Kenny questions fixture process as Dundalk open against Rovers
DUNDALK gained an early Christmas gift this week when the Airtricity League handed them plum ties against Shamrock Rovers, Sligo Rovers and Drogheda United in their first three home games of 2013.
However, manager Stephen Kenny wasn't entirely happy with the process of selecting fixtures as he reflected on having to kick off the new season against the club which sacked him only three months ago.
Kenny was speaking to the Argus on Thursday, shortly after it was confirmed that the Lilywhites had signed former Celtic player Richie Towell (pictured right) and re-signed Stephen McDonnell who was roommates with Towell during his time in Glasgow.
The importance of having a strong squad from day one of the new season was driven home after the release of the fixture list which sees them face four of last season's top five in the first five weeks of the campaign.
'I don't think you can say it's a coincidence, when you have Dundalk playing Rovers, Cork playing Limerick and Derry facing Sligo,' Kenny responded.
'I suppose it's a sort of opportunistic marketing and it questions the integrity of the process, when it should be an open draw, but it is what it is. We have Shamrock Rovers and Sligo in our first two home games and bring it on!
'You would be looking to get off to a winning start, but we'll have to do it the hard way. It could not have been any tougher and we'll have to make sure that we're well prepared.'
Dundalk beat off competition from several other clubs for the signature of 21-year-old right-back/central midfielder Towell, a current Republic of Ireland Under-21 international who made one substitute appearance for Celtic in 2010 and went on to play 30 SPL games on loan with Hibernian before being released by Neil Lennon at the end of last season.
Asked about his new signings, Kenny said: 'I think there's a vital ingredient that we need to have and that's hunger. We need players who have a huge determination to improve themselves as players, be the best they can be in their professional careers and perform in the Premier Division with real passion. 'Richie has been capped at every level, has played for Celtic's first team and for Hibs in the SPL and has a great attitude. He is a model professional and can play in a number of positions, but we don't want to put him under pressure - we have to give him time.
'The fact that he and Stephen were roommates in Celtic's youth team - they actually lived together - is a positive. Let's not forget how young Stephen is. He's 21 and by his own admission he feels he didn't have his best season.
'The turning point in his career was doing his cruciate in the Setanta Cup Final and it can take time [to recover] when you are playing with a team that's struggling, where the expectations are high. He is a very creative player with good vision and is a good addition to the squad.'
Dundalk chairman Ciaran Bond was equally excited about Towell's capture, saying: ' We had to overcome a lot of competition to seal Richie's signing for the club. We are delighted that Stephen was able to sell Dundalk FC to Richie and that he will be with us next season.'
Kenny anticipated further signings before Christmas, while awaiting developments with regard to last season's captain Chris Shields who has been having a trial with Preston North End in recent days.
The 2013 fixtures are more or less the reverse of last season, and that means a financial windfall of sorts for Dundalk who will have 17 home games and 16 away, with the well-supported Sligo Rovers, Shamrock Rovers, Drogheda United and Derry City among the teams who have to visit Oriel Park twice.
After facing the Hoops on the opening night, Friday March 8th, Dundalk are in EA Sports Cup action the following Monday, before facing Shelbourne on the 15th in their first away league fixture. Their remaining games in March are at home to Sligo, away to UCD and home to Drogheda.