What does a player like Daryl Horgan have to do to get an Ireland call-up?

Dundalk’s European heroes have shown that they can handle themselves against top-class opponents, writes John O’Sullivan.

Horgan: one of the outstanding men in Dundalk's European adventure.
Horgan: one of the outstanding men in Dundalk's European adventure.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

WHEN DARYL HORGAN whipped his free-kick into the area late in last night’s Europa League match, AZ’s Wout Weghorst was all over Dundalk’s Ciaran Kilduff, holding onto his shirt and trying to physically dominate him.

Kilduff stood up and pushed back. He scored a deserved equaliser.

When Dundalk, already a goal down, were reduced to 10 men following Stephen O’Donnell’s red card, they didn’t collapse. Like Kilduff in the seconds before the goal, they stood up and pushed back.

Much of the attention on Dundalk will focus, understandably, on the fact that the draw last night earned the club €120,000. That one game earned them more prize money than the 33 SSE Airtricity league matches it took them to become champions last season.

In the midst of further strong financial news for Dundalk, it’s important not to lose sight of the fact that for a number of games now, Dundalk have faced down some very strong European clubs and individual players have put in consistently good performances.
Right through this campaign, facing teams laden with internationals and years of European experience, whenever Dundalk have faced a challenge, they’ve stood up and pushed back.

On occasions, including periods of last night’s game, they’ve been the better side. Kilduff’s late header earned a point that didn’t flatter Dundalk.

As a collective and as individuals, they’ve maintained a level playing field with teams who are believed to be far above the standard of the SSE Airtricity League. If they can do that in a club environment, why do we doubt they can do it in an international one against the same level of opponent?

Basically, how much more must a player like Daryl Horgan do to earn a call-up to the national side?

Daryl Horgan "Horgan was the best player on the pitch." Source: Karel Delvoije/INPHO

It’s been a long time since we’ve had objective evidence that a League of Ireland player is worthy of consideration of an international cap on merit. The argument always trotted out has been that even if a player is dominating weekly at home, it doesn’t provide enough evidence that he can step up to international football.

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In recent years we’ve had a national team squad calling on a number of players in the Championship and even League One. Surely we can acknowledge that players who are consistently performing in the latter qualifying rounds and group stages of the Europa League are worth considering, performing at a level at which you might not expect Championship and League One players to excel.

It’s hard to escape the feeling that if an Irish player popped up on the radar playing for Feyenoord in their win over Manchester United last night, that he would be given a lot more consideration than Dundalk players might be getting right now.

While Gary Rogers has been called into the national set-up recently, and that was great to see, it never felt like he was going to get on the pitch, even in a friendly against Oman that was notable only as Robbie Keane’s final international match.

We have numerous former League of Ireland players in the national squad at the moment who have shown that they can be relied on to perform at international level. On some occasions their call-ups have come before they’ve ever made a contribution to their new club across the water.

The act of getting on a plane doesn’t automatically create new abilities or standards, but maybe in the past it’s been needed to confirm that what a manager might see in a small league has been validated by a peer in the UK.

Quite a few Dundalk players have proven over the last couple of months that they can stand up to, and better, international players on opposition club sides.

There are a couple of areas where Martin O’Neill needs to consider who else might be available in a number of key positions. Overlooking Dundalk players, when they’re consistently high performers in European club competition, would be a wasted opportunity.

Do we really need to wait until Daryl Horgan inevitably moves to England before we consider him capable of taking on opposition such as Georgia, when he was the best player on the pitch in a Europa League Group stage game last night?

You’d hope not.

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Dundalk show they belong at this level and more Europa League talking points

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