Saturday 21 September 2019

LOI Weekly - Stephen Kenny braced for another rebuilding mission at Dundalk

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

Daniel McDonnell

Stephen Kenny has admitted that the uncertainty surrounding Dundalk players at this stage of every year can lead to moments where he questions his future in the job.

But the Dubliner says that he must again embrace the challenge of finding new stars if he suffers another exodus.

Kenny fears another talent drain from the league and believes it is going to be difficult to summon up replacements of similar quality.

In recent seasons, he has waved goodbye to key men such as Daryl Horgan, Andy Boyle and Richie Towell who were able to leave for free.

New league champions Cork City are still recovering from the departures of Sean Maguire and Kevin O'Connor and both clubs have out-of-contract players who could leave over the winter - either for elsewhere in Ireland or to options overseas, with America a growing market.

Kenny's main worries revolve around Dave McMillan, Niclas Vemmelund, Patrick McEleney, Sean Gannon and Robbie Benson.

The Dundalk boss has managed to agree new two-year deals with long-serving squad members Chris Shields and Brian Gartland but acknowledged it can be a strange time of year with contract negotiations hanging over preparations for the FAI Cup final with Cork on November 5.

"I know clubs have different problems," says Kenny. "But that (prospect of losing more players) would make you want to not do the job to be honest. You want to create something and build something and you're hitting a brick wall in that regard.

"But sometimes you have to understand these are the circumstances we exist in and sometimes you've got to be creative and be the best you can be. You've got to replace good players with good players, that's what you've got to do."

Cork have moved to offer greater security for their players by following the lead of Shamrock Rovers and handing out 52-week contracts to their squad starting from December 1 - a contrast from the common 40-week arrangement which leaves professional players in limbo over the winter.

Dundalk have gone the same route with new recruits and, in an extensive interview with the LOI Weekly Podcast, which is available on from today, Kenny said that the Lilywhites are also considering a switch from evening training to daytime and some other changes to their existing routine.

He added that news is 'imminent' on plans to improve the dated facilities at Oriel Park as part of plans to progress the club to the next level.

"The concept of a player sacrificing his career or a college career for a one-year, 40-week contract is not sustainable," said Kenny. "That's not a proper industry. You'll end up with players training two nights a week and going out in the first round of Europe every year and having no ambition. The challenge is to build a business model that is sustainable.

"We're miles behind clubs in Europe in terms of what they've got, in terms of resources. We must not limit ourselves, but the problem I've found is the break-up of teams and how you move forward.

"We are in danger of that (a talent drain), that's the big fear. The players want to go as far as they can in their careers, they're ambitious themselves and you have to respect that.

"There's been a huge influx of agents in the last two years - even so much so that players in our U-19 side now have people approaching them - and these are issues we have to deal with as best we can.

"I have to make Dundalk a better environment next season, we have to do that. We've stood still a bit in the last year and we have to push on."

Kenny conceded that Cork were worthy champions this year and discussed his surprise at ex-Dundalk man Sean Maguire's growth into a central striker after he left for Cork in the winter of 2015.

  • The full discussion with Kenny is available on from this morning

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