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Caps are on the HORIZON

STEPHEN KENNY has seen almost an entire XI of players emerge from under his tutelage and go on to win senior international caps, on stages as big as the European Championship and World Cup finals.

And while the Dundalk boss is not eager to bang on the door of Martin O'Neill's office in the FAI to make a claim for some of his present squad of players, he does feel that some of that crop from Dundalk in 2014 have the potential to go a lot further in the game.

Talents like Richie Towell, Kurtis Byrne, Pat Hoban, Daryl Horgan and Sean Gannnon are bound to come on the radar of foreign clubs at the end of this season and progress to the Irish squad could also happen at some stage.

But he wants them to have achieved success at Oriel Park before moving on to the next stage of their careers.

"It's inevitable that there will be interest in our players. Some of our players might get an opportunity to play at a higher level and that's fine, that's part of football life in Ireland at the moment," says Kenny.

"We want players to be successful with Dundalk first and foremost," says Dundalk. "We want them to be a success here and whatever happens after this season ends, then so be it. There is a great determination for them to be successful this season and they want to do that, and no one would be more pleased than me if some of this group went on to the international team some day.

"We are looking to improve players and push them to be the very best they can be, that's the ethos of the club. We're not overly concerned about that, the focus now is on the short-term and seeing out this season.

"The days of long contracts in the League of Ireland are gone, we know that, and there is a possibility that players could go, but all that matters now is for us to rally around and focus on the games ahead."

As a club manager, Kenny has had more than an idea of what senior international football demands. Glen Crowe was capped by Ireland in 2003 when Kenny was his manager at Bohemians, while Kenny watched with pride as players from his time at Derry City went on to win senior caps with the Republic (David Forde, Conor Sammon, James McClean), Northern Ireland (Paddy McCourt, Niall McGinn, Daniel Lafferty) and even Libya (Eamon Zayed).

And another one popped up on TV in Brazil earlier this summer. "Sol Bamba was Kolo Toure's partner at centre half at the World Cup for the Ivory Coast, I had Sol in the squad at Dunfermline as a young player when I was there," says Kenny. "It's funny how things turn out."

Dundalk remain very much on course for honours this season, the league title their focus this weekend as Bohemians come to Dundalk tonight, Kenny aware that his former club have already taken a point away from Oriel Park this season.

"Bohs have been in very good form and they have beaten Cork twice in the last few weeks so we expect a tough game tonight," says Kenny.

"But we have been excellent, the application from the players every single day and the desire to get better is always there, there is a great drive to succeed, and we are playing with great confidence at the moment."

Part of Kenny's job right now is to rein in expectations, with some Dundalk fans touting a treble success. "There has been talk this week with people tipping us for the treble but we are just focused on the league, league points," he says.

"We won't get caught up in that, our next three games are in the league so that's our focus.

"No one give you points in this league, you have to work hard for every point as we will have to do tonight, we've had two tough games against Bohemians already this season and tonight will be tough again. But there is a confidence there that can carry us through."

One major asset for Kenny in his job this season is the delivery of goals. While recent title-winners have tended to rely heavily on one main striker for goals (Gary Twigg, Glen Crowe, Jason Byrne, John O'Flynn), Dundalk get their deliveries from all over the park.

"We have had 16 different scorers in all competitions this season, that's unique," says Kenny.

"We have a collective belief. Pat Hoban is going strong at the moment, 15 league goals, and he does spearhead our attack and is doing really well, but we're not reliant on him. Of the starting XI we will have tonight, every individual has scored for us this season, bar keeper Peter Cherrie."

Tonight Dundalk face a Bohs side who are feeling confident after a good run which saw them reach the last eight of the FAI Cup, but their cause tonight is seriously hampered by injury and suspension.

"I'd love to play them with a full-strength team but I still feel confident enough to go up and get a result. We want to go and win the game," says boss Owen Heary.

"There's nothing expected of us going to Dundalk but we're definitely going to take the game to them."


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