Fans hop­ing for some cal

The Argus - - SPORT - KEVIN MUL­LI­GAN

WHEN Dundalk com­pleted a mem­o­rable League and Cup dou­ble with victory over arch ri­vals, Cork City in the FAI Cup fi­nal on the first Sun­day in Novem­ber last, their sup­port­ers hoped and an­tic­i­pated a close sea­son of rel­a­tive calm af­ter the tur­bu­lence of re­cent close sea­sons.

That ex­pec­ta­tion was based on the sta­bil­ity gen­er­ated by the con­fi­dence ex­pressed by their Amer­i­can own­ers, Peak6 af­ter their first suc­cess­ful dou­ble win­ning sea­son, and the op­ti­mism forth­com­ing from the management team un­der Stephen Kenny, for with the vast ma­jor­ity of the dou­ble win­ning team signed for the new sea­son, herald­ing ev­ery ex­pec­ta­tion that Dundalk would be chal­leng­ing for the ma­jor do­mes­tic tro­phies as well fac­ing the ex­cit­ing prospect of mak­ing their re­turn to the Cham­pi­ons League in Europe as a seeded team for the pre­lim­i­nar­ies.

All that buoy­ancy was de­flated like a pricked bal­loon on Novem­ber 25th, just three weeks af­ter the Cup fi­nal and in the most un­sus­pect­ing man­ner -a brief news flash in­ter­rup­tion dur­ing an Ire­land rugby game re­veal­ing that Stephen Kenny was leav­ing Dundalk to take up a new role as Repub­lic of Ire­land un­der-21 man­ager with the prom­ise that he would take over the se­nior man­ager’s job in two years time.

In the six weeks since the news of Stephen Kenny’s de­par­ture the dreaded close sea­son syn­drome has re­turned to haunt Dundalk and has left par­ti­san sup­port­ers with a few sleep­less nights.

Now, not only has Stephen Kenny de­parted but so too has Chief Ex­ec­u­tive, Mal Bran­ni­gan (pic­tured above).

In ad­di­tion, the club’s main spon­sors, Fyffes who have been the back­bone of the club in re­cent sea­sons, an­nounced in De­cem­ber that they were end­ing their in­volve­ment with the club.

Thank­fully there has been a re-think on this score at least, and Fyffes who backed Dundalk when it was far from fash­ion­able, are once again on board for the com­ing sea­son.

Some­how the Dundalk shirt wouldn’t be the same with­out dis­play­ing the Fyffes logo. Pic­ture: Ai­dan Dul­laghan/NEWSPICS

As usual, as has been the case in pre­vi­ous close sea­sons, the ru­mour mill has been spin­ning out of con­trol, with the lat­est twist link­ing the de­par­ture of the CEO with the spon­sor­ship sit­u­a­tion, but in their state­ment, the club re­vealed that Mr. Bran­ni­gan was leav­ing “to pur­sue other op­por­tu­ni­ties”.

None­the­less the CEO’s de­par­turepar­ture com­ing so soon af­ter Stephen Kenny’s is an un­wel­come de­vel­op­ment, for while the man­ager al­ways iden­ti­fied the play­ers he needed, the CEO was heav­ily in­volved in the con­tract ne­go­ti­a­tions, earn­ing the ad­mi­ra­tion of sup­port­ers for se­cur­ing not only the ser­vices of Michael Duffy on a two year deal in Oc­to­ber, but also in re­tain­ing Rob­bie Ben­son and Dane Massey for an­other sea­son as well as rewarding many stal­warts of the team with ex­tended con­tracts thus end­ing the close sea­son spec­u­la­tion over play­ers com­ing and go­ing.

It is also likely that the CEO was at the cen­tre of the ne­go­ti­a­tions on the struc­ture for the new coach­ing staff to re­place Stephen Kenny, and which sees Vin­nie Perth as­sume the role of head coach, John Gill re-join­ing the club he man­aged in 2008 as first team coach, and Ruaidhri Hig­gins pro­moted to as­sis­tant head coach.

It is a rather com­plex arrangement, and one that as left many sup­port­ers and keen ob­servers of the game rather puz­zled as to who will be in over­all charge of the first team, Vin­nie Perth or John Gill.

One sus­pects that the arrangement was de­vised as a cover for Vin­nie Perth’s lack of the nec­es­sary UEFA coach­ing qual­i­fi­ca­tions and if the FAI are sat­is­fied, which ap­pears they are, who are we to ques­tion the new struc­ture.

Un­doubt­edly the new ar­range­ments in­volve a cer­tain risk, not least of which re­volves round team se­lec­tion, tac­tics and sub­sti­tu­tions.

With Stephen Kenny there was

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