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'It's definitely something that's made me stronger both on and off the pitch'

After breaking his leg in last year’s play-offs, Drogheda captain Jake Hyland is hoping for better fortune this time around.

Drogheda captain Jake Hyland pictured above with his team-mates.
Drogheda captain Jake Hyland pictured above with his team-mates.
Image: James Crombie/INPHO

JAKE HYLAND HAS bad recent memories of the play-offs.

Around this time last year, the 24-year-old Drogheda captain was playing Shelbourne and suffered a broken leg after being on the receiving end of a poor tackle.

That night, he ended up in the Mater Hospital, sticking around for about nine hours before leaving and deciding to go to the club doctor instead.

While waiting, he watched on via a livestream as his side prevailed on penalties, only to suffer the frustration of losing their subsequent play-off against Finn Harps.

The injury meant Hyland missed out on last season’s climactic matches, while he was also unavailable for the first seven games of the 2019 campaign. In addition, his work outside of football was affected, as he was unable to fulfill his duties as a carpenter for a period. 

“It’s definitely something that’s made me stronger both on the pitch and off the pitch,” he says of the leg break. “I feel like my performances have been really good [since]

“It is challenging [to deal with]. It was the first injury I ever suffered in my career and please God, it’s the last serious injury.

“But since that, this year, I’ve stayed injury free. I’ve had a good year and I’m really looking forward to it. The mental aspect side of things, the boredom, you have a lot of time to think about and you just have to have resilience and be mentally strong.

“I’d consider myself a mentally strong person. So I’m hoping all the perseverance, getting back, missing pre-season, getting back to full fitness and now being in the team — I’ve been an almost ever-present since then and I’m looking forward to the play-offs. So hopefully it’ll be a much better end to the season this year than last — it would be really sweet getting promoted.”

The Drogs finished second in the First Division table, nine points behind champions Shelbourne, in the process improving on last year’s fourth-place finish. While their opponents tonight Cabinteely had to come through a grueling two-legged play-off, eventually beating Longford on penalties, Tim Clancy’s men have had a month off since ending their league campaign with a 4-1 loss away at Bray. That doesn’t mean they have taken their foot off the pedal though, with the side arranging a couple of friendly games in preparation for this upcoming fixture.

“Last year, we were in their situation where we finished fourth and we had to play the play-off against Shels to get to Finn Harps,” Hyland explains.

“Our aim at the start of the season was to win the league or if not, go as close as possible. We ran Shelbourne close and finished second. We knew this was going to happen now if we finished second. I think Tim prepared for it. We had a day or two off following the last game of the season. We had a small pre-season just to keep everyone going and refresh things. So we’re going in feeling fresh, looking forward to getting back into the competitive games.”

The attendances have been getting bigger as optimism has grown at United Park. Their last home league game of the season, in which Shelbourne sealed the title with a 3-1 victory, was played in front of a sell-out crowd.

They will return to the venue, ideally having established a healthy first-leg advantage, next Friday.

It is a slight advantage [playing the second leg at home], but the games between ourselves and Cabinteely, we beat them out there and they beat us in our place, so I don’t know whether it’s going to be an advantage in the way the teams play. I heard the pitch in Stradbrook is really good at the minute. The manager went out and watched them against Longford last week.

“So a good pitch is going to help us, and our pitch has been excellent all season. So we’re looking forward to it.

“They’re a really strong team all over the pitch, I think they’ve got a really big squad. So that makes it hard to prepare, because you don’t know who’s going to play. Sometimes they go direct, sometimes they play out from the back. Obviously they have Rob Manley, who finished top goalscorer and Stephen McGuinness, who I played with before and who’s an excellent ‘keeper.

“We’ve been going through stuff they do in training this week, so we’ll definitely be prepared. Obviously the three games we played against them this season, nobody is going in not knowing their jobs.”

The Swords native continues: “Playing against Cabinteely, it’s definitely not going to be easy and if you win that, you go into the Premier Division play-off. But I think we also have a better squad this year than last year, so we’re going to need everybody for hopefully the next four games.

Tim’s been brilliant since he came in. He’s fresh and has really good ideas. This is obviously his first job in football, he’s been really good to me, he’s a good person and a good manager. The way you judge managers is their results on the pitch, but the brand of football we play [is good].

“We had more points and goals this season. You look at the players he’s brought in, they’ve done really well, the players he’s kept have pushed on. I think we’ve had an excellent season on the pitch and with the management team — I think they’re happy with the way we’re going. It’ll be an even better result if we’re to come through these play-offs and get promoted.”

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Paul Fennessy

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