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Tuesday 24 October 2017

'I'm very honoured' - Dundalk boss Stephen Kenny shocked by Philips Sports Manager of the Year gong

Dundalk manager Stephen Kenny
Dundalk manager Stephen Kenny

Daniel McDonnell in Netanya

STEPHEN KENNY has admitted he was shocked to learn that he'd been named as the Philips Sports Manager of the Year.

But his focus has now turned to ensuring Dundalk's remarkable year finishes on a high in Israel tomorrow.

Kenny missed today's ceremony in Dublin as he is in Israel preparing for the League of Ireland champions' final group stage tie with Maccabi Tel-Aviv.

The 45-year-old is honoured to see off strong competition from the likes of Pat Lam, Martin O'Neill, Joe Schmidt, Jim Gavin and John Kavanagh to land the prestigious award.

"I wasn't really expecting it to be honest with you. I genuinely mean that," said Kenny this afternoon. "I didn't even know if I'd get a monthly award. It's a great honour to receive it.

"Some great people have been nominated for the Manager of the Month awards, they have all had terrific years and in an international context too. It's difficult to decide between sports. I'm very honoured to receive the overall award. It wasn't something I'd even really thought about.

"I'm receiving this on behalf of Dundalk and the players. It's a collective effort. I do appreciate all of the work that everyone does at the club. It's good for football and for Dundalk and the domestic game."

Kenny's team won a third league title in a row in 2016 but it's their European exploits which have brought their profile to another level.

They became the first Irish side to take points in group stage football and they can still make the final 32 of the Europa League despite a disappointing loss to AZ Alkmaar a fortnight ago which means they need a favour from group winners Zenit St Petersburg in Holland.

If Zenit draw with Alkmaar, then three points against Maccabi will put Dundalk through - their under pressure Israeli hosts are in the same boat. But if Zenit can win away to the Dutch side, then a score draw would give Kenny's charges the coveted second spot.

"Three teams have a chance to progress and we are one of them," said Kenny. "We can't pre-occupy ourselves with the other game. With Maccabi, we have enough to contend with. They have a very good team and a lot of international players. We must focus on the game itself and pull off what would be a major win for us."

Maccabi are under the cosh after a run of four games without a goal that has left manager Shota Arveladze on the brink of the sack.

"We have to focus on ourselves at Dundalk," said Kenny, "We've played to a very high level in a lot of the European games and Europa League games. We were below par against AZ Alkmaar, we dropped our standards somewhat. We need to rise to the level that we were at in previous games and see if we can win the game."

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