Ben McLaughlin is hoping that Dundalk U19s can add Cork City to their list of conquests as the Lilywhites go in search of national cup glory on Wednesday night.
The Rebels are the third Elite Division side that Dundalk will face when the sides meet in the U19 Enda McGuill Cup final at Oriel Park and after beating both Shamrock Rovers and Bohemians en route to the final, McLaughlin said confidence is high in the Dundalk camp.
“We have to keep our eye on the ball. We did the hard work getting here by beating Shamrock Rovers and Bohemians away from home and we don’t want to slip up now.
“We put it up to them both, on their own grounds and hopefully now that we have home advantage we can win the cup. Cork will be just as good, if not as good as those teams, so we’ll have to work hard to beat them.”
Goals have not been hard to come by for Dundalk, especially with Bob McKenna in the side, and McLaughlin is confident his side can claim the trophy if they keep it tight at the back.
“Three of the back four in recent games – myself, Peter Thomas and Cian Byrne - have been involved with the first-team this season and it has been a great experience.
“Bob McKenna has been scoring goals for fun and hopefully he can get us one or two in the final. He’s had a great season and it would be great for him if he could round it off with a couple to win us the trophy.”
In normal circumstances a cup final would signal the end of the football season but for McLaughlin and number of his team-mates, the games are coming thick and fast.
The 17-year-old has become a regular in the first-team in recent weeks while others like Peter Thomas, Bob McKenna, Chris Reilly and Cian Byrne have also featured in Sean McCaffrey’s squad. McKenna, McLaughlin and Kurt Murphy are also part of the club’s Youth team who have a Ferrari Cup final to look forward to on May 13.
Having players involved at three different grades has been a strain, albeit a welcome one, on Martin Connolly and Mick Neville’s resources and McLaughlin said it would be nice to reward the duo for the hard work put in by both.
“It has been a brilliant season. Coming to the end we struggled a bit with numbers as we had players breaking into the first team squad but hopefully we can finish it off by winning a trophy.
“The first team are in almost everyday and when you have five or six of the U19s training with them it can be hard to work around it but Martin and Mick have been brilliant with us. We’ve been training hard all year and it would be nice to bring them a bit of joy.”
Victory for Dundalk would see the club lift the inaugural Enda McGuill Cup – a the trophy named after the former Chairman at Oriel Park. Despite his tender age, McLaughlin was aware of the link, helped no doubt by words of wisdom from his grandfather, legendary Lilywhites, Derry City and Shamrock Rovers manager Jim McLaughlin.
“My grandfather knew Enda well and to win a trophy named after Enda McGuill, at Oriel Park, would make it even better”, said Ben.“
Jim was a spectator in the Brandywell recently to see his grandson play a part in Dundalk’s 2-1 win over the club he lead to a treble in 1988.
“Getting a win in the Brandywell went down well”, said Ben with a smile. “There’s a bit of slagging that goes on between us but he’s great and he’ll be at the game on Wednesday so it would be nice to win the trophy in front of him”.