King Kenny wants some con­ti­nu­ity as Duffy signs

The Argus - - SPORT - JOHN SAV­AGE

DUN­DALK FC man­ager Stephen Kenny ex­pects ‘min­i­mal change’ at Oriel Park over the win­ter months as he plots to re­tain the league ti­tle which his side of­fi­cially won on Fri­day night.

A late Pat Hoban strike earned a 1-1 draw at home to St Pa­trick’s Ath­letic to make it four league ti­tles from the last five for the Li­ly­whites.

The ti­tle win also en­sures a re­turn to the Cham­pi­ons League next sea­son but per­haps the best news to emerge on Fri­day night came an hour or so af­ter the full-time whis­tle when it broke that Michael Duffy had penned a new two-year deal to re­main at Oriel Park.

With Gary Rogers also tied down dur­ing the week for next sea­son and deals un­der­stood to be close to agree­ment with John Mount­ney, Dane Massey and Rob­bie Ben­son, Kenny is look­ing for­ward to hav­ing a con­ti­nu­ity in his squad as he looks to build on this sea­son’s po­ten­tially record break­ing achieve­ments.

‘There will be min­i­mal changes I feel,’ he told The Ar­gus as he looked ahead to next sea­son.

‘Con­ti­nu­ity is im­por­tant. When we won the dou­ble in 2015 and got into the group stages of the Europa League the fol­low­ing year the con­ti­nu­ity el­e­ment was im­por­tant. We only signed Ben­son and McEleney that year and lost Richie Tow­ell.

‘I think there has to be an el­e­ment of con­ti­nu­ity now be­cause we’ve had rad­i­cal changes over the last year in the squad and you don’t want too much change be­cause con­ti­nu­ity helps you be suc­cess­ful.’

A new goal­keeper is ex­pected to ar­rive at the club in the off-sea­son with Mon­aghan na­tive Aaron McCarey, cur­rently with War­ren­point Town, ex­pected to com­pete with Rogers for the num­ber one jersey. Aaron McEn­eff and Aaron Bol­ger have both been men­tioned as pos­si­ble mid­field re­cruits while there is more than a pass­ing in­ter­est in Bo­hemi­ans winger Daniel Kelly.

Some­times the best piece of busi­ness you can do is keep­ing what you have and re­tain­ing Duffy is a huge boost.

‘Michael is very happy in Dun­dalk,’ Kenny told The Ar­gus.

‘He loves it at the club and he’s per­form­ing con­sis­tently ev­ery week. He’s never in­jured and never misses a day’s train­ing hardly. He has played ev­ery game this sea­son and al­ways gives ev­ery­thing. If it’s not hap­pen­ing for him he never stops go­ing. He keeps try­ing and gives it ev­ery­thing for 90 min­utes.

‘He’s supremely fit and he’s had an ex­tremely ex­cep­tional sea­son so of course we’re glad to have him here for an­other two years. The Derry con­tin­gent - Dean Jarvis, Pa­trick McEleney and Michael - are close to each other. They’re al­most in­sep­a­ra­ble as life­long friends.

‘Gary has been very con­sis­tent too,’ he said of his goal­keeper.

‘He is prob­a­bly in bet­ter phys­i­cal shape than he was two or three years ago.’

The man­ager also had plenty of praise for Pat Hoban af­ter his late goal en­sured the ti­tle cel­e­bra­tions didn’t come af­ter a de­feat.

‘It was great to win it like that,’ he said. ‘St Pat’s had a game plan ob­vi­ously to stop us play­ing. The two shots that hit the cross­bar, it was hard to be­lieve they didn’t go in but they sti­fled us quite well af­ter that and scored with their first chance. We found it dif­fi­cult to break them down but maybe there was a lit­tle bit of a lack of edge in our play but ul­ti­mately to get the goal so late was such a thrill be­cause every­one from play­ers to staff to sup­port­ers could cel­e­brate in that mo­ment and af­ter­wards.

‘It would have been some­thing of an anti-cli­max had we lost and cel­e­brated. It wouldn’t have de­tracted from the achievement but it was great to have that mo­ment and that will live long in the me­mory for every­one.’

On Hoban, Kenny said: ‘He’s in­cred­i­ble. All the 90th minute goals he has got for us. The two OGs as well were down to him against Cork and Water­ford. They went in off de­fend­ers but he forced the de­fend­ers into the mis­takes.

‘He is the man you want in the 90th minute to get it if you have a chance. He’s ter­rific.

‘He got a big goal in the match against Rovers in the match we won 5-2. It was a great headed goal for the equaliser. That was a bril­liant goal at a time the game was go­ing against us. He has been re­ally so con­sis­tent.’

While some doubted whether Hoban had what was re­quired to lead the line for Dun­dalk af­ter a dis­ap­point­ing few years in Eng­land, Kenny said he never doubted the Loughrea na­tive’s abil­ity.

‘I be­lieved in him,’ he said.

‘I thought he was bril­liant the year he went (in 2014). We had a team player of the year that year and I gave it to him. We haven’t had that be­fore or since but I thought he was un­be­liev­able the first year we won the league, par­tic­u­larly in the sec­ond half of that sea­son. He has got bet­ter since then.

‘He was in­jured for a lot of his spell in Eng­land and that was the con­cern that he’d come back and still have those prob­lems but Danny Miller did an in­cred­i­ble job with him in the off sea­son and he de­serves huge credit for get­ting him in the con­di­tion he’s in.

‘For the first eight or nine games we had to con­cen­trate on giv­ing him an hour in matches. Peo­ple were say­ing what are you tak­ing him off for but we had to man­age him and that’s what we did.’

While pin­point­ing the vic­tory in Cork last month as a ‘big mo­ment’ in the sea­son, an­other came back at the start of May in the RSC, a venue Dun­dalk re­turn to this Fri­day. The Li­ly­whites had just lost 2-1 to Water­ford FC in a game in which cap­tain Stephen O’Don­nell broke his leg but af­ter a lengthy team meet­ing they would go on to win the next 13 matches in-a-row.

‘It was a great re­sponse af­ter that but the play­ers de­serve a huge amount of credit,’ said Kenny.

‘Their at­ti­tude has been ex­cel­lent. Play­ers that haven’t been reg­u­lars in par­tic­u­lar have re­ally sup­ported the team and got be­hind every­one. It’s not easy to achieve that but all the play­ers in the squad col­lec­tively have been bril­liant.

‘There was a lot of pres­sure this year. With the new own­er­ship group, we hadn’t won the league with them and that was im­por­tant to do that but that wasn’t even the main is­sue. This was just for our­selves. We’re just driven to win things. All the league ti­tles have been spe­cial. I wouldn’t say one was more spe­cial than the other but cer­tainly it’s spe­cial to win the league. It’s the pin­na­cle of your ca­reer.

‘We’ll look for­ward to get­ting the tro­phy back now. It didn’t look right look­ing at our tro­phy cab­i­net with it not in it this year. It looked empty with­out it so it’s good to have it back in,’ he said.

De­spite hav­ing the league wrapped up, the man­ager is hope­ful of end­ing the sea­son on a high. That will be dif­fi­cult on Fri­day night with six play­ers def­i­nitely out of the trip to Water­ford (kick-off 7.45pm).

‘Rob­bie Ben­son is out. We don’t know how long he’ll be out for be­cause he needs to have a scan on his knee af­ter the in­jury he picked up on Fri­day night. We’ll have to wait and see on that,’ said Kenny.

‘Chris Shields and Daniel Cleary are both sus­pended and Jamie McGrath is on Un­der 21 in­ter­na­tional duty so those four are out. Ob­vi­ously then we’ve the two long term in­jured play­ers Stephen O’Don­nell and Karo­lis Chve­dukas so Jake O’Con­nor and Ge­orgie Poyn­ton will come into the pic­ture.

‘Ob­vi­ously there will be sev­eral changes this week be­cause of the in­juries and sus­pen­sions but we want to be con­sis­tent over the next few weeks and fin­ish the sea­son strongly,’ said Kenny.

Mean­while, club cap­tain Stephen O’Don­nell is hop­ing to take part in his first full week of train­ing this week as he con­tin­ues his come­back from his leg break back in May.

I think there has to be an el­e­ment of con­ti­nu­ity now be­cause we’ve had rad­i­cal changes over the last year in the squad and you don’t want too much change be­cause con­ti­nu­ity helps you be suc­cess­ful

The Dun­dalk play­ers cel­e­brate in the dress­ing room af­ter clinch­ing the SSE Air­tric­ity League Premier Divi­sion ti­tle.

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