Fans hoping for some cal
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