Keith Ward is hoping that his patience will be rewarded with a winners medal after he played a major part in booking Dundalk their place in the final of the EA Sports Cup.
Ward scored a goal and created two in the Lilywhites’ 5-0 drubbing of Wexford Youths at Oriel Park and, speaking to The Dundalk Democrat afterwards, he revealed that he declined an offer by Stephen Kenny to go out on loan in a bid to try and help Dundalk win some silverware.
“I had a meeting with Stephen a few weeks ago,” he explained.
“I was very down because I haven’t been playing. The gaffer said he wouldn’t stand in my way if I wanted to go out on loan but I want to stay and fight for my place rather than go and play somewhere else.
“Title run ins and cup finals don’t come around too often. I love it here and I want to play here. I’d much rather play a few games here between now and the end of the season rather than play 13 with a team who have nothing to play for.
“I’ve never been involved in a title run in or with a dressing room this good. I’d be stupid to walk away from it.”
Dundalk’s midfield three of Ward, Ruaidhri Higgins and Donal McDermott all featured heavily on the ball in the opening stages but despite bossing possession, Dundalk never really threatened Wexford Youths goalkeeper Graham Doyle.
That all changed after 24 minutes. Higgins - a five time League Cup winner - whipped in a corner with pace from the left and Marc Griffin found himself unmarked on the corner of the six-yard box to head home his first goal of the season.
Danny Furlong spurned an effort to draw Wexford level straight from the restart and Dundalk made the Youths pay when they went 2-0 ahead before the break.
Higgins was the creator again, finding Ward with a quick free-kick and the former UCD and Bohemians man looked up before dinking a beautiful 20-yard chip over the head of the Wexford keeper.
“I was delighted with the goal,” said Ward. “It was a great pass from ‘Higgy’. He is technically very good and in the second-half of the season he has been excellent. He is great to play with because he is very clever.”
Three more goals arrived in the second-half as Dundalk ran riot in the latter stages.
Ward set David McMillan up for a well deserved goal in the 77th minute before picking out John Mountney with an incisive through ball that ended with the midfielder rounding Doyle for goal number four.
The icing was put on an emphatic win when McMillan lashed home from 25-yards in time added on to book Dundalk’s place in the final against Shamrock Rovers on September 20.
“I was looking forward to this game because I knew it would be a chance for me to show the gaffer that I can play in this team,” said Ward.
“It has been very tough for the past few months because I’ve been watching on from the stands but I got the goal and two assists so hopefully it puts me back in the gaffer’s head,” he added.