With a hectic but enjoyable season at an end, Daryl Horgan can now reflect on what has been an amazing year.
He has achieved back-to-back titles with Dundalk, represented the League of Ireland club in the playoffs of the Champions League, qualified for the Europa League group stages and received the ultimate prize for any young Irish footballer: a call-up to the senior international set-up under Martin O’Neill.
His impressive campaign saw him complete a dream move to England this week as Preston North End confirmed his signature alongside his Dundalk teammate Andy Boyle.
As he contemplates his new life across the water, Horgan spoke to the Irish Independent about making sure the move was right for him.
While having the bonus of teammate Andy Boyle heading with him to the Championship, meeting the manager Simon Grayson also swayed his decision to sign for the historic club.
“It’s great that Andy is there too. But at the same time, it wouldn’t have affected me if he wasn’t going. It was the right move for me to make.
“I’d met the manager (Simon Grayson) and spoken to him and that was massive for me, to see how keen they were to get me in and bring me over. The club itself, it has a lot of history, it has a fanbase and great potential. I’ve watched a bit of them and they try and play as much football as they can.
“It’s not a case that they launch the ball, they have good footballers. In some ways, it probably something similar to when I moved to Dundalk – I saw there was potential there and it all just fitted together nicely.”
Horgan will feel at home at Preston with a number of Irish players at the club including Aiden McGeady and Greg Cunningham.
While Dundalk will always have a special place in Horgan’s heart as he reflects on his “special three years” at the club, the move to England with his young family will bring a whole new challenge with many eyes watching to see if he can continue to make the step up, nobody more so than Republic of Ireland manager Martin O’Neill, as Horgan knows only too well.
“The manager (O’Neill) had spoken about the importance of playing at a higher level,” he said.
“And once you get your foot in the door, that’s another step you want to take. I think there’s a limited amount of games in Ireland that would be seen as competitive enough.
“So when it came down to it, I had to take the move. If I didn’t, I would have regretted it.”
Damien McEvoy Pundit Arena