Bob dreaming of glory

PROLIFIC young striker Bob McKenna is aiming to put the seal on a fantastic campaign by picking up a winner’s medal when Dundalk U19s face Cork City in the Enda McGuill Cup final on Wednesday night.

PROLIFIC young striker Bob McKenna is aiming to put the seal on a fantastic campaign by picking up a winner’s medal when Dundalk U19s face Cork City in the Enda McGuill Cup final on Wednesday night.

The 17-year-old from Skerries has been in red hot form this season, hitting 42 goals in just 27 outings for the club’s U19 and Youth teams.

29 of those goals have come for the U19s and McKenna is hoping to make it 30 when the Rebels arrive at Oriel Park although he would gladly sacrifice the goal if it meant Dundalk won the cup.

“I’ve dreamt about scoring the winner a few times. I’m ‘stuck’ on 29 for the U19s and it would be sweet to get 30 in the final but I’d take a winners medal all day long and not get on the score-sheet. That’s all I’m concentrating on.”

With such a haul of goals to his name, it would be easy to label Dundalk a one man team. However McKenna was quick to point to the contribution made by his team-mates.

“It’s not all about Bob McKenna, it’s about Dundalk FC and we’re a team. I said at the start of the season that if you create chances for me, I’ll score goals and we have plenty of lads in the team who can create chances.

“We saw in the semi-final against Bohs, they kept myself and Gitzo (Chris Reilly) quiet but up popped Karl Martin to score the winner. That’s the great thing about this team, when the chips are down we come up with the goods.”

After spells at Shelbourne and Home Farm, McKenna joined Dundalk in the autumn of 2011 after a chat with Mick Neville. And since then he hasn’t looked back.

“I was playing wide right with Hoe Farm before I came here and I wasn’t myself. If anybody can get the best out of me it’s Mick. He didn’t really need to sell the club to me. If Mick Neville knocks on your door to ask you to come and play for a club then that should be enough. When he rang me, I came straight on board and it’s been brilliant ever since.

“The lads at school were asking me about the club and they aren’t aware of the facilities that’s here. There’s not too many clubs that can compete with what we have at Oriel Park.

“Hopefully the people of the town come out and give us good support”, he added. “There’s five lads in our team who they come up and pay money to watch on a Friday night and there’s serious talent in our dressing room so hopefully they’ll come out to watch us.”

McKenna’s impact at under-age level has seen him rewarded with a number of call ups to Sean McCaffrey’s first team squad. He started in the 1-1 draw with Shelbourne on Good Friday and even he is surprised at the progress he has made in his relatively short spell at the club.

“I didn’t expect to be involved with the first-team this year”, he said. “I’ve my Leaving Cert coming up so I have to concentrate on my studying but if Sean McCaffrey wants me for the first-time I’ll be here for him. Anything that comes along will be a bonus.”

Does he feel pressure from the fans because of his goalscoring record?

“Not really”, he said. “I’m reminded about the record quite often by the lads but it’s a nice thing to get slagged about. At the same time, I’m not stupid. I know what people are saying and thinking but I put pressure on myself to perform anyway. I’m a goalscorer and I want to score goals, no matter what level I’m playing at.”

All thoughts are now on defeating Cork City. The Rebels finished champions of the U19 Elite Division, losing just two games all season.

However Dundalk – who competed in the U19 Northern Division - have already shown their quality by beating Shamrock Rovers and Bohemians on the way to the final and McKenna insists they are well capable of claiming a third Elite Division victim.

“I was talking to a few friends and they were asking how did we manage to get the final at Oriel Park but we had to go to the likes of Rovers and Bohs on the way to the final and nobody was saying anything then.

“There was a lot of stuff made about teams in the Elite Division being better than us but I never really believed that. My best friend plays with Bohs and he was giving it socks beforehand but we put it up to them on their own patch and there’s no reason why we can’t do it again.”