DFC | Time To Say Goodbye: Benson admits it was a tough decision to call time on his Dundalk FC career

Midfielder is expected to link up with Stephen O’Donnell at St Patrick’s Athletic

Robbie Benson admits it was a difficult decision to end his Dundalk career but felt the time was right to take up a new challenge.

The 27-year-old brought the curtain down on his Lilywhites career in fine style by scoring in Dundalk’s six-goal drubbing of Linfield in the Unite the Union Champions Cup second-leg at Oriel Park on Monday night.

Dundalk had offered the midfielder a new deal but he is expected to link-up with old team-mate — and housemate — Stephen O’Donnell at St Patrick’s Athletic in the coming days.

Speaking to Dundalk Sport, Benson said that there were a number of factors behind his decision to leave, most notably the two serious injuries that restricted him to just nine league starts this season.

“It’s tough to say goodbye but it just feels like it’s the right time for me to move on,” said the Athlone native. “To be able to choose when I go out is something that was important to me. I’m able to go now rather than have other people decide it’s the end.

“I’ve had a tough year. It’s been very difficult when you go through so much and a couple of those body blows during the season were tough to take. The thought did cross my mind to stop playing altogether but I still think I have something to offer.

“I was happy to be able to get back amongst the group and contribute something towards the end of the season but as the weeks went on the thoughts of leaving crossed my mind and it escalated from there.

“I told the club and informed the players and staff of my decision last week so it was nice to be able to get one more game in with my friends and win another trophy.”

After making the move from UCD in the winter of 2015, Benson became a popular figure at Oriel Park. On Monday night, he received a standing ovation when he was replaced by John Mountney and the hugs that followed from each of the coaching staff and substitutes was a telling sign.

“The lads all rallied in around me and they wanted to make sure that my last week here was an enjoyable one,” he said. “We’re a tight group and we’re all close friends here.

“The thing I will miss most about Dundalk is the people, not the success or trophies. My best friends inside and outside of football are here and that’s going to be hard to take.”

‘Bob’ leaves with a clutch of winners medals to his name and will be forever remembered for scoring two of Dundalk’s greatest ever goals, the Europa League clinching third strike against BATE Borisov in Tallaght in 2016 and a stunning volley against Legia Warsaw in the Champions League play-off at the Polish Army Stadium just weeks later.

“One league trophy is all I was hoping for,” he said. “To win three, an FAI Cup, two League Cups and a Unite the Union Cup surpasses anything I thought I’d ever have achieved in football. This club will continue to be successful. I’m just happy to have contributed during my time here.”

Reflecting on those critical goals, Benson said that the one against BATE Borisov, in the teeming Tallaght rain, was his ‘most memorable’.

“The importance of it on a unique night for Irish football was something I will never forget and that two or three-month spell in Europe is something that will live long in my memory,” he said.

“It all went downhill after that!” he laughed. “We lost the league and FAI Cup in 2017 but we bounced back and won the double and followed it up this year with four trophies.”

Benson’s only regret is not completing a domestic treble and he said the recent penalty shootout defeat to Shamrock Rovers at the Aviva Stadium would be hard to shake off.

“I was thinking that it would have been lovely to leave with a treble but it just wasn’t to be,” he said. “I’ve lost two FAI Cup finals on penalty shootouts and one in the last minute of extra-time so in an alternate universe somewhere I’ve won four league and FAI Cup doubles!”

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