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‘Fenlon will be success at Hibs'’

YET ANOTHER Irishman leaves these shores to take up the offer of work abroad that's more secure, more rewarding and better paid.

Except this Irishman is not headed for the building sites of Toronto or the bars of Melbourne to find work, instead he's steeling himself for dugout battles at places like Ibrox and Celtic Park.

Pat Fenlon, the most successful manager in Irish football in recent times with eight major trophies on his CV, will agree terms on his exit from Bohemians and seal his move to SPL side Hibernians in the next 24 hours.

And it's likely that the 42-year-old will breathe a sigh of relief to leave behind the financial basket case of League Of Ireland football and move to a job where work conditions are a lot more stable.

Of course the SPL is hardly a model of financial stability - Hibs' city rivals Hearts have not paid their players in weeks and Rangers are drowning in debt.


But after spending a decade of fighting fires and being constantly plagued by financial woes in the league here, Fenlon will surely look forward to the opportunity of working at a club where the players get the wages they are owed, where he's not expected to clean out the dressing rooms and, at the request of the club's board, scour the local business community to try and secure the €1000 from a match sponsor which is needed to pay the wages.

“I think it will be a huge relief for Pat to work at a place like Hibs in a league like the SPL, and I have no doubt that he will be a big success over here,” said Dundee United defender Sean Dillon, who worked under Fenlon in the league-winning Shelbourne side of 2006.

“You look at all that Pat has achieved over the years, all he has won in the game in Ireland, yet that was always against the backdrop of financial problems, hassle over the players' wages and things like that.

“You can only imagine what he could have done if he didn't have all those worries and hassles, and he should get that chance to do his work without financial worries at Hibs.

“It's a huge club with potentially a massive support, they have great facilities and an amazing training ground. Pat will have all that he needs to make a go of it and be a success, I suppose all he has to do now is go out and prove how good he is by winning matches,” Dillon told the Evening |Herald today.

“I knew two sides of Pat from the league back home. I played against his Shels teams when I was at Longford Town and they were always a great side, and then I had a year playing under him. We won the league and I played in every game so it was a great year for me, it was just a pity the way it all finished up,” added Dillon, in reference to the fact that Shels imploded financially just weeks after that 2006 title success, forcing the break-up of the league-winning team as players like Dillon (to Dundee United), Jason Byrne (to Cardiff), Jamie Harris (to Dunfermline) and Colin Hawkins (to Coventry) all left.

In assessing Fenlon's managerial career there are many highs: back to back titles with both Shelbourne and Bohemians, a double win with Bohs, European ventures such as the Reds' win over Hajduk Split. Some lows as well, like his ill-fated stint with Derry City in 2007 and that still-shocking European defeat for Bohs against Welsh side TNS.


But for Dillon, Fenlon's man-management has always stood out, especially the 2006 season when Fenlon managed to keep the show on the road in the face of near-collapse due to money problems in the middle of the season. “The whole thing nearly fell apart that summer, around the time we played a Lithuanian team in Europe,” recalls Dillon, currently trying to work his way back into the Dundee United side from a calf injury which has kept him out since August.

“The wages were a constant struggle. You were meant to get paid on a Friday but you'd get some on a Monday then a bit more on Tuesday, the next week you'd get paid on a Wednesday, it was crazy and I'm sure it was very frustrating for Pat.

“But he was always straight with the players, he never once lied to us and the players always appreciated that, not every manager would have backed the players the way he did.”

Dillon has been in Scotland now for five years so has an idea of what Fenlon can expect. “The media side of things here is massive, the papers here have much more coverage and more power, but Pat will deal with that just fine,” says Dillon. “Obviously Hibs are in the bottom half (9th of 12 teams) now so Pat will try and get them up the table, maybe go on a Cup run. Clubs like Hibs will look to push on in the league, try to get to Hampden Park for the Cup final and do well in Europe, and I can see Pat being more than capable of doing that.”

Hibs received permission from Bohemians last night to speak to Fenlon and talks were still ongoing this morning, but with no issue over compensation - Fenlon has a year left on his contract at Bohs but he's able to leave for free - a deal should be completed before tomorrow. Hibs may allow caretaker boss Billy Brown remain in charge for Saturday's SPL game with St Johnstone with Fenlon likely to take full control for their next game, away to Motherwell on Friday week.