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Hoban disputes Rovers' title success as Dundalk set sights on winning 'a proper league' in 2021

‘You’re telling me that winning the league after 18 games is winning a league? It’s not.’

Dundalk striker Pat Hoban.
Dundalk striker Pat Hoban.
Image: SIPA USA/PA Images

DUNDALK STRIKER PAT Hoban has questioned the legitimacy of Shamrock Rovers’ status as League of Ireland Premier Division champions.

Last season, Rovers eased to their first title since 2011, ending the campaign 11 points clear of second-placed Bohemians and 22 ahead of Dundalk, the defending champions.

Following the suspension of fixtures last March due to Covid-19, a truncated season resumed in July. The Hoops finished up with 15 wins and three draws from their 18 games. 

However, Hoban believes the success of Stephen Bradley’s side is considerably diluted by the fact that it wasn’t achieved over the course of a 36-game campaign.

“It’s a proper league, isn’t it?” he told Dundalk FC’s official website in relation to the fixture schedule for the 2021 season. “You’re telling me that winning the league after 18 games is winning a league? It’s not. It’s like being top of the table in June and saying ‘we won the league’. Come on. Let’s be realistic here.

“Before we went into the games last summer I said it was ridiculous. I could not see myself, if we had won the 18 games last season, celebrating like we had won the league, especially after winning three before that. I just couldn’t do it.

“I saw last year’s league as a chance to win a Champions League spot and we didn’t do that. We finished third, and although we qualified for Europe, it was still disappointing, but this year we have to try and retain what’s ours, which is a 36-game, proper league.”

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ronan-finn-lifts-the-sse-airtricity-league-premier-division-trophy Shamrock Rovers captain Ronan Finn lifts the Premier Division trophy. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

Hoban is currently recovering from surgery on an ankle injury which forced him to miss three of Dundalk’s games in the Europa League, as well as the FAI Cup final victory that denied Shamrock Rovers the double at the Aviva Stadium in December.

The 29-year-old is making good progress ahead of the trip to Sligo Rovers on 20 March, when the Lilywhites will start their bid to win a sixth Premier Division crown in eight seasons.

The 2021 campaign will begin in earnest for Filippo Giovagnoli’s side with the President’s Cup clash against Rovers at Tallaght Stadium on 12 March.

“It’s probably the worst injury I’ve ever had,” Hoban said. “I knew straight away when I did it. I was running full pelt and collided off the ‘keeper. I knew by the way I landed that it was bad but I didn’t think it was going to be as bad.

“I was in a bit of shock when the results came back but I had the surgery and it’s not something that’s going to stop me. Fitness-wise, I’m ahead of schedule on the pitch but in terms of trying to get the full strength back into the ankle, I’m not quite there yet.

“On Tuesday, I had my hardest run so things seem to be progressing well and touch wood, it won’t be too long before I’m back on the pitch and playing games.”

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Paul Dollery

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