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Dublin: 12°C Thursday 13 May 2021
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Dundalk's joint-longest-serving player until last year lines out in away dressing room for first time

John Mountney will be hoping to show his former team what they are missing on Saturday.

John Mountney of St Patrick's Athletic (left) pictured with Robbie Benson.
John Mountney of St Patrick's Athletic (left) pictured with Robbie Benson.
Image: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

FOR NINE YEARS, John Mountney lived and breathed Dundalk FC.

When it came to senior football, playing with the Lilywhites was virtually all he knew.

Aside from a brief stint at Mervue in 2011, he had spent his entire League of Ireland career with the Oriel Park outfit.

His lengthy spell at Dundalk saw him become one of the most decorated players in the Premier Division’s history — the trophies he won included five league titles, three FAI Cups and three League of Ireland Cups.

Yet during the off-season, along with the likes of Gary Rogers, Sean Hoare and Sean Gannon, he was one of a number of important players to depart the Lilywhites.

Joining Stephen O’Donnell’s St Patrick’s Athletic might have been considered a step down by some, but ahead of the teams’ meeting on Saturday (kick-off: 6pm), the Saints find themselves top of the table and nine points ahead of a Dundalk team that has got off to a poor start.

Like O’Donnell, however, Mountney believes his former team are currently in a false position.

“You look at the quality they have and the depth in the squad, of course, it’s surprising, but there are no trophies or awards handed out at the start of the season. It’s happened a few times up in Dundalk where it’s been a slow start, but I’m sure once they find their feet, you look at the quality they have, they’re going to be there or thereabouts.”

For Mountney, it will be an unusual experience, the first time in senior football that he has faced a former club.

At the end of last season, he made the difficult decision to end his stay at the club he had considered home for so long.

“I needed change and a new challenge, and of course having played with Stephen before, he’s someone I respect and admire football-wise, so it was an easy decision for me to join what he was doing and everything he had to say about what he was trying to build at St Pat’s excited me.

“It was nine years and I’m living [in Dundalk] and I have a lot of friends up here on and off the pitch, so of course there’s that side of it, but for my own football career, I had to take that direction. So when I thought about it that way, that made it a lot easier for me.

“From being in the league a long time and knowing a lot of faces in the St Pat’s dressing room and knowing a couple of lads there, it was very easy and it’s a good group of players there as well, so the lads were very good and made me feel at home straight away.”

On the pitch too, Mountney has been enjoying life. A versatile player, he has been slotting in at right-back recently despite being better known as a midfielder.

“The one thing unbelievably that’s changed with John over the years is his football intelligence, in terms of his IQ for the game now is very good so you can put him in a lot of different positions and he’ll take to it like a duck to water in terms of positional and that type of stuff,” O’Donnell said after the opening 1-1 draw with Shamrock Rovers last month.

“It’s the first time someone complimented my IQ anyway,” he says. “I suppose it comes with experience. When I first came into the League of Ireland, you’re trying to find your feet and as you get older, things change and you pick up a lot of experience. Having played with some very good players and under some good managers, I like to think I was able to take a few things from different people, one of them being Stephen, he challenges you. So I like to think I’m at that stage where I have a good game understanding.

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“[Right-back is] a new position, but it’s somewhere I have played a few times during my career. That’s also a new challenge — the defensive side of it — and it’s a position I’m enjoying.”

And while Mountney is reluctant to entertain talk of challenging for the title just yet, he says there is a belief within the Pat’s team that they can “achieve something” this season.

Moreover, despite picking up no fewer than 11 major trophies with Dundalk, the 28-year-old Mayo native insists he is as hungry as ever for silverware and does not find it hard to motivate himself after so much success.

“I think anytime any individual, any sport, wins anything, it’s forgotten very quickly after and like that with me, as soon as Stephen O’Donnell and Alan Mathews had touched base [about joining Pat's], I was already excited about a new challenge. So I definitely haven’t thought of that side of it. You just want to be as successful as you can, because it’s a short career.”

Upcoming fixtures

Friday

Premier Division

  • Waterford v Bohemians – 5.45pm
  • Derry v Drogheda – 7.45pm

First Division

  • Bray v Athlone – 7.30pm
  • Wexford v Cobh – 7.45pm
  • Cork v Shelbourne – 7.45pm
  • UCD v Cabinteely – 7.45pm
  • Galway v Treaty United – 7.45pm

Saturday

Premier Division

  • Dundalk v St Patrick’s Athletic – 6pm
  • Shamrock Rovers v Longford – 6pm
  • Sligo v Finn Harps – 6pm

About the author:

Paul Fennessy

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