former Kiltimagh/Knock United and Ballina Town player has enjoyed a meteoric rise to success at Oriel Park. Earlier this month, he helped the north-easterners claim a historic three-in-a-row League of Ireland titles.
In addition, the 23-year-old is also gearing up for a tough away trip to Russian kingpins Zenit St Petersburg in Group D of the Europa League next Thursday, before facing into next Sunday’s FAI Cup final against Cork City at the Aviva Stadium. But complaining is the last thing on Mountney’s mind at the minute.
“It is a quick turnaround, but ... we were saying after the cup semi-final that enough is never enough,” he told The Mayo News last week. If we had lost the semi, you would have being coming home pissed off that you’re not in the final, so everyone is delighted that we have two tough games on the bounce to look forward to.”
Dundalk currently sit in second place in their Europa League group, lying patiently behind their Russian opponents. A result on Thursday night would leave them in a very strong position to advance to the knockout stages of the competition, which would help them earn the respect of a wider audience.
“There are a lot of people on about teams in the League of Ireland and the good teams, but we knew ourselves that even if you are winning three in a row and getting well beat in Europe, there will be a lot of question marks,” Mountney pointed out.
“After falling just short last year, we knew we were able for that level and that was the ambition this year – to go that one step further into the group stages. And now that we are competing in the group stages and doing well, it has really helped catch a lot of people’s imaginations across the country.”
The Mayoman, Dundalk’s joint longest serving player with Chris Shields, is also confident that there are plenty more League of Ireland outfits who are capable of emulating their European success.
“I know we’ve been stealing the limelight this year because of playing in Europe, but the League of Ireland doesn’t get enough credit and enough publicity for some of the football that’s played,” he said. “Teams like Sligo, Derry, Cork, there has been some brilliant footballing teams and some great individuals... When you’re a young lad and watching football on the telly, it’s not LOI your watching, it’s the top teams around Europe. So to be involved in a competition like this, it has been unbelievable so far, and it has showed kids that wouldn’t normally tune in to the LOI that it is a really good stepping stone. And not only that, but there is a great chance to play at a high level in the LOI.”
The versatile midfielder is also looking forward to playing in the Aviva Stadium once again in a repeat of last year’s FAI Cup final, but he expects an even tougher contest this time around.
“It’s a brilliant day out, the cup final. It’s a day for the family and friends and everyone on the day comes from different areas of the country, so it makes it that extra bit special.
“We beat Cork 1-0 last year so they will be up for it like demons. They have a few more players since then and have improved, so it will be a tough game.”
Having joined Dundalk four seasons ago, the golden-haired number eight spoke with refreshing honesty when asked whether or not he had envisioned himself achieving this much since. And with the momentum train currently running at full throttle, the level-headed Bohola man believes there is plenty more yet to come.
“No I didn’t,” he candidly admits.
“Especially with the way the first year went, being bottom of the league, and then there was such a turnaround. When you get a taste and you come close, you realise that the teams you lose narrowly to are top teams like BATE Borisov, who went on to the Champions League group stages. It gives you the belief that you know if you work that bit harder next year, there is no reason why we can’t go that one step further.”
With Dundalk now displaying their ability on the European stage and not only in Ireland, the prospect of League of Ireland players getting a call into Martin O’Neill’s irish international set-up is now a live possibility. Mountney believes they won’t just be there to make up the numbers.
“Playing for your country is the top level, and there are a few lads who have proved in the big games that they are not only able to play and compete at that level, but to stand out as well. “Lads like Daryl Horgan, who has been catching the eye all year, will be very close in getting the call-up, and I’m sure there will be one or two others.”
And what about his own ambitions of once again representing his country?
“Sometimes you can get caught up in saying what you want to achieve, and everyone has goals in their head. But I suppose the most important thing for me is to stay injury-free and keep enjoying my football, no matter where I am.
“I’m only 23 and I know that there is still a lot of stuff that I need to improve on myself. But that’s what gives me hope, knowing that I haven’t reached my full potential.”

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