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Northern Irish group in pole position to take over Dundalk

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Patrick Hoban celebrates with the fans after scoring his side's second goal against Bohemians recently at Oriel Park. Photo by Ben McShane/Sportsfile

Patrick Hoban celebrates with the fans after scoring his side's second goal against Bohemians recently at Oriel Park. Photo by Ben McShane/Sportsfile

Patrick Hoban celebrates with the fans after scoring his side's second goal against Bohemians recently at Oriel Park. Photo by Ben McShane/Sportsfile

A consortium linked to the ownership of Northern Irish side Glentoran are in pole position to take over the running of Dundalk from Peak6.

The controversial American owners have interest from three sources and a decision on the direction of the club is expected in the near future - possibly as early as the next week.

Local parties had come together to form a bid with tech firm Statsports in a group that included former owner Andy Connolly and other figures in the area.

Dubliner Dermot Usher, who recently stepped down as CEO of family business SONAS Bathrooms as part of a buyout of the company, has been looking at Dundalk as a possible investment project and had been in talks with the local group about going in together but they couldn't find common ground.

It's understood that Usher had subsequently looked at the idea of putting money into the club to work alongside Peak6 - but he would have control of the Irish operation.

However, the group with Northern Irish connections is now best placed to assume control of the club.

Former Sunderland chief executive Mags Byrne, who hails from Armagh, is believed to have played a part in bringing this backer to the table and forming connections but she has no role in the consortium.

Byrne does have a link with Dundalk as Sporting Director Jim Magilton is represented by First For Players, the sports management firm she established after her departure from Sunderland.

Magilton's work at Dundalk has come under scrutiny after a turbulent year at the club where he was caretaker boss in between the stints of Italian Filippo Giovagnoli and the return of Vinny Perth.

The drain of talent from the squad has caused alarm, while the departures of three more members of the backroom staff over the weekend have raised further questions with Perth saying he accepted the logic behind their decision to walk away while suggesting the 'environment' was a problem.

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Magilton was opposed to the return of Perth, a call that was made by chairman Bill Hulsizer and his son Matt, the founder of Peak6.

Glentoran were taken over in 2019 by a group led by Welsh-Iranian businessman Ali Pour who was the driving force in clearing debts that peaked at close to £1.8m.

They are also in the process of advancing new stadium plans.

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Dundalk's sporting director Jim Magilton

Dundalk's sporting director Jim Magilton

Dundalk's sporting director Jim Magilton

The wider consortium that took charge of the east Belfast side included Mick McDermott, a former assistant of the Iran national team, who became the new manager and remains in charge.

Last month, it emerged that Pour was branching out into the boxing game with a new business operating in that sphere.

The exact make-up of the group seeking to take the reins at Dundalk has been kept under wraps but other bidders have been notified of a connection with the Glentoran operation.

Ultimately, their position is strong because the feeling is they are prepared to come up with more cash than their rivals - although suggestions of a €2m asking price do not reflect the reality of the state of play.

It's expected that a six figure sum would be sufficient to secure a deal.

The local group are resistant to the idea of paying the Americans to leave, believing that finances should be directed towards rebuilding.

Dundalk are currently operating the highest wage bill in the country by some distance but the priority for the remainder of the season is to avoid a relegation play-off.

They look set to miss out on Europe for the first time since 2013 with the border club winning five out of seven league titles before this disastrous campaign.

A final decision on a sale is expected to hinge on the preferences of the Hulsizers and the indications at this stage are that the Northern Irish group are likely to be presenting the most favourable offer from their perspective - although there are voices in the US who see the argument for handing the keys back to local hands for a smooth handover.

However, it would require a change of heart for the momentum to move that way.

Unhappy fans are expected to make their voice heard at Friday night's league game with Waterford.


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