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Rumour mill is in overdrive during mid-term break

SSE Airtricity League Premier Division


Dundalk's sporting director Jim Magilton

Dundalk's sporting director Jim Magilton

Dundalk's sporting director Jim Magilton


The mid-season break for Dundalk supporters was dominated by trying to source the latest rumour about the comings and goings at Oriel Park, none of which seem to have any basis other then idle speculation.

First there was supporters reading too much into David Healy's comments that he was leaving Linfield, thus giving creditability to reports that had been circulating for some time that he was headed for Oriel Park.

Then there is the latest report that Dundalk are trying to do an exchange deal with Derry City with Will Patching who has turned in some good performances with Ruaidhri Higgins men since joining them on loan at the start of the season allowing the English midfielder to remain with Derry's 'keeper, 23-year-old Nathan Gartside moving to Oriel Park.

Patching, the former Manchester City starlet who had an outstanding international career with England at youth level, has really blossomed since joining Derry, scoring regularly, including a fine brace in his side's surprise 2-1 win over Drogheda United in their last game.

The 22-year-old is due to return to Oriel Park at the end of June and it will be interesting to see if Jim Magilton brings the player back to Dundalk where he got very limited opportunities in his first season when injuries curtailed his contribution.

Dundalk's interest in signing a new goalkeeper, irrespective of their reported interest in Gartside (far right), is obvious for if they are to mount a challenge for a European spot, or even the remote prospect of challenging for the title, then a new 'keeper must be the priority target.

To idle away their thoughts between off the field events at Oriel, and the break in the domestic calendar many Dundalk fans fed their appetite for some football by tuning in to the Republic of Ireland's game with Andorra on Thursday night.

That interest was obviously fuelled by the ardent wish to see their former manager, Stephen Kenny get his first win, which thankfully he did, and in seeing if two of their former players, Daryl Horgan and Jamie McGrath got any game time.

It had been anticipated that both would start, but neither did, with Horgan making a big impact when introduced early in the second half creating one goal and scoring his first for his country in his 13th international, while McGrath came on in the final minutes to make his debut for his country after a very impressive season with St. Mirren.

Ironically in and around the same time as the Irish match was broadcast, one of the sports channels aired a repeat of the south-v-north World Cup qualifier at Lansdowne Road in 1993 which the Republic won 3-0 with the help of a Stephen Staunton goal direct from a corner.

The interest in that game however for many Dundalk fans looking in centred round the performance of one of the NI players, Jim Magilton who was then an Oxford United player.

Magilton played a total of 52 times for the North, making his debut in 1991, and playing his last game in 2002 when he was an Ipswich Town player.

However it is his managerial career that has come under some scrutiny from Dundalk fans since he was thrust into the taking over the reigns last month.

He didn't sign up for the job, content in his role as Sporting Director, and for that reason most supporters were not all that concerned about his credentials for managing the team when he arrived at the club at the start of the season.

Now, if the latest speculation is accurate, it appears that the 52-year-old is to remain in charge of the team for the remainder of the season, with talk of David Healy and Jim McGuinness, amongst many more, now confined to the also rans category.

That has led some to delve more deeply into Belfast born Magilton's managerial career for when he finished playing with Ipswich at the end of the 2006 season he originally intended to secure a coaching role, but was offered the manager's job when Joe Royle departed.

In his first season, Ipswich finished 14th, and the following season they just missed the play-offs in the championship, which led the club to invest substantially in new players hoping to make promotion to the Premier League the following season.

That hope never materialised and Magilton was sacked in April, 2009, joining Queens Park Rangers in June of the same year, but he left by mutual consent after six months.

His first experience of the League of Ireland scene was in July, 2011 when he was appointed assistant to Trevor Croly, taking over for a time before Michael O'Neill, a fellow Northerner, was appointed manager and with Magilton as his assistant the Hoops had one of their best spells winning the title and becoming the first Irish club to reach the group stages of the Europa League.

He then decided to broaden his coaching experience joining Australian A-League Club Melbourne Victory as head coach in January, 2012, during which he recruited players from many parts of the world to strengthen the squad, but his period with Melbourne was described as 'lacklusture', and when his contract expired in April, 2012 it was not renewed.

A few months later he was back in Ireland when appointed performance director with the Irish FA on a four year contract, and managed the under-21 team during that period.

His managerial statistics before joining Dundalk make interesting reading in that he has an average win rate of 34% over his 209 games in charge, with his longest spell at one club coming at Ipswich where he managed the team on 156 occasions, with a win rate of 37.8%.

Throughout that lengthy managerial career, stretching over 15 years, Magilton seems to have favoured a 4-4-2 formation which was the preferred system in the English game when he was at Ipswich and QPR.

Since taking over at Dundalk he has favoured that system, abandoning the 3-5-2 formation that his predecessor Filippo Giovangnoli was trying to perfect.

Unfortunately injuries have prevented Magilton from playing a number of players and it would be interesting to see his preferred first eleven from the squad of players he has at his disposal, and the system best suited to those players.

In the three games before the break against Shamrock Rovers, Bohemians and St.Patrick's Athletic he had to improvise with only one fit central defender, Andy Boyle, forcing him to play his captain Chris Shields at the centre of defence, while he also lost full-back Cameron Dummigan for the Pats game through suspension.

Considering the handicap under which he had to labour, with injuries, and the lack of confidence in the team, the yield of six points from the Rovers and Pats game, both title contenders, was good, although the performance against Bohs was alarming in many aspects.

With three home games against the teams below them and an away derby with Drogheda there remains the prospect of putting a run together that would shoot the team up the table from relegation contenders to at least contesting a European place.

With the transfer window not opening until July it could be a few interesting weeks ahead to keep fans speculating about the prospects of new arrivals or departures in a season like no other in recent times.