O'Donnell wants new start after his own bad year
DUNDALK manager Stephen Kenny has already stated a number of times the importance of his players having a desire to better themselves, and so it was no surprise when he snapped up Stephen O'Donnell last Friday.
On a constructive day at Oriel Park, goalkeeper Peter Cherrie re-signed and will spend a fourth season with the Lilywhites, but it's the capture of former Arsenal apprentice O'Donnell which perhaps will be of most interest to Dundalk supporters.
By joining Dundalk, the 26year-old midfielder is of course linking back up with former Shamrock Rovers manager Kenny – a fact that was a key element in his decision to join the club.
'I'm very happy to be rejoining Stephen. He has signed some very good players. He has a great philosophy and allows players the freedom to express themselves and doesn't put any shackles on their ability.
'He let's them play – he wants players to pass the ball and doesn't get angry if sometimes you lose possession. That's going to be very important for us next year as the players he has signed are all very good on the ball. We'll work hard in pre-season and hopefully we can gell quickly.'
O'Donnell put pen to paper after a meeting with club secretary Kevin Holland and insisted that he is intent on making a major impression at his new club.
'I had a bad season in 2012 with injury, and I really want to come to Dundalk and re-establish myself as one of the best midfielders in the league,' he said.
'I've recovered from my injury and am continuing to do a lot of gym work so I'll be hitting the ground running for pre-season training.'
Like all of the players who have arrived in recent weeks, O'Donnell is hungry for success but realistic about how difficult the task will be to challenge the top clubs.
'We know that Sligo Rovers, Shamrock Rovers and perhaps St Pat's will be the three teams hoping to dominate. Derry might be in that category also – but everybody can look at Drogheda and see how they performed last season. Dundalk is a big club and hopefully the fans will come out in force next season and get behind us.'
O'Donnell won't have to wait long to meet his former teammates as the opening league match will be against Shamrock Rovers on Friday March 8th in Oriel Park.
'It's a great start and obviously there will be a lot of attention on that match. Hopefully we can get a result and it will set us up for the season. If we get a good start then the optimism will spread around town. I can't wait to get started.'
O'Donnell started his career as an apprentice at Arsenal before becoming a first-team regular at Falkirk in Scotland. After turning down a new contract, he joined Bohemians where he won a league title medal and FAI Cup winners medal in 2008.
After the arrival of Sean Connor as Dundalk manager, O'Donnell actually trained and played a pre-season match with the Lilywhites before electing to move to Cork City, but following Cork's financial problems O'Donnell moved back to his home-town club Galway United prior to a very successful move to Shamrock Rovers.
At Tallaght Stadium, O'Donnell won the league title and, to Dundalk's misfortune, a Setanta Cup winners' medal and he also played a key role in Rovers' European success when he scored the late penalty to defeat Partizan Belgrade in the Europa League.