O’Neill to run rule over Lilywhites against Hajduk Split

Padraig Whelan


Padraig Whelan

O’Neill to run rule over Lilywhites against Hajduk Split
High-profile observers are become increasingly more regular at Oriel Park these days.

High-profile observers are become increasingly more regular at Oriel Park these days.

Last week when Dundalk took on Jeunesse Esch in the second leg of their first round Europa League qualifier, a number of faces from across the water were in attendance.

Ipswich Town manager and former Republic of Ireland boss Mick McCarthy along with assistant manager Terry Connor and scouts for Birmingham City to watch any number of Dundalk players if speculation is to be believed.

While the ex-manager of the country was at the Carrick Road venue last week, this time current boss Martin O’Neill will be an interested spectator.

Lilywhites gaffer Stephen Kenny welcomes the former Celtic man’s arrival: “It is great to have Martin in attendance on such a big night for the club.

“I know that he was in the World Cup in Brazil and is coming straight here so it is certainly a busy schedule that he has but it is good for the club that he will be here.

“It is something that he does, as a Derry man I remember when I was at Derry City and he came to our games against Paris Saint Germain so it is a positive.”

However, that does not mean that Kenny is now going to openly start campaigning for the likes of Richie Towell, Daryl Horgan or Andy Boyle to be included within the international set up.

“I have met Martin once before and spoken to him at the DkIT launch in Abbotstown,” he said. “He is a great football mind with his own ideas and I am not naive enough to try and influence him.

“We are definitely not knocking on any doors or anything like that, it is good to have him here for sure, and if he were to ask me my opinion I would give it.”

Another man who could, so good have his performances been, catch the eye of O’Neill on Thursday night is defensive midfielder Chris Shields.

He too is pleased that the Irish boss is actively showing an interest in the League of Ireland, telling The Dundalk Democrat: “It is good to see that he obviously pays attention to the league.

“That is a plus, and going into these European games you are almost representing your country as well so it is great that the main man on the international scene will be here and will be behind us which is a positive for the league too against a good class of opposition.”

When it comes to someone actually making the step up and become the first player from the league to line out for the country since Jason Byrne in 2006, Shields is optimistic.

He added: “We aren’t looking at it thinking because he is here we could have players in the squad but if you look at the starting XI from the last campaign, a lot of them are from the league so it can be done.

“It is well documented that the league can produce good players and the squad we have at the minute is full of young, quality players.

“We have the likes of Daryl Horgan is 21, Patrick Hoban, Richie, Andy Boyle are all only 22. I’m only 23!” he laughed. “The spine of our team has a lot of good young players.

“It is evident to the quality we have and it is a plus that they are so young.”