Dundalk chairman Ciaran Bond is hoping that Stephen Kenny can follow in the footsteps of legendary managers Jim McLaughlin and Turlough O’Connor by guiding the club to a sustained period of success.
McLaughlin sat in the Dundalk hot seat for nine years between 1974 and 1983, a glorious spell that saw three league titles and three FAI Cups make their way into the trophy cabinet at Oriel Park. As well as dominating at home, the Derry man also masterminded a host of unforgettable European nights that saw Dundalk compete with the best teams on the continent.
O’Connor took the reins in 1985, two years after McLaughlin’s departure to Shamrock Rovers, and his eight year tenure at Oriel Park saw the club lift five trophies, including two league titles, one FAI Cup and two League Cups.
Kenny recently put pen to paper on a contract extension that will keep him at at Oriel Park until the end of the 2016 season. The former Shamrock Rovers boss took charge of Dundalk in late 2012 and led the Lilywhites to the runners up spot in his first season in charge before delivering the club’s first league title in 19 years when they beat Cork City in front of 6,00 fans at Oriel Park last October.
Other highlights from 2014 include a European run that saw the Lilywhites win three of their four matches, the EA Sports Cup final win over Shamrock Rovers and some breathtaking football that saw Kenny’s side score over 100 goals in all competitions.
Long term supporters of the club have been quick to compare Kenny’s Dundalk team to those of the McLaughlin and O’Connor eras - with many saying the current batch is the best ever. And, with that in mind, it’s no surprise that the Dundalk board are delighted to have secured Kenny’s services for another two seasons at least.
“Stephen Kenny has been very good for Dundalk Football Club and equally Dundalk Football club has been very good for Stephen Kenny. It’s a relationship that works very well,” said Bond.
“The club has provided the platform for Stephen and the team to progress and he has rewarded us with trophies in the cabinet. Long may that last.
“If Stephen is as successful as he has been then of course we would want to keep him here for a sustained period of time,” added Bond.
“Whether that happens remains to be seen as you would imagine that clubs across channel are looking at Stephen but, from our perspective, we’d be happy to have Stephen Kenny here until 2026!”
Confirmation of Kenny’s contract extension was announced prior to Dundalk’s 2-1 win against Cork City at Turners’ Cross. Timing, they say, is everything.
“The whole thing was agreed at the latter end of last season and it was just a matter of dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s,” said Bond.
“The only thing we had to decide on then was when to put the news out there and the week leading up to the Cork game was ideal. It was choreographed very well!,” he laughed.
“Obviously it’s a good news story for the football club in terms of maintaining continuity with the management, backroom staff and the players.
“It’s a widely known fact that some of the players have signed two year contracts and are here until 2016 so it’s essential that the manager is here also,” he added.
Despite their success, one thing that escaped McLaughlin and O’Connor was winning back to back titles.
Kenny and his players have made a fantastic start to their bid of making Dundalk history, winning eight & drawing two of their opening 10 league games.
“We have made an absolute whirlwind start,” agreed Bond. “To be unbeaten after 10 games in the first phase of games is phenomenal. It rarely happens because teams are usually at full strength during that run. It just shows you that this group, under Stephen’s leadership, are as hungry as ever to retain the title.
“Last season’s title success has kicked people on,” he added. “I think some people in the media had the impression that Dundalk wouldn’t have the hunger after winning the league last year but if you look at those first 10 games, it tells a different tale.”