Kilduff determined to prove Kenny right
Bray Wanderers 1 Dundalk 3
It's fair to say that Stephen Kenny and Ciaran Kilduff have a good relationship, even if it hasn't always been a straightforward one.
"You make it sound like an unrequited love," grinned Kenny, in response to questions after Kilduff's brace in Bray on Saturday propelled the league champions towards an opening win.
The context was the striker's reflections on the course of a career where his current manager tried to sign him on a number of occasions.
As Derry boss, he was knocked back but it didn't matter as he got the job at Shamrock Rovers and rewarded a player he always rated with a new deal. A month later he was sacked.
"He came to Dundalk and I was bound by the (two-year) contract he gave me at Rovers," explains Kilduff.
When that deal was expiring, Kenny was trying to hold onto Pat Hoban and Kilduff agreed a contract with St Patrick's Athletic for 2015 believing that Christy Fagan was leaving. Fagan stayed, and Hoban left.
"Stephen rang me and he was (saying) 'I can't believe I missed out,'" said Kilduff.
That kicked off a miserable spell for the player as he couldn't get a look-in with the Saints.
"I fell out with the club and Liam Buckley and sat in the stands for three months. It was hard to take. People will say 'you're picking up your wages' but in this league it's not mega money where it's all about wages. Everyone wants to play and the clock is ticking."
What kept him going was knowing that Kenny was still interested and last July Dundalk came up with the money that eventually got the deal done. Kilduff scored on his debut at Bray and made a good contribution to the rest of the double winning season, but the 27-year-old feels like a different animal now he's starting a campaign with the rest of the group.
Why does Kenny rate him? "For whatever reason, he divides opinion and has plenty of critics," he says, "But he has a super attitude and he gets all types of goals and that's what I like.
"I don't see him as a big 6ft 3in target man. He's not that. People mistake that just because he has height. I see him more of a French striker who is tall, athletic and scores goals, one on one goals through the middle with his pace. Maybe not so good as a big man that someone plays off."
Kilduff shares Kenny's bemusement about how he is viewed elsewhere and showed his range with a composed finish from John Mountney's fifth-minute cross before displaying his speed by sprinting away from a static defence to capitalise on a Bray error before the half-hour mark.
Dean Kelly's deflected free immediately reduced the deficit and, while the Louth men were always on top, they were made to work for the three points by a new-look Bray side that retains the personality of a Mick Cooke team. But they were deprived of hope when Curtis Murphy received a second yellow and Ronan Finn added the insurance strike in the 81st minute.
"I feel like I have a point to prove," says Kilduff, acknowledging he needs to step up, with Richie Towell's goals out of the equation. "I really respect Stephen and I know he believes in me."
Bray Wanderers - Cherrie, Harding, McNally, Kenna, Murphy; Byrne, Salmon; McDonagh (Connolly 63), Brennan, Moore; Kelly (Lewis 79)
Dundalk - Rogers, Barrett, Gartland, Boyle, Massey; O'Donnell (Benson 85), Finn; Mountney (Meenan 37), McEleney (Shields 74), Horgan; Kilduff
ref - P Sutton (Clare)