Top Marks Ian
By Gavin McLaughlin
DUNDALK midfielder Stephen Maher has described the double signing of Bohemians duo Mark Quigley and Jason Byrne as a major statement of intent by the club ahead of the 2011 League of Ireland season.
Ian Foster moved quickly to take advantage of the financial instability at Bohemians by striking a deal to bring the duo to Oriel Park on Saturday night. Maher was as surprised as anybody when the double signing was confirmed but said it was no surprise that Foster had managed to attract more top talent to the club.
"I don't think anybody expected that announcement but it is a sign of the ambition that the manager has", said Maher. "He is great at attracting players to the club. Players want to come here and play for him.
"Mark Quigley is probably at a bit of a crossroads in his career but I think he will revel in the freedom the manager will give him here. We seen that with Faz Kuduzovic last season. Ian lets players go and express themselves and if we can get Mark fully fit and firing we have a real top player in our team."
Maher has first hand experience of playing with Quigley from one season at St Patrick's Athletic in 2009. The talented striker won the PFAI Young Player of the Year while at Inchicore in 2007 and Maher is confident he can become a huge fans favourite at Oriel Park.
"In my eyes Mark Quigley is the best player in the League of Ireland on his day. He is still only 25 and still to hit his prime. I played with him for a year at St Pat's where he picked up two bad injuries but in the two seasons before that he scored 46 goals. He went to Bohs and because they had so many players in their squad, he was played on the wing mostly but he is a great front man who will get us a lot of goals."
Goals is a word definitely associated with Jason Byrne. The 33-year-old is the fourth highest scorer in League of Ireland football and boasts a CV that includes five League of Ireland titles, two FAI Cup winners medals and a Setanta Cup medal. If that is not enough, the 32-year-old is also the holder of two Irish caps.
"Jason Byrne is guaranteed to score goals. We all know about him", said Maher. "If we can get the ball into him, he will score. It's as simple as that. When you think we will have the likes of Danny Kearns and Ross Gaynor supplying crosses then it is an exciting prospect. And having him at the club will only benefit the likes of Johnny Breen and Marc Griffin. What a player to be learning your trade from."
The capture of Quigley and Byrne has raised the excitement levels amongst Dundalk fans and Maher is hopeful that the club can mount a serious challenge next season to reclaim a place in Europe.
"I think Mark and Jason will compliment our side very well and if we can get another three or four quality players in then we can have a really good season. It's all about consistency for us. We had a great start last year and we bounced back straight away from any slip we had. In the middle of the season we maybe let the heads drop after a defeat but we finished strongly and with the experience and quality the two lads have, we will hopefully be pushing for a European spot and looking to win a cup."
Maher is currently recovering from an osteitis pubis injury which severely disrupted the latter part of his season. The 22-year-old picked up the injury in Dundalk's Europa League game away to Levski Sofia in July and he admits he could miss out on the start of pre-season training.
"It was my own fault, I should have got it treated straight away but it's a lesson learned", he said. "I've been resting since the end of the season. I had an injection two weeks ago and I went to the physio on Monday. In eight weeks I should be able to start running fully. We start back for pre-season at that stage so I'm hoping to get back soon after that."