Dundalk got some much needed good news with the league of Ireland being extended for one more week with the league season being lengthened by a week until 8th November.
Dundalk's domestic season will run beyond that with the quarter final of the FAI cup against Bohemians being staged on Saturday 14th November.
The cup will be run off over a two week period until the final on Sunday 29th November.
Their final group stage Europa League game will be played on Thursday 10th December at the Aviva stadium in Dublin.
But the amount of games Dundalk are being asked to play over the coming weeks reads like something out of a science fiction novel.
Dundalk were unable to play Pat's at the weekend because there was a confirmed Covid-19 case among the Pats camp.
Correctly the game was called off for the safety of all.But it's just been another sign of how this terrible infection has affected our society so much.Earlier this year the league season was cancelled for four months and the number of games cut in half to just 18 instead of the normal 36.
Tonight Dundalk travel to Cork and should pick up 3 points.against Cork City,Dundalk's arch rivals during the Stephen Kenny era are bottom of the table and are in deep relegation trouble.Neale Fenn was let go from his job last week and replaced by another Cork great Colin Healy.But Healy has been left with a poisoned chalice. Most he can hope for is to scrape off the bottom of the table and go for the playoffs.
Dundalk just simply must win if they want to keep their hopes of qualifying for the Europa league next season.The fixture pile up would test even the top Premiership sides.
Dundalk were helped somewhat with the 3-0 defeat by Bohemians of Waterford last Saturday. Waterford are just one of a number of sides competing for the priceless 3rd league spot that will guarantee Europe. The win for Bohemians ensures them qualification for next season's Europa League or the alternative Europa conference competition. UEFA are hoping to start the new conference competition next season. It will consist of teams initially from countries from the weaker European powers. In Ireland, places go to 2nd and 3rd in the league and FAI cup holders. League champions still go into the Champions League qualifiers. Defeat sends them into the Europa league and defeat or knock out sends them to the European Conference.
The idea behind the European conference is to allow teams from the weaker leagues stay in Europe longer and earn more money.
The European conference competition may not go ahead next season. But it seems a certainty the following season.
Dundalk play Bohemians in the league on Friday at Oriel. Then next Monday, October 19th, they play Derry City.
On Thursday week 22nd October Dundalk play Norwegian side Molde in the group stages of the Europa League. Three days later on October 25th it's Waterford at the RSC. Four days later Dundalk have the simplest of tasks of going to London to the Emirates Stadium to play Arsenal. On Sunday November 1st it's Pat’s in the league at Inchicore. The following Thursday it's the easy hop over to Austria to play Rapid Vienna in the Europa League.
Dundalk finish up their league season on Sunday November 8th with a home game against Sligo Rovers.
The season continues with a cup game against Bohemians on Saturday 14th November. Win that and there are two more cup games which includes the final. Lose and the domestic season is over.
Dundalk continue with the Europa League stages with a visit to Norway to take on Molde FK on December 3rd.
The final game in the group stages take place in Ireland on Thursday December 10th against Arsenal.
The issue of where Dundalk will play their games in Ireland in the group stages grabbed the headlines over the weekend. The media roared out with a story that Dundalk were in negotiations with the north's IFA and Linfield to play all of their home group stage games at Windsor Park. The reason was because Dundalk had been informed by the IRFU that the Aviva was not available for the first home game against Molde FK. Seemingly it's needed for a training session by the IRFU for the Irish team. One reporter, off the record in a sarcastic tone, said the IRFU wanted the Aviva that night so that Jonathan Sexton could improve his kicking.
The reality is that if it is true the IRFU now want the Aviva on the night Dundalk are supposed to play Molde it's ridiculous having agreed the date with Dundalk. If it was only a provisional agreement the IRFU are of course entitled to seek the Aviva. But what is the big deal. Tallaght is available to play the game so there is no problem.
To the readers of the Democrat I can guarantee that Dundalk will not be playing any of their qualifying games in Belfast. Personally, I would love to play the games at Windsor. It’s a magnificent stadium. It has been completely revamped in recent years and in my opinion is easily on a par with the Aviva.
But the games will all be played in Dublin. I’m confident all three will be played at the Aviva. However it's no problem if one is even played at Tallaght Stadium. It’s a magnificent ground and should be used as a prototype by Dundalk for a new stadium.
All of this talk of stadiums not being available brings up an old question again. Why are Dundalk FC’s owners Peake 6 not investing in a revamped Oriel Park? A brand new stadium at Oriel, to bring it belatedly up to date in the 21st century, is needed. We can't even play our group stage games in Dundalk. These games would be a massive investment for the local economy in normal times. But they have to go outside Dundalk because there is no stadium.
Peake 6 are an organisation with a vast amount of riches. They can afford to build a new stadium at Oriel or go elsewhere.
It's a huge pity previous owners of Dundalk turned down the chance of an all seater stadium at DKIT - the first time there were grants available from the FAI and reportedly the local council. Dundalk would be anchor tenants in the 10,000 all seater stadium now.
The interest just was not there among the powers to be at Oriel at the time. The same offer was then made to Louth GAA. They initially had a strong interest, but then pulled away. A couple of years later Dundalk were again approached but again it fell on deaf ears. To be fair to the owners of the club, twice they were offered the chance. It's understandable why it was turned down as the economy at the first time had crashed and the second time there was still much uncertainty, not only about the country, but the club as well.
But the people outside of Dundalk FC who wanted the club to bite the bullet and go for it say the club should have taken the chance.
Anyway, Louth GAA have stood in again and they have seized the opportunity to build a magnificent stadium and a new county ground. The first sod has been turned and with money coming from GAA headquarters, along with money raised by the Louth GAA and Louth County Council, a fine stadium will now be built.
Speaking of Louth County Council, I am disgusted by their recent failure to recognise Dundalk's great achievement of qualifying for the group stages of the Europa League.The council have been silent on Dundalk's achievement.
Of course it's nothing new.They have barely recognised Dundalk's achievements over the last six years.They have given maybe at a maximum of two civic receptions. This despite the fact the club won five Leagues and two cups over six seasons and qualified for the group stages of the Europa League twice and did so well in the Champions League.
The lack of response of recognition on Twitter by many of our local representatives also amazed me when Dundalk got to the group stages.
To be fair there have been some, including Councillor Antoin Watters, Deputy Fergus O'Dowd and Senator Erin McGreehan. Antoin and Erin are amazing supporters and it was great to see Fergus O'Dowd row in with the congratulations. Two of the reps here replied to me when I asked on Twitter what local reps had congratulated Dundalk.
You may think this is not important but it is .Our local reps must recognise that we have a great asset in Dundalk FC and yet many ignore the achievements. To be fair, local TD Peter Fittzpatrick has been a good help to Dundalk in the past and I'm sure if asked by the club to help again he would. And I'm sure I've left out other reps as well who may have sent their congratulations and apologies to those I have.
But the fact that not once did the council go all black and white for the five FAI cup finals says it all. The town hall should have been adorned in black and white for those five finals as well as the Louth County Council headquarters across from the Redemptorist church.
But what do we see? Nothing.
However if Dundalk's owners are serious about getting funding for a new stadium or the complete revamp of Oriel they need to set up a small committee of the right people who would know how to go about getting the funding and maybe property for a new stadium.
Peake 6 are very wise business people but they need the right small group of people here to push the project and who can actually get things done. I don't blame the council for Dundalk not having got funding for a revamped Oriel Park or a new stadium. Dundalk have never approached them properly with a clear plan as far as I know.
Dundalk needs to get the support of a wealthy local business person quietly on board.They need a small committee to work the oracle, while many don't know it's happening.
I know one group in Scotland who did this and got their brand new stadium. I know the pioneer of the project personally. Peake 6 need a business plan for the project and work with a trusted very small group to get the project off the ground. To Peake 6 I say if you are serious about staying in Dundalk - and I think they are - we can get our stadium and you will not have to pay for all of it. But you must start planning now if you are serious. If you are not serious then say it.
As I write this article I remember today is the anniversary of the murder of late Jimmy Hasty the one armed player by loyalist players.
Jimmy was signed by the late Jim Malone then director who also died on 11th October. That was back in 1996.
But way back in 1962 Jimmy Hasty, a one-armed player was signed by Malone, unknown to the board of directors. He paid for Hasty out of his own pocket.
When he spoke to his board they told him he would get no money from them unless he proved his worth.
Well prove his worth he did. He helped Dundalk to the league title in 1962/63 by being the leading scorer in the country. He mesmerised defences and was superb. He often stayed in Dundalk before and after games with another great from that era - the one and only John Murphy. John has described Jimmy as being a great character who would often wear a new suit each week. John used to tie Jimmy's bootlaces when he stayed at his house and before match games.
Jimmy is very famous for helping Dundalk to become the first Irish team to win away from home in a European competition. That was in 1963. Dundalk lost the first game at Dalymount, but despite winning the second leg, they just failed to qualify on aggregate in Zurich. Jimmy rattled the Zurich crossbar near the end of the game. Had it gone in Dundalk would have gone through.
Needless to say the board gave Jim Malone his money he paid for signing Hasty.
Jimmy went on to play for Drogheda but it was always Dundalk he was associated with.
One hilarious incident was when Dundalk played in a big game at Dalymount Park. Jimmy starred and scored. When a national newspaper photographer went back to base the editor saw a photo with a one-armed player. He was certain it was a mistake. He duly added a second arm to Jimmy's photo which appeared in the national broadsheet. Jimmy worked in a bookies office in Belfast. His job was to write the odds on the blackboard.
In those days there was no such thing as electronic odds boards or, of course, online gambling.
On 11th October 1974 Jimmy was on his way to work. As he walked down a street in Belfast he was brutally murdered by loyalist paramilitaries. The only reason was because he was a catholic. Security forces in the north confirmed that poor Jimmy was just another innocent victim. I remember the day it happened. It was shocking.
Jimmy left behind him a young wife and children. Jimmy was in his late 30's when he died. He died at the scene. What a way for one of Ireland's most talented players to die.
Jimmy was comforted by a man named George Lamour who put a coat over him and stayed with him while the emergency services came .But Jimmy was gone.
The man who stayed with Jimmy never contacted his family for years that he was the man who stayed with Jimmy until the end.
He owned an Ice cream shop in Belfast. This hero who stayed with Jimmy asked his brother one day in October a number of years afterwards, to take his shift at the Ice cream parlour they both owned.
Little was he to know that Republican paramilitaries would enter his premises on that day. They opened fire on his brother at 10.45 that night brutally killing John and seriously wounding two young teenagers, a boy and girl, innocently having quality time with each other.
The date this happened weirdly was 11th October. John Lamour was murdered on the same date as the former Dundalk FC hero.
The murder promptedf a book being written called Don’t Shoot the Ice Cream Man.
It was about the brutal murder of John Lamour and was by his brother George - the man who comforted Jimmy Hasty. The intention of the book was to find out who the killers were. As far as I know that has never happened.
There was a game played by Dundalk after Jimmy died at Oriel that was to raise funds for Jimmy's family. Two hours before the game loyalist paramilitaries using a recognised pass word said there was a bomb in Oriel.
I saw Gardai enter the stadium in force to search the ground. Sadly the people who had murdered Jimmy would still not leave him alone.
But a meticulous search of the ground found nothing and the game went ahead.
22 years later the Jimmy Hasty story took another strange twist. The man who had signed the one-armed wonder Jim Malone died on 11th October 1996. That date was the same one Jimmy was murdered and the date the brother of the man was murdered who had comforted Jimmy as he lay dying. And as his life drained away after loyalists brutally murdered the Dundalk FC hero on a Belfast street.
It's important to stress that the shooting of the man in the ice cream parlour was a few years after Jimmy died. The hero who comforted Jimmy and who was lucky he was not murdered did not bring to light that he was there to comfort Jimmy as he lay dying until years afterwards.
But the date 11th October ties three people together very strangely, two of them Jimmy and my dad Jim Malone.
I have no doubt that bowing out of life himself Jim Malone would be glad to have some connection with the great Hasty even if it meant they both died on the same date 11th October. He passed in 1996.
Former Dundalk manager Stephen Kenny has had a tough week as manager of the Republic of Ireland. The Covid virus wreaked havoc on his squad. On Wednesday he lost two players for the vital Euro qualifier play off in Slovakia. They were regarded as being close contacts to a person connected to the virus. The game went to penalties after a scoreless draw. Ireland lost and were out.
Stephen lost more players on the Sunday as Ireland played Wales. Again it was connected to the Covid virus. The game was scoreless late in the second half when former Dundalk great Daryl Horgan came on. Playing on the wing Horgan was much more effective. Seanie Maguire also came on as a striker again late in the game.
He had no time to make an impact.The team play Finland tomorrow Wednesday. Horgan should start. Seanie Maguire should play as the one out-and-out striker Kenny uses. And Jack Byrne should also start. He has the flair in midfield that will open up any defence.
It's the end of another week. It’s a very stressful time for everybody across the world with this virus. People are losing their jobs and businesses are closing. Young, middle- aged and elderly are all under pressure. Many are contracting the virus .
But within all the bad news and pessimism I am confident we will beat this virus. We are at war and under attack from an invisible enemy.
We must all be responsible and obey the public health advice. Working together as a people I know we will prevail.
Please take care of yourselves and your loved ones.Life is good and we can protect that by working together.
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