A night under the lights at St James’ Park is just what Andy Boyle had in mind when he swapped the League of Ireland for Deepdale.
The Republic of Ireland international is set to line up in the heart of the Preston North End defence as Simon Grayson’s side look to upset promotion-chasing Newcastle United in front of the Sky cameras on Monday night.
It is a game more than any other that highlights the difference between life with Dundalk and the rough and tumble of the Championship.
“Part of coming to the Championship was playing in big games and against big players,” said Boyle.
“There are some huge clubs and it will probably be a sell-out.
“They’re probably disappointed that they’re not up already.
“We’ve got a chance to go there on Sky and give a good account of ourselves.
“Newcastle are one of the biggest clubs in the country and they’ll want to get promoted but we’re going there to spoil the party.”
Boyle and former Dundalk team-mate Daryl Horgan are no strangers to big games though.
A hat-trick of league titles set up an historic European run for a League of Ireland club as they featured in both the Champions League qualifying round and the group stages of the Europa League.
That included trips to Russia to face Zenit St Petersburg, Poland to take on Legia Warsaw and Maccabi Tel Aviv in Israel.
“We played in some big games along the way,” said the 26-year-old.
“Probably the Legia Warsaw game out there was a tough one but atmosphere-wise it was brilliant.
“These are the games you want to play in and if you’d told me at the start of last year I’d be playing at St James’ Park and trying to stop them getting promoted I’d definitely have taken that.”
Boyle is likely to line up alongside Paul Huntington at the back due to injuries to Greg Cunningham – a leg-break likely to rule him out until pre-season – and Tom Clarke, with the skipper set to be sidelined for between eight and 10 months after rupturing his Achilles tendon.
“As a footballer you don’t want to see those types of injuries,” said the Dubliner.
“But it’s football and someone’s loss is another person’s gain.
“The two lads have been brilliant with me since I came in.
“Clarkey is the skipper and he’s been great on and off the pitch.
“Greg I know from playing youth football with Ireland. They’re big losses in the changing room and we’ve got to make sure we rally round and do all we can for them.
“It’s a difficult time for them and they’re both long-term injuries but we’ll do whatever we can.”
Boyle, who made his international debut off the bench against Iceland last month, will be keen to seize his chance having had to battle for every opportunity.
After signing in December, the ball-playing defender had to wait until March for his debut at Derby.
Four straight starts followed but he was then replaced at half-time against Nottingham Forest on April 1.
It wasn’t until the Easter Monday defeat to Norwich that he returned to the starting line-up following Clarke’s injury at former club Huddersfield the previous Friday.
“I’m learning how competitive the Championship is, with myself and Daryl coming in and being in and out the team,” said Boyle.
“The games that I’ve played in I’ve enjoyed.
“You know it’s going to be a competitive league and it’s quite frantic at times and that’s the way it’s played out.
“There are no easy games. It’s a step up from the League of Ireland with plenty of good teams in it.
“I knew coming over it was going to be hard to get straight into a team that was doing so well.
“I’ve had to be patient and this six months was always going to be a bedding-in period.
“Hopefully I’ve done enough in the games that I’ve played to show that I’m worthy of a place in the team.”
Boyle and Horgan would be forgiven for wanting a breather, rather than chasing as many minutes as possible. The pair’s season with Dundalk effectively started in the early part of 2016 meaning they will have been on the go for nearly 18 months when the season ends at Wolves on May 7.
“It’s been great,” said Boyle.
“It was nice to be back in the team at the weekend.
“The season’s coming to an end and myself and Daryl have been in since last January really so we probably will need a break but it’s great to be in here.
“We’ve been in a long time but we’ve not had many injuries and it’s a testament to how hard we’re working on and off the pitch that we’re available for games and if selected we’re ready.”
North End’s No.24 believes that after a well-earned break he will only go from strength-to-strength, especially after a full pre-season at PNE’s Springfields training base.
“Hopefully I can get a pre-season under my belt and try and play as many games as I can next season,” he said.
“Pre-season is a time where first and foremost you get fit and after that you get used to different systems and different styles of play.
“Every manager has different ways of playing and with a pre-season behind me hopefully I can learn even more.”
There are still matters to be concluded this season though, North End sitting 10th in the table ahead to their final three games beginning in the North East.
“It’s been excellent, the lads have had a really good season,” said Boyle.
“We’ve said as a group we don’t want to let it peter out now.
“The season deserves to finish better than the 11th place we had last year and that’s something that we’re looking to do over the next three games.
“When you get as close as we have done, pushing right until the last couple of weeks, it will stand us in good stead for next year too.
“You never know where the experience of that can take you.”