'I couldn't really trust Stephen Kenny' - Cork City striker Karl Sheppard on why he turned down a larger salary at Dundalk
Cork City striker Karl Sheppard has claimed that he opted out of a move to Dundalk and improved wages because Stephen Kenny didn't do enough to deny the existence of a deal.
Speculation that Sheppard had signed a pre-contract agreement with the Lilywhites was rife towards the end of the season.
It intensified in the days leading up to the Cork's FAI Cup with Dundalk Sport reporting that the agreement had been made.
Asked about the speculation during the pre-match press conference, Kenny said: "I’m not going to put him in an awkward situation but it’s not something I’m going to deny either at this stage. I’m not going to lie to you."
Speaking on Game On on 2fm last night, Sheppard claimed to have been jeered by his own fans due to the Dundalk links and opened up on an awkward team meeting on the Thursday before the Aviva showpiece.
"I was adamant we both said that this can’t come out," Sheppard said.
"I signed a bit before the cup final. We were both in the semis. I said if we both get through, I can’t have this coming out, or if it is into the last week of the season. I could lose out on a place in the cup final team, or it could throw me massively.
"It was a very bad week for me and a stressful time.
"Ten days from the cup final, we had lifted the league trophy and to be honest, there was a small section and I’d say very small, maybe 15 people in the Cork end that were actually booing me.
"This stuff [speculation] was seeping out. People were giving me a bit of abuse.
"We were lifting the trophy in front of the Shed and I thought, you know what, I’ll let it off. I didn’t want to take away from what was happening on the pitch that day.
"Going into the cup final, more came out, and it went from bad to worse.
"John [Caulfield] had a meeting with the players on the Thursday, sat everyone around and said, ‘look lads, we need to address the elephant in the room. Shep, it seems, is leaving us. He’s been great, but I trust him to do the business on Sunday’.
"Going into the game there was a massive load of pressure on me. If I was having a bad first half I was off.
"[The players] knew the only reason I was going to sign for Dundalk was the fact that my girlfriend has a little one and she is in Dublin and wouldn’t be able to come up and down to Cork so much.
"That was the only reason I was going to leave. Thankfully that situation has changed.
"I knew going into the cup final I wasn’t leaving. The stress drained out of me after the full-time whistle."
Sheppard signed a new two-year contract with the Rebels and revealed that Kenny's actions had prompted him to turn his back on the arrangement with Dundalk.
"I made the decision on the Friday. I spoke to Stephen the day before I signed back with Cork. I said to him, ‘look Stephen, I think you went against what we spoke about'.
"He said that he didn’t want it to come out that way, that it wasn’t his intention in not denying it. I said that if it we had one agreement, I couldn’t really trust you then if you went against it. In fairness to him he’s quite a nice guy and he took it very well. He apologised if it came across that way.
"I was expecting a bit of abuse down the phone, but he is a nice guy and was good about it."