Cup choices and contract talks keep Dundalk minds focused
There's a cup final three weeks away and league fixtures to fulfil, but Dundalk boss Stephen Kenny is already at the stage where he has to think about next year.
The months of October and November are crucial for managers when it comes to retaining and recruiting players and, with the title in the bag after last Friday's draw with Shamrock Rovers, Kenny is seeking to keep his squad together.
John Mountney, a Mayo native who has improved considerably in the past year, is in the process of agreeing to extend his stay in Louth and the Lilywhites have already made good progress on the personnel front.
Kenny got a head start last winter when success on the field put the border club in the position to offer two-year contracts.
"We earned the right to do that," says Kenny. "We started off with a very small base and we earned the ability to do that by getting into Europe and being successful. We don't have a huge amount of lads out of contract (this winter) but we still have a lot of work to do."
High-profile duo Richie Towell and Daryl Horgan are keeping their options open with cross-channel interest inevitable off the back of their exploits. Right full-back Sean Gannon is another talent which Dundalk are keen to keep hold of. Kenny is realistic about the situation.
"We know there will be interest in some of our younger, exciting players. It's well documented, but we are keen for them to stay," he says. "We do have an exceptional team, and a lot of our players are capable of improving again.
"I think players will only go if the move is right for them. We understand the sheer economics and that the possibility of (going to) England is very attractive."
Tickets for the Aviva Stadium date with Cork on November 8 went on sale this week. Kenny feels that competition for places will ensure that the application levels remain high for the final three regular fixtures, starting with the visit of relegation-threatened Galway United to Oriel Park tonight.
He will rotate his squad, and that could open the door for fringe performers who have patiently waited in reserve throughout the year. But Kenny stresses that he will be making decisions with the head as opposed to the heart.
"These decisions aren't sentimental," he asserts. "If it comes to the cup final and there's an injury, there's no point in having somebody who hasn't played in months coming in. I know that some players that are ever-present will be devastated to be left out but the overall team comes first."