Saturday 19 October 2019

LOI Weekly: Dundalk set Champions League group stage target

Dundalk manager Stephen Kenny. Photo: Sportsfile
Dundalk manager Stephen Kenny. Photo: Sportsfile
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

The American chairman of Dundalk, Mike Treacy, has asserted that his vision for the Louth club involves qualification for the group stages of the Champions League.

But he has assured supporters that there are plans in the pipeline to improve the dated facilities at Oriel Park with Treacy acknowledging that the unpopular section for away supporters is the 'worst in the league.'

The 31-year-old is a trader with American investment firm Peak6 who have the largest stake in the consortium that took over the League of Ireland side over the winter.

He has been assigned the Dundalk project and is also a central figure in the operation of the company's 25pc stake in Premier League side Bournemouth.

In an extensive interview on the new LOI Weekly Podcast, Treacy discussed the experience with Dundalk so far and opened up on the plans for the future.

He stressed that the new owners are committed to the long term project in Louth and are determined to make improvements in all areas. They do have lofty ambitions for what can be achieved on the pitch, but Treacy says that fans should not be worried by their involvement given the chequered recent history for overseas investment to the league.

"I think it's a natural reaction," he said, "We draw conclusions from prior experiences. (People think) this is an American hedge fund with suits coming in, they're going to buy us and run us into the ground but really, for us, it comes from an obsession with winning.

"We've had success at Bournemouth and we wanted to look to expand that. We want to be involved in a smaller league that competed in Europe. Dundalk happened to check all those boxes, surprisingly. It's been great so far and we hope that we can take this to the Champions League group stages.

"The definition of success is to win every year," he continued, "Not just that. Even the small things.  want to be top of the table everywhere off the pitch. I want to be top of the table in physio, top of the table in marketing, top of the table in accounting, top of the table in concessions."

The elephant in the room is facilities, however, with some supporters troubled by the absence of definitive statements about plans for renovating Oriel Park from the new hierarchy. Treacy says they do not want to reveal their hand before having a firm plan in place, but suggested steps are being taken to get the wheels in motion for significant long lasting changes.

"That is something that we are already addressing, it is something that is planned," he said. "I know we haven't been too open about it. What I will say is that it's on our mind constantly and we are looking at it.

"We do have a couple of redevelopment plans for the YDC (Youth Development Centre which runs along one side of the pitch), we're going to be waiting four months to get approval. There is a light at the end of the tunnel."

Earlier this season, Shamrock Rovers fans produced a banner complaining about the substandard section for away fans and Treacy conceded: "It's the worst in the league.

"I'm foolish if I talk to you right now and say, 'Well you know, it's ok.' It's not. We need to fix it. We know we need to fix it. Project development takes time.

"There's probably a million things that need to be done at Oriel Park and if we try to do a million things all at once, then it's not going to be done to the best of its ability, its not going to be done in a way that it can last 20 to 50 years down the road.

"It is something we're assessing, we know what needs to be done. We're doing the little stuff right now. We have windows coming up where we can really start making noticeable improvements to Oriel Park."

Treacy is helping out Bournemouth in the area of player recruitment and wants Dundalk to become a part of the network, but says that will become a gradual process. He said that there are plans to tie players to longer term contracts and move beyond the culture of one year deals.

He said that Peak6's founder Matt Hulsizer - a successful financier who has invested heavily in ice hockey - is delighted with the progress of the Dundalk project and has engaged himself in that aspect of the job.

"We're not going to leave as is," said Treacy, "Why would I want to invest in players and say in December 'Hey, we'll see you later.'

"We want to run it like a professional franchise, like they run it in England. we want to bring players on two year, three year, four year contracts but it takes time. It has to be an organic growth. Part of the success we're going to have is us not forcing it.

"Patience is not a word people like to hear. I'm thinking about next year. I hope we win the league this year, but my head is plugged in towards two to five years from now. What are the five year implications of every decision I make today? Businesses you invest in with a one year or two year approach - they fail.

"Matt (Hulsizer) is the most competitive person I know. Matt does not travel overseas that much and has not had time to come over but I can assure you every match, he's breathing down my neck when I'm trying to trade and watch the match.

"Matt is commentating on everything that's going on and sending me transfer market links of players and asking questions. His father is sending me links of Costa Rican players that he saw.

"We don't go halfway on things, especially stuff that involves competition. We go in to win. We refuse to lose. If you look at the history of our investments, and because we invest smartly, we haven't lost."

Irish Independent

The Left Wing: Welcome to Irish rugby's biggest week - is an upset on the cards?

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport