No quick return to Drogheda for new assistant
By Gavin McLaughlin
DARIUS Kierans was officially unveiled as Dundalk's new assistant manager yesterday but the former Drogheda United boss won't be making a quick return to United Park as it was confirmed that Friday's Malone Cup tie has been called off.
A statement released by Drogheda United stated that the game "has come too soon for them to assemble a competitive team". A new date for the fixture has yet to be agreed but Dundalk CPO Paul Johnston said it was unlikely to go ahead in pre-season.
"At the minute we haven't discussed a re-fixture but it will be difficult", he said. "The Malone Cup is a big issue for Dundalk FC. Given the connection with Jim Malone we would like to keep the cup going but our pre-season schedule is very tight."
News of the postponement came just moments after Kierans was confirmed as Ian Foster's number two. The 31-year-old takes over from Wayne Hatswell, who departed for Newport County at the end of December last year. Head of Youth Development Martin Connolly has stepped down from first team affairs and will focus on the club's A Championship side this season.
"I had a couple of options but I spoke to Ian before Christmas about coming in and I'm more than happy to be involved", said Kierans. "Myself, Wayne and Martin did our UEFA A license course together last year. We did a lot of our work here at Oriel Park so I got to know the lads through the course of the year. Ian's teams like to get the ball down and play. It is a philosophy I share so I'm delighted to be part of it."
With Foster currently in the UK on his Pro-license course, Kierans has been directing pre-season training in recent days. He has been particularly impressed by the batch of young talent on view.
"There are some very gifted players here. Technically they are very good. We might be small numbers wise, but there is plenty of ability and I'm looking forward to working with the younger lads in the squad. I've seen the likes of Nathan Murphy, Johnny Breen and Marc Griffin coming through in recent years and Ian has shown his intent in giving young players an opportunity. That was a big factor in me coming in.
"When you look at it in a general sense, there is plenty of ability in Dundalk", he added. "The Schoolboys League is very strong, the Milk Cup and Kennedy Cup teams always do well and then there is the Youth Development Centre a swell. Martin Connolly has done a fantastic job here. We had the youth system up and running at Drogheda and he came up and started asking questions and seeing how things were going. He has got it up and running here and I think the future looks really bright."
Kierans spent seven years with the Drogs, guiding them to various honours at under-age level before being offered the first team job in July of last year. The FAI's refusal to sanction the move because he did not hold a full A-license meant that he oversaw team affairs under the title of Director of Football. Despite rallying the United Park side for a number of games, Kierans left the post and Drogheda were relegated.
"It was difficult year for Drogheda, it didn't end great but things move on", he said. "I was there for seven years and we had a lot of success at under-age level. We won FAI Cups, had eight players capped by Ireland and won league titles in Dublin. I was delighted to get a crack at the first team but it was under difficult circumstances.
"It doesn't help us that the Malone Cup game is off on Friday. The fitness levels of the lads are great. They've been at it for three weeks now but they really need to get a game under their belts now. Hopefully we can organise something, even a behind closed doors game to get our sharpness up to scratch."
One player hoping to follow in Kierans's footsteps is former Drogheda United left-back Eoghan Osbourne who has been training at Oriel Park in recent days.
"We're having a look at Eoghan", confirmed Kierans. "Over the next few weeks we will get players in to have a look at in training and in games. Eoghan is young, he is local and he goes to college in Dundalk so he fits the bill. He is a talented boy but it will be up to Ian whether he comes on board and at the minute we are a long way from deciding that".