Friday 14 December 2018

Former Dundalk star McDonnell hoping to make his 'point

James Rogers

Dundalk man Stephen McDonnell is hoping to follow in his former manager Stephen Kenny's footsteps by becoming a managerial success story at a young age.

The former Quay Celtic man, who was forced to retire from football in September 2014 due to a heart condition called cardiomyopathy, has been given his first taste of life in the managerial hot seat after being appointed the interim manager of NIFL Premiership side Warrenpoint Town in recent days.

The appointment came after McDonnell's former Dundalk team-mate Matthew Tipton, who he was assistant to, departed the club for Portadown in the aftermath of their 5-0 defeat to Glenavon last Tuesday.

McDonnell's appointment makes him a year younger than when Kenny started out at Longford Town two decades ago and speaking after sharing the touchline with his mentor at Oriel Park on Sunday, the former Celtic player admitted his former boss was an inspiration.

'I'll definitely be picking his brains,' said the former midfielder, who scored a memorable goal in Dundalk's first leg play-off victory over Waterford in 2012 which secured the club's top flight status.

'I'm not surprised at all about how far he has taken the club. The barrier has been raised each year and it has to keep raising. You can't really rest on your laurels. You need to keep building and it's definitely something we'll be looking to do at our club. You should look to progress always. 

'You put the work in and give enough information across to the players to empower them any way you can and the sky's the limit. Our first year with Stephen we finished second when everyone had us wrote off and tipped for a relegation battle. We proved everyone wrong and then they went on and did three in-a-row. It doesn't matter what club you are and who you are as such. The year before we were rocking in with 500 fans and now you're getting 2,500 or 3,000 at matches. It just goes to show success and raising the barrier each year builds a club again.'

Having only recently secured his UEFA A licence, McDonnell admitted the interim appointment has come quicker than he would have anticipated. 'It's probably ahead of time but I'm delighted to take it. When an opportunity arises like this, it's do or die. I've been surrounding myself with a good back room team in recent days so I'm happy to take the job going forward. 

'I was involved in all aspects of the club from youth football right through to first team level anyway so I've a good hand on what we're about. Overall it was probably an easy transition to take the job while I was already at Warrenpoint.'

McDonnell takes charge of his first competitive game this Saturday when Warrenpoint take on Dungannon Swifts. He admits his primary goal is to keep them in the Premiership as they currently lie just four points clear of the relegation play-off spot with eight games remaining. McDonnell says if he achieves the goal he wants the Warrenpoint job on a full-time basis.

'Staying up now is the main objective,' he said.

'We've said that from the offset anyway but we're in a position where there's still a lot of work to do. 'If I do the job I want the job full-time. I won't hold back in saying that. I've said it in a previous quote that age is only a number. I'm going to be tested on my knowledge of the game and what I can get the guys doing for me on the pitch.

'If I get results and ultimately keep us up and do it with a bit of style please God then I'd like to think I'll be in pole position for the job.' 

The Argus