Dundalk supporters before the SSE Airtricity League Premier Division match between the Lilywhites and Derry City at Oriel Park. (Photo by Ben McShane/Sportsfile)
Dundalk’s season closed with a loss against Derry at Oriel Park on Friday night 2-1. The home side were the better of the two teams for large parts of the game.
They led after 38 minutes, but a Derry leveller in injury time in the first half and an early second half goal saw City come away with the three points to keep their European hopes alive.
It was Derry’s first win at Oriel since 2013. Dundalk finished in a comfortable mid table position and as such they can now plan ahead with next season in mind.
Bohemians lost the chance to grab the European place through the league after only drawing with Sligo. They have another bite of the cherry next Sunday in the FAI cup final.
Should they win then Derry loses out on Europe. Should Pats win the cup it’s Derry who qualify for the Europa Conference League.
Shamrock Rovers won the league in a canter for the second season in a row. They now enter the Champions League. Rovers look set to dominate Irish soccer for years to come.
But who knows? Football is a funny old game and like in life anything can happen. Derry City might challenge them next season with their newfound riches, with three of the current Dundalk squad now a part of their arsenal.
For Dundalk they see new owners at the helm who are local and who will plan ahead carefully. They must decide who their manager will be and what type of budget that will be at their disposal.
Approximately just three players are still in contract. They are skipper Andy Boyle, Ryan O’Kane and Mayowa Animashun. The latter two are under 19 players who featured in the first time on occasions this season. They are great prospects and look to have a big future in the game.
Vinny Perth’s contract is also up around the end of November. The manager’s fate lies in the owners’ hands. The total mess of the past season is nothing to do with him. He in fact guided Dundalk to safety when they could easily have finished in the playoff spot.
It took time for Vinny to put his stamp on the team when he returned. But to his credit he did just that. However, when new owners come in, they want their own man as manager. Vinny may well be that man. But there is no doubt they will look at options elsewhere before the final decision is made.
The big difference next season is that the players budget will be cut back drastically. Vinny has confirmed it was around €2 million. Some media outlets suggest that at one stage it was twice that.
Last season Peak6 appointed four managers on four separate occasions. At the fourth time of asking they got it right. The Dubliner had a great run in the Europa Conference League, netting the club €1 million. When he got the balance of the team right Dundalk were superb.
Vinny spent seven years as Stephen Kenny’s assistant. His style of football is the Kenny style. Negative football is not his way. He knows the league inside out.
Two years ago he won the league title and the EA Sports Cup along with the Unite the Union Cup as well as missing out on the FAI Cup trophy following a penalty shootout.
Peak6 have left the club in a mess. The new owners must tread carefully in their bid to re-establish the club as a force in Irish football. They have to decide if the club goes part time or full time. They have to decide on the players budget which will be nothing like what the budget has been for the past couple of years.
To me it’s sickening when I see what some of the wages a small number of players were on. That just could not have gone on any longer.
Dundalk started the season with a panel of 35 players. The then Dundalk management and chairman sent a top-class player in Will Patching on loan to Derry City for six months. He returned to Oriel and was one of the players who played a key role in getting Dundalk out of trouble and away from the play off zone.
The Lilywhites recruited very badly as well and paid huge money to a small number of players. A number of the new players played little or no part in the team during the season with one or two on unbelievable money.
As the season wore on the squad reduced considerably. But a tiny number of players on huge wages remained. So even if the players budget was €2 million, which it was by the time Vinny Perth came in, no way could the new owners spend anything like that on future wages.
The club must also decide on what players from the current squad they can keep and who wants to stay. Andy Boyle told me after the game that he was confident a sizable number of the current squad will stay.
The Dundalk Player of the Year said by adding a number of players, the side can challenge for Europe next season and within two seasons challenge for the league title.
Andy had a magnificent season. He was a real leader both on and off the pitch. I feel Dundalk have a player of the highest quality in this man.
I spoke to Peter Cherrie as well. When Vinny Perth made him the first team keeper and made a defensive change, the team reproduced the form they are capable of. Peter was magnificent. He also said he wants to return.
Vinny Perth said that no matter what happens he has been very proud of his time at Oriel over the last nine years and what he has achieved. Perth said his future at Oriel is what it is and that whatever will be, will be.
He confirmed that he will continue to speak with the new owners and that he was still under contract for a little while longer. I would guess the end of the month.
Vinny said that whatever decisions are made regarding the appointment of a new boss he would like to think they will be made in the right manner, together, as opposed to people speculating about him and his life and everything like that.
The current boss continued that he has a family at home. He says first and foremost they will know the decision he makes.
Vinny said Friday night was a very emotional night for the players, a lot of whom won’t be back. He said his players have been like little brothers to him.
The Dubliner stated he has really enjoyed his last few months and he had a good connection with his players. He spoke of losing Patrick McEleney through injury for the rest of the season during the Derry game in the Brandywell.
Daniel Kelly only returned for the last few weeks. David McMillan was out for the rest of the season through injury. Kelly was also injured in August and never really got back in the team. He said they were also hit with Covid.
Vinny’s points are all very valid. He was not making excuses. But in the end the new owners must get it right from the start and that means the manager decision must be got right. If they go for a new manager that must be fully trusted and respected.
The owners must not pick a manager just for the sake it would be popular to supporters. It must be done based on how he can take the club forward.
How he can connect with the players, his knowledge of the League of Ireland and how well he can connect with the supporters while also working well with the owners too.
There are loads of factors they must consider. Hopefully they will make the right decision. Stephen O’Donnell is being spoken about as a new gaffer, as is Dave Rogers. It’s understood the club have spoken to some of a small number of candidates they are considering for the job.
The Derry Departures
Friday night saw the club saying goodbye to Michael Duffy and Patrick McEleney. They are returning home to Derry City. We have known this for some time. Both have been magnificent for the club, and I would like to thank them personally for everything they have done.
They have brought such happiness and joy to the club and supporters. It can never be measured. Chris Shields returned to Oriel last Friday night and presented the goal of the season award to Patrick McEleney. That was the goal he scored against Vitesse in the Europa Conference League.
Michael Duffy, in an interview with on the club’s website said it’s been a wonderful five years for him at Dundalk. He says he came to Dundalk to qualify for Europe and win trophies.
He told Gavin McLaughlin his highlight was scoring the goal that won the league for Dundalk against Shamrock Rovers. He said the memories he has of being at Dundalk will stay with him forever.
Michael said it was frustrating he did not play against his new club Derry City on Friday night. He said the crowd were singing before and after. The game was still very emotional. He said it was frustrating not to play but that was just the way it was.
Vinny Perth told me that Michael Duffy was the best professional he has ever worked with. Vinny described him as being the perfect person.
The great Patrick McEleney and Michael Duffy showed superb class during the week in Blackrock. They have lived in the village for a good part of their time at the club. They paid a special visit to their former local supermarket Centra in the village.
They paid the visit to thank the butcher Eamon for all his help and friendship over the five years. Eamonn was bowled over and said he had never seen such kindness. This is a great example of how the club connects with the community.
A donation from the 2020 Europa League team of €10,000 was given towards the mental health support group Head in the Game and also to members of the family of Harry Taaffe, the late club groundsman who passed away tragically in 2020.
Sean Murray was presented with the Supporters Club Player of the Month Award. Skipper Andy Boyle picked up the Player of the Year Award, Pat Hoban once again picked up the Jim Malone Leading Goal Scorer Award. Pat wins this award for the umpteenth time.
Away from Dundalk I was delighted to see Finn Harps avoid the play off zone and confirm their place in the Premier Division next season. Waterford must play UCD in a winner takes all game to avoid relegation. I hope Waterford can secure their place in the Premier Division.
Were Waterford to be relegated there will be no team from Munster in the Premier Division next season. Should UCD win the tie it would mean that five of the 10 clubs in the Premier Division would be from Dublin.
Add Dundalk and Drogheda, it would mean seven out of ten of the teams will be from the Leinster region. How can anyone say the league winners are champions of Ireland and they win the League of Ireland with seven of the teams from Leinster?
It should be renamed the Leinster Senior Elite league or the Dublin Metropolitan Elite league. The Premier Division must be expanded. It’s the only way we can develop soccer in this country.
And there should be a quota on the number of Dublin clubs in the Premier Division. Anyway, have a safe week and be careful out there.
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