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‘Filippo does not pick the team’ – Dundalk claim Shane Keegan to have final say on team selection ahead of season

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Dundalk head coach Filippo Giovagnoli. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Dundalk head coach Filippo Giovagnoli. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Dundalk head coach Filippo Giovagnoli. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Dundalk sporting director Jim Magilton has said that Filippo Giovagnoli will not be picking the club's team in the 2021 season with the Louth club hosting a bizarre press conference today where it was claimed that 'team manager' Shane Keegan will have the final say as part of a collective effort.

The FAI Cup holders have moved to outline their official coaching ticket in what is effectively a response to Giovagnoli - a shock appointment to replace last August - lacking the UEFA Pro Licence that is necessary to manage in the league.

Dundalk received a €50,000 fine from UEFA during their Europa League group stage run after they found that Giovagnoli was 'shadow coaching' even though the presence of Pro Licence holder Keegan on the bench and in press conferences was an attempt to deal with the rules set down by the European governing body.

Ex-Wexford and Galway boss Keegan had been promoted from a part-time role as opposition analyst in the aftermath of Perth's exit.

In recent weeks, it's understood that he has also been helping out the club from an administrative point of view after departures of staff and volunteers created a situation where all hands needed to be on deck.

One of Magilton's first tasks was to oversee the club's licensing application because the club didn't have an officer in the position.

On December 8, fresh from FAI Cup victory over Shamrock Rovers 48 hours earlier, Dundalk announced that Giovagnoli had been appointed head coach on a permanent basis

But it was clarified today that his title is now just 'coach' and Keegan will be fulfilling the majority of press commitments for the remainder of the campaign.

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Shane Keegan will be responsible for team selection at Dundalk for the new LOI season . Photo by Ben McShane/Sportsfile

Shane Keegan will be responsible for team selection at Dundalk for the new LOI season . Photo by Ben McShane/Sportsfile

Shane Keegan will be responsible for team selection at Dundalk for the new LOI season . Photo by Ben McShane/Sportsfile

When pushed on who would be picking the team, the relevant parties insisted no one person would be responsible but suggested it would fall to Keegan in the end - statements that will place a lot of scrutiny on the sideline when Dundalk kick off the campaign against Shamrock Rovers in the President's Cup on Friday.

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This will test any theory that Giovagnoli has been demoted.

"We just want to be open and transparent with you guys," said Magilton, who was appointed on a four year deal in December. "UEFA last year, we faced a hefty fine and we took the punishment and we're working very closely with the FAI in terms of our coaching ladder throughout the whole football club from academy to senior staff."

He said both Giovagnoli and assistant Giuseppe Rossi had been in touch with the authorities in Italy and were now seeking to move up the coaching ladder whenever the opportunity arises. They were working in the youth field in New York when Dundalk's US owners made a shock approach, and had never managed at senior level before.

"Giuseppi has applied to go on the A Licence and we're waiting for an answer. It's the same with Filippo but unfortunately he will have to wait because the Pro Licence with the FAI runs until 2022," said Magilton.

"I'm making moves to try and get him a (Pro Licence) position with any other association.

"Filippo does not pick the team," continued the ex-Northern Ireland international when asked directly, before clarifying he would not be sitting in the dugout himself.

"In all my experience (as a club manager), I picked the team when we won and when we lost the group picked the team. There are lots of consultations in a football club."

When Keegan was asked a similar question, he suggested he would have the authority - but with caveats applied.

"People are maybe - not obsessed is the right word - but people are used to certain structures within a club and the structure within the club is going to be a little bit different in terms of what people are used to in terms of decision making," he said.

"I don't think there will be an Alex Ferguson type figure who has complete and utter dominance in all decisions and makes all decisions by himself. It will very much be collective decisions.

"As Jim was saying, we're up to a first team coaching staff of about 6 or 7 all in and that's not including Jim, he's tied up in other things but we would be stupid not to pick his brains in terms of the experience he has as well.

"I'll be taking an awful lot of opinions on board when we're trying to make decisions but I suppose, at the end of the day, the buck will stop with me."

So Keegan's head will be on the chopping block if results are poor?

"To be fair if Stephen Bradley is losing games it won't just be him under pressure," he replied.

"If a team is doing poorly you tend to see the entire management structure or coaching structure as the ones who get the bullet, not just one person. Genuinely, I could count on one hand the amount of times myself and Filippo have actually had any serious disagreement in terms of picking the team. Thankfully the way this structure has come about, the lads have managed to put a structure of management staff and coaching staff that think extremely similarly in terms of our broad principles of the game and how the game should be played and what we want to try and do.

"It's not going to be the case of one particular person pulling rank over any other particular person because 99% of the time after a discussion we generally tend to converge down the same path and almost always our outcome in any situation around our training plan for the week, our tactics for the weekend or our starting 11 generally come to a similar conclusion that we're all happy with so there's no pulling rank or anything like that."

When it was put to Magilton that the FAI had recently selected Giovagnoli to do the press at a sponsorship event with Shamrock Rovers boss Stephen Bradley, he accepted it was a good point and should be directed back towards the relevant authorities in Abbotstown.

He also declined to comment on the situation at any other club. St Patrick's Athletic boss Stephen O'Donnell does not have a Pro Licence but the experienced Alan Mathews ticks that box on the backroom team. The Saints will not be participating in Europe this year.

"I'm not here to question anybody. All I'm here to do is tell you guys this is what we're doing, this is how we're doing it and this is how we want our coaching team to progress moving forward in everything that we're doing.

"We obviously have guidelines and we need to abide by them from a European and domestic point of view and here it is laid out in front of you guys and that's how we see things moving forward. How another club does their business is entirely down to them. It is none of our business.

"He (Filippo) is very much part of this whole process and very much part of this whole team. This is no axe to grind with anyone, this is just a very transparent way to deal with it.

"He's going to be working in our academy too and that was one of the remits for him coming because of his knowledge and because actually it's a blank canvas for us. We're very lucky in terms of that.

"The infrastructure around the academy, and I'm not being disrespectful in any way, shape or form, to anything that has gone on before, but we're very strong on trying to build from the bottom up and from the foundation up and we're all very much in this together."


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