Dean Smith praises Loughgall's current longest-serving player after marking milestone moment
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Andrew Hoey brought up his 200th appearance for the County Armagh outfit at Mourneview Park against Glenavon – a club where he made his first step into Premiership football as a teenager in 2014, scoring on debut versus Glentoran and also netted in David Jeffrey’s final match as Linfield boss.
The 26-year-old has had to be patient for his next chapter in the Irish League top-flight, spending 18 months with local side Armagh City before moving to neighbouring Loughgall in January 2017, becoming Dean Smith’s first signing after taking charge of the club.
As the saying goes, the rest is history with Hoey playing a key role in helping the Villagers make their way back to the Premiership promised land for the first time in 16 years this season and the ex-Northern Ireland youth international has scored four league goals – only Benji Magee has more for Smith’s men.
You’ll often hear ‘we’ve got Hoey’ bellowing around the Lakeview Park terraces and Smith was full of praise for the impact he’s had.
"He was my first signing and from the day that we walked in the door I knew he was the first person I wanted,” said Smith. “He has a great football brain and technically he's fantastic.
"He's a really clever footballer and the system we play suits him.
"For him to achieve 200 games at any club, never mind one that I think has been as successful as we have been over the last four or five years is a testament to him.
"If you go and ask him now he's probably looking to play another 200!
"He has been fantastic since he worked through the door with his quality, attitude and he's another one of the local players who have stuck by us and we've stuck by them."
Defeat to Glenavon was the first time Loughgall have lost on the road to a fellow bottom-six side this term and with their first shot on target coming in the 82nd minute, Smith labelled it their worst performance of the season.
"I think it was,” he added. "The things we would all call free in football with our endeavour, our work rate, our effort, our attitude, I think the blue team (Glenavon) edged it in every department today and that’s what disappoints us.
"First and foremost you have to look within and today was a really poor day at the office for us.
"We have played the so-called big teams and been beaten four or five and sometimes you have to just say ‘it’s one of them games’ or ‘they were better than us on the day’, but today, Glenavon were better than us and they’re in the same situation as us in that bottom mini-league.
"For me, that’s disappointing because it’s the first time we've lost points against teams that are in and around us and the manner in which we’ve lost them.
"We didn’t have our first shot on target until the 82nd minute and that says it all.
"For a team that is built to play attacking football and have shots on goal, not to have one until the 82nd minute is so unlike us.
"Maybe it’s just one of those days at the office where it just wasn’t meant to be, but we need to be disappointed – we shouldn’t forget this in a hurry.”