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22 Jan 2022

The Commentary Box: Dundalk need to provide top academy prospects with Pro contracts

The Commentary Box: Dundalk need to provide top academy prospects with Pro contracts

Irish U21 International David Odumosu was let go by Dundalk, allowing him to move to Louth rivals Drogheda. The club could now miss out on a massive payday. (Photo: Sportsfile)

Stephen O’Donnell continued to strengthen his team this week with news that he had got the signing of Welsh Under 21 keeper Nathan Sheppard over the line.

His signature has been widely hinted at in the media over the past number of weeks. But until a player puts pen to paper one cannot be sure of anything.

Nathan arrived at Oriel from Brentford. He was the longest serving player on their reserve team. He had switched to Brentford after arriving from Swansea. Nathan is a full time Dundalk player. He has not been signed on a loan deal. Interestingly he came to Brentford from Swansea’s academy.

Brentford signed one of Dundalk’s academy players Val Adedokun last August. Val had made a number of appearances for the Dundalk first team last season while mainly lining out with the under 19’s.

Val had signed professional forms for Dundalk and the club did receive an unknown transfer fee for him. Two more academy players, Ryan O’Kane and Mayowa Animasahun last season signed professional forms for Dundalk.

Both have made first team appearances for the senior team and are excellent players. For the club it was great business as if any clubs come calling for them, there will have to be a transfer fee.

David Odumosu

The importance of a club having a good academy set up can be seen in all the above names. Yet one name jumped off the papers at me last week.

Republic of Ireland under 21 keeper David Odumosu has been attracting the attention of a number of cross Chanel clubs including Championship leaders Bournemouth.

David spent last week with League one side Bolton Wanderers. The young Irish under 21 keeper is a free agent having completed a two-year contract with Drogheda United. David is from Dundalk and yet in 2020 he moved up the road to United Park to sign professional forms with the Drogs.

He was a graduate of the Dundalk FC academy but opted to move up the road where he was guaranteed regular football. David went straight into the first team and in his first year at United Park saw his side getting promotion and he himself being awarded First Division player of the year.

Odumosu obviously saw there was little chance of getting into the Dundalk first team for some time with Gary Rogers holding the fort and Aaron McCarey as his number two in the first team. But to my mind Dundalk did make a massive mistake with David.

To allow a future Irish under 21 to player walk out the door and go to Drogheda was a blunder to say the least. The club took its eye off the ball big time in David’s case.

Former Dundalk manager John Gill reacted to social media postings I made on this subject last week. I had said David’s contract had not been renewed in 2020.

I had taken for granted that David, a player of exceptional talent had been signed on a professional basis during his time at the academy. It emerged that he had not been. I also said that in 2020 David was not offered a contract by Dundalk.

John Gill, who was assistant to Vinny Perth at the time, insisted in a reply to me that David was offered a contract. My reply was that if that was the case then the contract offer was not good enough.

Considering all of the money Dundalk wasted on players last season I’m sure David could have been made a contract so good that he would have stayed.

Dundalk could then have sent David out on loan which would have guaranteed him first team football with another club. They could have recalled him at any stage. Last season he would easily have been number one keeper with Gary Rogers departing at the end of 2020.

I originally said in a posting that Gabriel Sava was keeper at Dundalk during David’s time at the Oriel academy. John Gill correctly pointed out that it was Aaron McCarey.

Aaron is a very talented keeper, but it just did not work out for him at Oriel in the main with many of the rare chances that he started in the first team being below par. Aaron was right to go when his contract expired in 2020 and he is now playing very well with Glentoran.

Some people misunderstood me and said that Dundalk could not have stopped David Odumosu from going. I pointed out that I knew this, but that I meant he would have stayed here had he been offered a contract he could not refuse.

League of Ireland players have left clubs all over the country, including Dundalk, seeking first team football elsewhere when it was not working out at a club. Players with David’s talent are rare. Very good players can leave clubs to pursue a better future elsewhere.

I would let them go, but they are mature adults. David was still just a kid at aged 19/20 when he left Oriel for Drogheda. I know it seems ironic that Dundalk have brought in the Welsh under 21 keeper while the Irish under 21 keeper, who is from Dundalk may end up in the UK in February.

My bringing up of David Odumosu has nothing to do with the signing of Nathan Shepperd. It’s just that the Irish under 21 keeper was in the news this week. And I felt that I had to highlight the fact that the player should have been given an offer in 2020 that would have ensured he stayed at Oriel.

David has had a great two years at Drogheda. Leaving Dundalk, he went straight into the Drogheda first team when they were in the First Division. He took the league by storm and was pivotal in getting the Drogs promoted.

The Dundalk youngster was excellent in the Premier Division and helped Drogheda to a comfortable mid table position.

Steve Staunton

The only player Dundalk have ever made a considerable amount of money selling is former Republic of Ireland player and manager Steve Staunton. He was on Dundalk’s books in the season of 1985-86. He made very few appearances with the Lilywhites.

Liverpool signed Staunton in 1986. The people in power at Oriel at the time knew how to do their business. Dundalk got a significant fee for Staunton, who had just finished his Leaving Cert at the De La Salle. He had signed professional forms with Dundalk in 1985/86.

Dundalk picked up extras in the deal including the number of games he played with the National team. He was with Liverpool until 1991 and then moved to Aston Villa.

They picked up money for the number of games he played with Liverpool and the Republic of Ireland, plus a portion of any transfer fees to other clubs.

I remember meeting Steve at Dublin airport in August 1991 when he came with Liverpool for a preseason game with Dundalk at Oriel. I walked with him as he went to his team bus with my recorder in hand.

Rumours were rife he was going to Aston Villa. I asked him if he could confirm the rumours. Staunton turned round to me and said I was just like all the rest of the media.

Later after the game I spoke to then Liverpool manager Graeme Souness. He confirmed Staunton was going to Villa. He had played his last game for Liverpool or so it seemed at Oriel. He played for Villa for the next seven years with Dundalk getting a fine pay off from a portion of the transfer fee.

In 1998 he returned to Liverpool and returned to Villa again from 2000 to 2003. Dundalk accumulated a very good amount of money for Stephen Staunton over the years.

The Academy

Shamrock Rovers have seen a couple of their academy players go across the water on deals like Dundalk did with Stephen Staunton. Gavin Bazunu is one of those players. Gavin will only be 20 in February. He made his debut for the Hoops in June 2018 at the age of 16.

He joined Manchester City in February 2019. He is currently on loan to Portsmouth. More importantly Gavin is the Republic of Ireland’s first team keeper. He is an outstanding keeper.

Rovers got Gavin on a good transfer fee and the extra revenue they got for him playing with the Republic of Ireland senior squad has been a massive boost.

This is why Dundalk needs to have a good Academy set up. If a highly talented player shows up the club must ensure they remain on their books at all costs as the dividends could be potentially massive.

There is never a guarantee it will work out for the player, and he may never travel abroad for good money. But there is always a chance. In the days of Staunton, the players junior club did not get any of the transfer fee.

In this case it was Saint Dominic’s. From what I remember I do not think they got a whole lot of anything out of it at all. This should not have happened. Nowadays junior clubs do get a decent portion of the transfer fee.

Dundalk News

Dundalk are also believed to be close to bringing in Clones man Mark Connolly. He is 30 and is a defender. He is also a former Ireland under 21 player. He has been with clubs like Bolton Wanderers, Dundee United and Motherwell.

Liam Burns will be a coach with the first team in the new season. Danny Miller is the club physio while former Dundalk keeper Dermot O’Neill will be the new goalkeeping coach. Dermot did play for Dundalk for a very short period.

His brother Alan is a legend at Oriel and always will be. He played for the great Turlough O’Connor teams that won two league titles and a cup in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. Alan won a double under his guidance.

Graham Norton is the Strength and Conditioning professional. That is one of the most important jobs at Oriel. The first preseason game for 2022 has also been announced.

It takes place next Tuesday 18th January against Cobh Ramblers away at Mayfield United’s ground in Lotamore with a kick-off time of 7:30 pm.

Congratulations to all four of the Dundalk FC girls under 16 team who played for the Dublin Metro Girls in the SFAI Gaynor Cup Final against the Galway League.

Caoimhe McGee, Ciara Whyte, Sophie Hanlon and Annie Stanfield all played a key role. The girls helped their team to a 3-1 win over the Galwegians.

Mask Wearing?

Last Saturday I paid a visit to Milltown, the home of Irish Premiership side Warrenpoint Town where they played NIFL Championship side Newry City. Warrenpoint are bottom of the Premier while Newry City are top of the second tier.

The game was in the Irish Cup and Newry won 2-1. It was totally deserved. Former Dundalk manager John Gill is assistant manager at Warrenpoint. Barry Grey is manager. There was a huge crowd at the game. In the north there are no limits on crowd attendances at games.

None of the crowd wore a mask from what I could see. Many of the people in the stadium were standing or sitting beside each other. There was no social distancing. This was a feast for the virus. I stood behind the goals with no one near me. I wore three masks.

I was shocked to see few, if any of the subs wearing masks in the dugouts, again for both teams. I was also shocked to see so few if any of the coaches wearing masks either. I only saw one steward wearing a mask.

The laws are different in the north re Covid compared to the Republic. I’m sure all the Covid regulations were followed at the game. But I’m flabbergasted that even if it’s not a requirement that people don’t take proper precautions by wearing a mask.

On the way home I stopped at a shop in Newry. There were six customers there and two assistants. One of the assistants did not wear a mask. The other did. Of the six customers in the shop only myself and one other wore a mask.

Some of the people up north do not seem to realize how dangerous this virus is. And it does affect us here in Dundalk, as the virus spreads rapidly and does not recognize borders. I hope you all have a happy and safe week. And please remember to be careful out there.

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