Fenlon deserves more from Bohs
Published 17/01/2010 | 05:00
I can remember being in Oriel Park when Bohemians played Dundalk in the 1992/'93 season.
It was around the New Year as far as I remember, a freezing, stormy, miserable day, and Bohs were trailing 1-0 with a couple of minutes left. A ball was crossed into the Dundalk box, a defender headed it away and as it fell around 25 yards out a Bohs player met it absolutely perfectly on the half-volley. The keeper didn't have a chance and Bohs got a late and unlikely point.
The player who scored the goal was Pat Fenlon. During two brilliant seasons at Dalymount, he was Bohs' outstanding player and played a major role in their FAI Cup win. They should have won the league in that 1992/'93 season. It would have been a just reward for the midfield general whose great gift was to provide the telling intervention just when his side needed it most.
Even though he would spend a longer period of time with Shelbourne and win two league titles and an FAI Cup there, Fenlon was never better than during his sojourn at Dalymount. He gave a lot to Bohs then and he's given even more during the last two seasons by steering the club to its first ever two-in-a-row of league titles. That's why it was sad to see Fenlon being effectively held hostage by Bohemians as the club refused to let him take the manager's job at Dundee United.
It's sad because Fenlon obviously wanted to move to Tannadice Park and was reported to have been considering legal action in an attempt to break free from Bohs. United offered €100,000 compensation but Bohs held out for more than twice that.
Given that Scotland recently gave Dundee United €250,000 in exchange for the services of former manager Craig Levein it's not hard to get the impression that the hierarchy at Dalymount had their eyes on a quick transfer of funds between the Scottish FA and Bohs with United operating as a mere intermediary.
There is, however, no comparison between the financial resources of a national association and those of a club like Dundee United which has been struggling financially in recent years. Bohs' insistence on huge compensation looks opportunistic.
It also looks mean-spirited because there were claims Fenlon was owed bonuses and obviously didn't want to stay at Dalymount. Why the club went to such lengths to keep him there, especially considering his huge contribution to Bohs, remains a matter for speculation.
Perhaps they really didn't want to lose the best manager in the league or perhaps they thought Dundee United would crumble and provide them with a financial quick fix. We are, after all, talking about people who thought that selling one of the most historic grounds in Irish sport to Liam Carroll was a great idea.
Pat Fenlon is a tremendous manager, perhaps the best boss the league has produced since Jim McLaughlin. McLaughlin could certainly have made his mark in the big leagues across the water but he never got the chance. The move to Dundee United could have been Fenlon's big break. The fickle nature of the game means that he might not get another one.
I'm sure the club's fans will be happy to have held on to their manager. But the fact remains that had there been any way humanly possible for Pat Fenlon to have left the club he would have gladly availed of it. Relationships continued under duress rarely end happily. The man deserved better.
Bohemians owed Pat Fenlon a lot more than those unpaid bonuses.