Decision on O'Donnell expected within days
New Dundalk head coach Vinny Perth is hopeful of retaining the services of club captain Stephen O'Donnell in 2019.
The midfielder, who turns 33 next week, was a notable absentee as the players returned to Oriel Park for the start of pre-season training at the weekend. However, Perth says having O'Donnell on board for next season is a goal and hopes to have him back in the fold sooner rather than later.
'As assistant manager, he was the one player I would have been very, very close to,' he said of the Galway man.
'Myself and Stephen have a real mutual respect and a good working relationship. I've been on the phone to Stephen on and off, we've had a couple of meetings and he has met the club. It's very, very close to a decision being made in the next five or six days but I want Stephen O'Donnell involved in our club 100%. He knows that and he is aware of that.
'My initial thought is that he will be but we have to get all of that signed, sealed and delivered over the next couple of days.
'Obviously Stephen got married at the back end of last year and then had his honeymoon so he was away in South Africa. There has been a lot going on in the background and all of that has probably delayed it not being done late last week but I'd like to think we'll be able to do something together.'
Another absentee at the weekend was Karolis Chvedukas, who played a limited role last season due to an ankle problem that eventually saw him go under the knife in London towards the end of the year. Perth revealed he has given the Lithuanian international additional time to recover but said he had high hopes of him making an impact this season.
'Karolis worked so hard in the off-season and was here most of December so I gave him an extra day or two off,' said Perth.
'He's getting closer to fitness. He was in with Danny Miller for most of December so we just felt it was right to give him a little bit longer before getting him back in. If we can get him fit now after his operation, we think he has a big part to play now this year.
'Hopefully that sort of second season syndrome in Dundalk works for Karolis and I think there's a player in him,' he said.
Sam Byrne is another contracted for 2019 but is understood to be close to a transfer away from Oriel Park having begun pre-season training with Bohemians.
Following Dylan Connolly's departure to League One strugglers AFC Wimbledon last week for an undisclosed fee, Perth admitted that new faces were needed to complete the squad. He said the club were currently monitoring 'seven or eight players' but insisted he did not know how many would be signed.
'There's no real number or set exact amount of players. We have to strengthen the squad and we're going to struggle to get anyone else from Ireland at this stage but we're probably viewing seven or eight targets at the moment. 'We could get them all or we could get one of them so it all depends where that number falls but we do need to improve the squad.'
The two new arrivals so far, Aaron McCarey and Dano Kelly, were both present on Saturday. McCarey will add competition in goal with Gary Rogers while Perth said he had high hopes that Kelly could hit the ground running following his arrival from Bohemians.
'Dan has a bit of everything. He's technically very good. Obviously his pace is a real asset. Between him and Sean Gannon, the two lads from Ringsend, it's like Shelbourne racetrack with the two of them going up and down. Sean has really looked after him like a big brother so it's a good combination but he can also play centre forward.
'It means we've two recognised strikers already and a number three in terms of a centre forward. Our squad at the moment isn't deep enough so that gives me real options.
'I think Dan can play anywhere in the front three but he's a young lad getting his first shot at full-time football so it's going to take him a while. A lot of people talk about second season players with us. I don't think it's going to take him that long to get going but he could score 10 goals in the first 10 games or he could be a bit-part player. It's all up to him but he's one of those players who has a real hunger to achieve something in football and that gives him a real chance.'
Following Sam Rice's decision to emigrate to Australia, Perth has added David Murphy to his backroom panel while a further appointment is expected in Higgins' former opposition analyst role.
Perth said: 'We brought in David Murphy, who will work with Danny Miller. He would have worked with Reading and Colchester academies.
'There will be one more appointment to the staff made over the next couple of days to Ruaidhrí's old job. It might take a week or so but I'm going to make an appointment in that. We put a lot of weight on that position. We've always allowed that person to be a big, big part of the management set up in terms of how to play against opposition so it's an important role and one we've been taking our time before we will but it's very close to that being done,' he said.
Meanwhile, kit man Noel Walsh has also been made full-time by the club.