Sean McCaffrey’s squad is beginning to take shape after he added a number of players to his squad over the weekend.
From last season’s squad, McCaffrey has re-signed midfielder Stephen McDonnell and defender Nathan Murphy, who will once again link up with striker Marc Griffin, who was the manager’s first signing when he was appointed on December 23.
Joining the native trio is goalkeeper Ger Hanley, who played with Mervue United last year. McCaffrey is all too familiar with the 20-year-old shotstopper’s attributes as Hanley played with the Irish squad from the Under-17s to Under-21 level.
Speaking at the weekend, when the Dundalk Democrat went to press, McCaffrey spoke highly about Hanley.
He said: “He’s a very good young goalkeeper with a lot of ability. He may only be six feet tall, but he has some fine attributes. He’s an Irish international at Under-17, 18, 19 and 21 level.”
However, Hanley could face stiff opposition for the number one spot from a familiar face to Lilywhites fans, in the form of Peter Cherrie, who McCaffrey was due to meet with over the weekend.
“Peter is settled in Dundalk from what I know and we would like him to stay.”
On the subject of goalkeepers, the new boss also reiterated his desire to install a goalkeeping coach for the coming season.
“We need a goalkeeping coach. There is no point in being able to coach other aspects of the game to players and then not have a coach for the goalkeepers. Not having a goalkeeping coach probably hindered Peter a lot last year, so it’s something we will get sorted for this year.”
McCaffrey, who was busy meeting five or six players a day in the holiday season also expected Wolves player Johnny Dunleavy to put pen to paper on a deal at Oriel Park over the weekend.
Dunleavy, a Donegal native was recently offered a contract from Barnet FC after spending some time with them on loan, but after suffering a bad injuy, he revealed to McCaffrey that he wanted to come back to Ireland.
The versatile defender is also an Irish Under-21 international and can play centre-back or on the right hand side of defence, a ready made replacement for last season’s captain, Simon Madden, who has been linked with a move away from Oriel.
“John is very good going forward and defending. At the moment, it could look like we will be signing him as a right sided defender, but he can easily play in the middle.”
Originally, McCaffrey set a St Stephen’s Day deadline for players, but after a hectic week in charge, which was disrupted by the Christmas holidays, the gaffer is giving players a little bit more time to think about their futures.
Other players who McCaffrey has had talks with include Ian Birmingham, who was with St Patrick’s Athletic in 2011, Bray Wanderers midfielder Chris Shields and Mervue United centre midfielder John Mountney. The Lilywhites boss is waiting on word from those players and indeed a number of others, such as Colin Hawkins as he looks to shape his side for the 2012 campaign.
The players certainly fit in with McCaffrey’s plans to sign players who want to achieve something at Dundalk and show a hunger for the shirt.
“If a player comes here, then they have ambition. We don’t have the budget to sign the senior players who are asking for big money. We want players who are hungry to do well and we want to reward their commitment by keeping them on longer than one year.”
McCaffrey has ambitious plans to eliminate the merry-go round of faces in and out the door in the close season by offering players yearly deals, something he says the club are supportive of.
“Assembling squads for 40 weeks and then bringing in a whole new squad is not the way to go. It doesn’t work and disrupts all the work you put in all year. It’s not a sustainable model and it has to change in the league at some point.
“What we we hope to do is keep 14 or 15 lads and add another few faces in at the end of the season.
“Paul Johnston knows the game, he’s played the game and he knows it’s not ideal for players to be out of contract at the end of the season and he supports this.
“We would like to keep players who are committed and reward them, though if something big comes in for them, we won’t never stand in their way.”
It’s McCaffrey’s first time dealing with a budget, but he is relishing the task at hand and so far has enjoyed every minute of his new tenure.
“I’ve said it before, but I really cannot wait to get started out on the pitch. The people here at Dundalk are all very good people.
“So far I have found them all easy to deal with and they believe in the plan that we have set out for the club.”
The former Republic of Ireland under-age boss has revealed that he will take more than a passing interest in the youth setup at the club, with ambitious to have a say in the development of players at the club.
“I won’t be picking the teams or telling the managers who to play and when, but I would like to think I could have a say in what way they should be playing and how they develop players at the club.”