Monday 10 December 2018

Dundalk must prove there's life after Kenny - McEleney

Dundalk's Patrick McEleney with his SSE Airtricity/SWAI Player of the Month award for October at Oriel Park. Photo: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile
Dundalk's Patrick McEleney with his SSE Airtricity/SWAI Player of the Month award for October at Oriel Park. Photo: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

This was supposed to be a quiet winter at Oriel Park. With a double in the bag and their leading players all signed up, it was Dundalk's rivals that were meant to be scrambling around looking for solutions.

The events of the past week have changed that. Stephen Kenny's era has ended abruptly. Dundalk hope for clarity by the end of the week with his assistant Vinny Perth requiring a Pro-Licence holder to join the management team he is set to lead.

Continuity is the keyword; any links with high-profile outside candidates are way off the mark. Most of the squad were at the second day of captain Stephen O'Donnell's wedding when they heard about upheaval via social media.

Staff members were on holidays. Leading officials found out the news just before the rest of Ireland did. They had known for some time that the FAI wanted Kenny for the U-21 job, and also knew he didn't want it.

But the guaranteed promotion to the senior post has left Dundalk bereft of the charismatic figure that has lifted a club and town and all within it.

Patrick McEleney was at Oriel yesterday to pick up his SSE Airtricity/SWAI player of the month award for October/November yet knew there were other issues on the agenda.

"He's maybe been the best manager in League of Ireland history," said McEleney, who felt his mentor should have got the nod straight away. "Personally, I think he's the best man for it now. Obviously I didn't want him to leave Dundalk but he's going to be the Ireland manager at the end of the day. It's a no-brainer."

An immediate appointment for Kenny might have helped McEleney too seeing as he made a point of arguing last month that the Derryman was international standard. The 26-year-old will have to make sure he's in a good place in 2020 - although he would obviously like for Kenny to put a good word in with McCarthy - while confessing that he'd be open to a call from Northern Ireland's Michael O'Neill too.

Either way, he is adamant that Dundalk's stars will not let their standards slip. At a meeting on Sunday night, they spoke of the need to respond to a new challenge and deliver on their targets with Europe a massive goal in 2019. In a way, it's about proving they were more than a one-man show.

"It's a big challenge for us," stressed McEleney. "We have to prove that we are a well-oiled machine and we can keep going and keep winning things.

"The other clubs will all be rubbing their hands. I would be. But we are a proud group of players. Stephen brought in genuine people who want to do the right things.

"We're not young boys. I think we're all getting into our prime, we're all around 25, 26, 27 and we're not kids and we don't need babysitting. We're looking forward to the challenge."

McEleney always had a great relationship with Kenny - he took him back to the club on a three-and-a-half-year deal following an unhappy stay at Oldham - so it's no surprise to hear him say that the 47-year-old will win over the senior dressing-room once he gets in there.

Kenny does have his quirks, but McEleney reckons he will have support. "James McClean is a big voice there and knows exactly what Stephen is like," he replied. "He loves Stephen.

"There's a lot of (ex) League of Ireland players there, like Seamus Coleman too, and I would say they'll buy into it very quickly because of how excited he is about attacking players and the way he likes to play. Personally, I think they'll love him."

Around Dundalk they'll vouch for that.

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