Gill de­lighted to re­turn to the club he loves



JUST two months ago John Gill thought he was fin­ished in foot­ball.

Now he’s work­ing full-time for the big­gest club in the coun­try as first team coach and eye­ing up a do­mes­tic tre­ble and an as­sault on Europe.

It was Novem­ber 7th when Gill spoke to The Ar­gus at length rem­i­nisc­ing on the fa­mous night in Kil­dare 10 years ear­lier which saw Dundalk pip Shel­bourne to the ti­tle in dra­matic cir­cum­stances to end their seven year hell in the First Di­vi­sion.

To­wards the end of that con­ver­sa­tion, Gill was asked what his fu­ture plans in foot­ball were. His re­sponse was that he thought he was fin­ished and that 55 he didn’t think any­one would want him.

Then Stephen Kenny took the Repub­lic of Ire­land U-21 job and Vinny Perth came a-call­ing.

‘You couldn’t write a book on it,’ Gill laughed about a crazy few weeks.

‘I gen­uinely did think fin­ished.’

The Don­abate man is thrilled to be back at Oriel Park though and feels he can prove a ma­jor help to new head coach Vinny Perth and as­sis­tant head coach Ruaidhrí Hig­gins.

‘I’m 55 now but I’m a lot older and a lot wiser,’ he said.

‘I was only look­ing back at it af­ter I spoke to you and it was the year 2000 that I started. In that time I have over 500 games as a man­ager or a coach. That doesn’t mean you’re a good man­ager or coach but it does mean you’ve built up a lot of knowl­edge.

‘I had a grá and affin­ity for the club be­cause I came here when it was on its knees and with the help of a lot of peo­ple, in­clud­ing the sup­port­ers who were mag­nif­i­cent when I was here, we im­proved it a lit­tle.

‘That’s one thing about this town that is unique. Prob­a­bly the only team like it in the coun­try is Cork be­cause when you’re in a provin­cial town foot­ball is a mas­sive part of it and I get that and I got it when I was here. That’s prob­a­bly why it was such a bit­ter pill for me to swal­low when it ended the way it did but I left here with my head held high. I didn’t leave with any bit­ter­ness so to be able to come back and be able to help the club is great. Not that it needs much help but hope­fully I can help Vinny, the back­room team and the play­ers. That’s what I’m here for.’

So what does Gill feel he can add?

‘I’ll bring a bit of grey hair and the av­er­age age up,’ he joked, be­fore get­ting se­ri­ous.

‘I think I can bring a lit­tle bit of knowl­edge and a lit­tle bit of calm­ness. There’s calm­ness here I was any­way, I mean Vinny knows the game in­side out. You don’t work as long in the game as he has and won what he has won with­out hav­ing that knowl­edge. He has been a very stu­dious in­di­vid­ual, very am­bi­tious and very hun­gry, the same as young Ruaidhrí Hig­gins.

‘They’re the up and com­ing coaches and the fu­ture of the game in this coun­try and the game is in good hands when you look at peo­ple like those two. I think I can help them, even from learn­ing from mis­takes that I’ve made.

‘I’ve seen it writ­ten about what have I achieved but I’ve achieved over 500 games ei­ther coach­ing or manag­ing, I’ve worked with some of the best man­agers who have graced this league like Der­mot Keely, Pete Ma­hon and Trevor Croly and I’ve man­aged my­self. Peo­ple say what have I achieved but I went to Dublin City in 2003 and won a league on a shoe­string bud­get, I came here af­ter the club be­ing in the First Di­vi­sion for seven years and got them pro­moted in my first sea­son. Okay, we didn’t get up for ob­vi­ous rea­sons but we got a play-off in the sec­ond league and won the league in my third year.

‘Peo­ple still say I was lucky but ei­ther I’m very, very lucky or else I know what I’m talk­ing about and I’d like to think it’s the lat­ter.’

While Stephen Kenny’s loss will be mourned by fans, Gill be­lieves the new holy trin­ity in charge can con­tinue to build on the suc­cess.

‘Some peo­ple have said to me are you mad. Yes, there are big shoes to fill but I’m not the only one that has to fill them. It’s go­ing to be a col­lec­tive thing here.

‘Through no fault of Stephen’s, there’s a per­cep­tion here from the out­side that it’s a one man show and it was a one man band. Yes, Stephen had a big part to play in it but so did the back­room team, so did the club and big­gest of all, so did the play­ers.

‘There have been a lot of in­gre­di­ents that have made Dundalk suc­cess­ful for the last six or seven years of which Stephen Kenny was a big part of it but so was Vinny Perth, so was Ruaidhrí Hig­gins, so was the Martin Con­nolly’s, the Paul Brown’s and the Andy Con­nolly’s. It was a huge col­lec­tive ef­fort. That’s what this club is about and I think at times, through no fault of peo­ple them­selves, we lose sight and think it’s down to in­di­vid­u­als.

‘When I was here, I prob­a­bly got too much credit but it’s not about in­di­vid­u­als, it’s about the col­lec­tive and that’s the one thing that this town has go­ing for it, the col­lec­tive. You’ve got a great bunch of sup­port­ers be­hind the club, the town gets be­hind its foot­ball club, there are re­ally good peo­ple here and the big­gest thing is there’s an un­be­liev­able bunch of play­ers here.

‘I was in there this morn­ing and it’s fright­en­ing. The en­vi­ron­ment that has been cre­ated for them is su­perb but they’ve earned the right to cre­ate that en­vi­ron­ment. They’re a unique bunch of play­ers. I don’t know a lot of them. I worked with Gary Rogers in a pre­vi­ous life but from the out­side look­ing in I’ve al­ways been en­vi­ous say­ing ‘how have they cre­ated this cul­ture’. Now Stephen Kenny and Vinny Perth had a big part to play in it but the play­ers also had a mas­sive part to play in it. The play­ers cre­ate a cul­ture and there’s a re­ally good cul­ture here. Now we’ve got to har­ness that and cul­ti­vate it even more.

‘Peo­ple ask how do you im­prove on win­ning a dou­ble? I’d say you try and do it bet­ter, you try and do a tre­ble. There’s no rea­son why you can’t do that here. I know from look­ing at the play­ers and speak­ing to a few of them this morn­ing that there’s a re­ally big hunger in this foot­ball club to con­tinue the suc­cess that has been here.’ Gill has that hunger too. Fin­ished? Far from it.

New sign­ing Daniel Kelly uses a foam roller dur­ing Dundalk’s first pre-sea­son ses­sion on Sat­ur­day.

John Gill.

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