“I’m the fittest I’ve ever been” declares Hoban after Pats hammering

AUTHOR: Kieran Burke – @kieran_b_sport/@betweenstripes

Having missed a penalty on the opening night of the season in an underwhelming home draw against UCD before another below par showing in defeat at Dalymount Park last week, Dundalk fans will have been relieved and thrilled in equal measure when star striker Patrick Hoban opened his account for the season on Friday night at Oriel Park. Hoban notched goal the 170th goal of his career to open the scoring in a 5-0 rout for Dundalk at home to St.Patrick’s Athletic. However, speaking to BetweenTheStripes.net after the game, the Galway native revealed he wasn’t feeling the pressure going into the game against St.Pat’s.

“I wouldn’t really describe it as a relief, I’d no pressure on myself, I never put pressure on myself to score goals, obviously missing a penalty in the first game of the season wasn’t ideal but I thought tonight’s performance as a team we were phenomenal in every aspect of the game”, Hoban said.

While Hoban may not admit to any pressure he may or may not have been feeling after a quiet first 180 minutes this season, Dundalk supporters certainly were concerned, not by Hoban’s lack of goals but his general involvement in games appeared to be very limited compared to usual standards. Daniel Kelly’s return to the starting XI appeared to help bring the best out of Hoban with Kelly making constant runs beyond Hoban anytime the striker dropped deep to receive possession. Hoban admits he was glad to have the pacey winger keeping him company in the final third once again.

“Playing with Daniel helps me to drop into an area and I always know he’s going to run into a space and if the centre-half comes out with me it leaves an ocean of space for us to attack so I’m able to mix my game up with Daniel which is helpful.”

“Daniel’s pace is phenomenal and he’s able to hurt a team on his own if he gets space in front of him.”

There had been suggestions that Dundalk looked like a side lacking in genuine pace in the opening two matches but the addition of Kelly and recent West Brom arrival Rayhaan Tulloch to the starting XI on Friday night certainly gave the Lilywhites plenty of threat in wide areas with Hoban admitting he is looking forward to seeing more of Tulloch in a Dundalk shirt this season.

“We saw glimpses of it when he came on against Bohs and tonight he was excellent, what will help him now as well is that he got a lot of minutes under his belt this evening and we can only get stronger, if we do the right things off the ball we can only get stronger in terms of quality on the ball, I still think we can improve and tonight can only help.”

With Dundalk’s transfer business in the off-season centering on players from outside of Ireland, Stephen O’Donnell had warned his new look squad may need time to gel but supporters will be hoping that the understanding within the squad is now starting to build. Hoban was quick to praise his teammates work rate on Friday but but conceded you can’t afford to make a slow start even with new players trying to find their feet.

“Our philosophy of working really hard and being one as a team as we go after the opposition is huge, sometimes it does take a while especially for younger players to learn that side of the game but we have to get used to it quickly because you can’t afford to lose time in this league but I thought tonight to a man it was spot on.”

Up next for Dundalk it’s another home tie against Damien Duff’s Shelbourne. Patrick Hoban has scored three times against the Drumcondra outfit but is expecting a tough encounter with Shels beating Bohemians 1-0 in a Dublin Derby on at Tolka Park on Friday.

“They’re a very strong side, they always have been, they’re a bit like ourselves in that they are very strong off the ball and their structure is very strong so we’ll have to be on it and prepare well for Monday now because they are not an easy team to play against but hopefully we can back up a good performance from tonight.”

Worryingly for opposition defences, Hoban feels he is the fittest he’s ever been despite missing nine of Dundalk’s final ten league matches last season. Hoban credits a change in approach to his gym work with the thirty-one-year-old feeling he may have carried too much muscle mass in recent years.

“I feel that I’m the fittest I’ve ever been, I’m doing more running in games than I ever have.”

“Playing football now you’ve got to make sure you’re fully at it in terms of running, dueling and helping to win the ball back but I’m conscious that I can put on muscle very quickly in the gym and I’ve focused on taking a bit of it off to keep me able to go a bit longer on the pitch in terms of running and now it’s paying off so hopefully I’ll stay injury free”, Hoban declared.

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