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05 Jul 2022

The Commentary Box: Magilton finally speaks out about his turbulent time with Dundalk FC

The Commentary Box: Magilton finally speaks out about his turbulent time with Dundalk FC

Jim Magilton in the dug out during his time as interim Dundalk manager. (Pic: Sportsfile)

Dundalk missed out on going clear at the top of the Premier Division when they were held to a scoreless draw by Sligo Rovers at the Showgrounds on Saturday night. Both teams had their chances to win the game. Both struck the woodwork.

But from the off the game really had scoreless draw written all over it. Stephen O’Donnell made four changes to the side that beat Finn Harps in the league the previous Monday night at Oriel.

Mark Connolly, Greg Sloggett, Daniel Kelly and Pat Hoban all started. Brian Gartland and David McMillan missed out through illness. Mayowa Animasahun was named on the bench.

This was a very strong Dundalk team that Stephen O’Donnell named. A crowd of over 3,500 people were packed into the Showgrounds.

It was Sligo’s first game of the season at home. Their opening game was postponed because of snow on the pitch. Stephen O’Donnell said after the game that it was impossible to pass a ball on the pitch. He said that as far as trying to play a game of football it was a waste of time.

Stephen told the club website that the surface was rubbish. He said he hoped there were no neutrals trying to attract them to the game because if so, they won’t be coming back.

He felt it was a physical game and that the positives were that they now had two clean sheets in a row. As regards breaking it down as a game of football, it was one you put away as you can’t say anything constructive about it.

The Galwegian noted it was impossible to pass the ball so the game might as well be forgotten about and confirmed the team came through unscathed injury wise.

With Derry beating Shelbourne on Friday night and Shamrock Rovers going down to their second defeat of the season to St Pat’s, the Foylesiders are now clear at the top. Patrick McEleney got the vital goal for Derry.

The result on Saturday night means that Dundalk have drawn three games this season out of four. They have only won one. The big positive is the two clean sheets.

Both defences were on top in the first half on Saturday night in a muted opening half in which neither side could find the opener.

It took Dundalk 15 minutes to create their first chance of note. Stephen Bradley saw his shot that was aimed at the far post deflect off the leg of a Sligo defender, before goalkeeper Ed McGinty brought the attack to a certain end.

Sligo nearly opened the scoring early in the second half. Lewis Banks saw his header come back off the Dundalk crossbar. Sligo did have the ball in the Dundalk net on 64 minutes. Neil Doyle disallowed it for a foul. The lilywhites came close from Same Bone and Keith Ward efforts. 

The closest Dundalk came to scoring was on 71 minutes when Pat Hoban set up Greg Sloggett. The Meath man saw his shot skim the crossbar and go narrowly wide. The Dundalk manager Stephen O’Donnell got a yellow card in a frustrating night for the former champions. 

All in all, to have to play three games in eight days is very difficult. To win one and draw two, both away would leave Stephen O’Donnell relatively happy.

Dundalk travel to Dublin once more next Friday to take on Shelbourne at Tolka Park. The following Monday they play Shamrock Rovers at Oriel in another series of three games over eight days.

Crowds are well up in the league overall this season. 3,600 saw Dundalk draw with Derry at Oriel two weeks ago while a similar attendance saw them draw with Bohemians at Dalymount. 2,600 saw Dundalk beat Finn Harps at Oriel on Monday night while 3,600 saw Dundalk and Sligo in the Showgrounds on Saturday night.

The Harps Game

Daniel Kelly revealed after the Finn Harps game last Monday night that the reason why he was on the bench was that boss Stephen O’Donnell was giving every player in the squad an opportunity to have game time.

Kelly came off the bench and was top class. Daniel said the team has work to do both defensively and offensively. Because Dundalk will be playing games on Fridays and Mondays at times during the season, the Dundalk boss has told the squad he will be making changes on a regular basis.

Dan felt Dundalk were not their normal free flowing selves in the first half against Harps. He noted Stephen Bradley got a vital goal just before half time which left them in a good position.

Daniel was very happy with his game. He has suffered injuries for the past year and a half and revealed he was injured pre-season. But he is confident he is making up time now and will only grow in ability to make a good impact on games.

Centre half Andy Boyle says Dundalk could improve on their performance and they will. He says the win against Finn Harps had given them the decent start they were looking for. Andy says there is such good quality throughout the side that anybody can score.

This he says is very important. Andy said Brian Gartland was great in the Harps game, making his debut with the side at Oriel for the first time since 2020. He has been hit by injury over nearly two years. He was a tower of strength throughout the Harps game. Andy says he was delighted to see Gartland back.

Boyle says the team are gelling. He said they are not going to put limits as to what they can do when asked would the team compete with Shamrock Rovers this season. He says the atmosphere in the squad is top class.

He says with the crowds back the vibes in Oriel are great which he feels is massive. Andy said the crowd that came out on Monday night were great and it won’t go unnoticed among the team.

Dundalk notched up a good 3-0 win over Finn Harps on the night in front of a crowd of 2,600. The home side started slowly. Lewis Macari cleared a certain goal off the line while Nathan Shepperd made a couple of fine saves.

The Soccer Writers player of the month Stephen Bradley once more grabbed all the headlines. He scored a minute before the brake and set up Sam Bone for the second a minute after the break. Bradley sealed the game on 67 minutes with a cracker of a goal.

Harps bounced back on Friday to earn a very creditable draw against Bohemians in Ballybofey. Bohs went one up, but Harps came storming back to get a very valuable point.

Jim Magilton Podcast

Dundalk’s former Sporting Director Jim Magilton has spoken about his 11-month spell at Oriel Last Season to the Belfast Live’s podcast, Now That’s What I Call Football.

The 52-year-old has been enjoying a period of reflection since departing Oriel last November. He left the Irish FA academy to take up the Sporting Director’s post at Dundalk in December 2020 before leaving Oriel when the club came under new ownership.

Magilton told Belfast Live he had no regrets leaving his job at the Irish FA, as he knew he had left the Soccer Academy in the north in safe hands. He said he knew it was job done for him at the academy.

He says that then came the next job in December 2020 when he spoke to then Dundalk FC owners Peak6. The American owners sold him the idea of Dundalk. Magilton stated it looked such an exciting project that really appealed to him, so he went with it.

The Belfast native spoke about how timing is very important in the world of football. He says he loved every second of his time at Oriel. The former Shamrock Rovers assistant manager said the opportunity to return to day-to-day football was too much to turn down.

Magilton said the experience was fabulous and that one thing he noticed about the club was how passionate the people of the town and supporters are. He added that Dundalk FC is an integral part of the community.

He says his time at the club gave him an unbelievable insight into the other aspects of running a club. He added that with the restrictions that Covid brought he never physically saw any of his Peak6 employers.

Magilton confirmed that everything was done on Zoom, which made things very difficult for all concerned at the club, so it was difficult to build up relationships. Jim says that ultimately when the takeover came, it was inevitable he would leave.

It’s very interesting to hear what Jim said about his time at the club. To me it was a very turbulent time at Oriel. That was not necessarily his fault as he had to deal with a chairman who knew little, if anthing about football.

But he was still a chairman who had a say in what players signed on and what players were let go. Dundalk lost a flood of talent in January 2021. They signed some players who had little ability. The contracts handed out were hugely expensive.

2021 Retrospective

Many of the players signed were foreign who knew nothing about the League of Ireland. The signing of these players may or may not have had anything to do with Magilton.

And Dundalk saw four managers at the club in less than a season under the Sporting Director. Filippo Giovagnoli was confirmed as Dundalk’s manager in December 2020.

The Italian had somehow won an FAI Cup with Dundalk the month before. He also guided the club to the group stages of the Europa League. In January 21 it was Filippo who brought in a lot of the new players and who let some others go.

At the end of January 2021, a press Conference was called by the club. Jim Magilton told the attending media that Filippo was no longer manager. That was to go to Shane Keegan, who had the pro licence which Filippo had not.

Remarkably we were to learn months later that Shane was only told he was to be club manager 15 minutes before the start of that press conference. Magilton told the media that Filippo was no longer manager.

Keegan did not have much success in his role as boss. During the time he was there Filippo departed. Shane himself left some weeks later. Jim Magilton became caretaker manager after that. He had some wins at the start, which prompted him to hint he might stay as manager.

But a run of bad results brought the Belfast man back down to earth. Vinny Perth remarkably returned as manager, as the club laboured in the bottom half of the table.

Perth had a run of up and down results at the start. In the end it was his placing of Peter Cherrie as the club’s number one keeper that saved Dundalk from the play-off spots. To be fair to Vinny he came back to Oriel at a time when the club was in disarray.

He deserves great credit keeping the club in the Premier Division. Dundalk finished midtable. From October 2021 it became clear Peak6 were departing. A consortium from the north were the favourites to become the new owners.

However common sense prevailed, and it was a local consortium that got the nod from Peak6.
Jim Magilton had been taken on as Sporting Director for four years. However, as already stated above, he departed the club in November last year.

It’s understood a redundancy package was worked out between Magilton and Peak6. It will be very interesting to see where in football he will end up next time round. Jim might well return to the dugout somewhere as manager.

The Ukraine Appeal

Former Dundalk goalkeeper Donal Greene has carried out a donation drive for the people of the Ukraine. Fans left supplies and essentials to Oriel last Saturday and Sunday. Donal lives in Slovakia and is delivering some of the goods himself to the Ukrainian border.

He thought he would get supplies to fill one car. He got enough to fill six. He says that whatever excess supplies he could not take back, they were sent to the @UkraineIreland warehouse in Dublin. They will ensure the much-needed supplies will get to their proper destination.

Thousands have died since Russia invaded the Ukraine over 11 days ago. Europe has its largest refugee crisis on its hands since World War Two. NATO countries can’t get directly involved as it would mean World War Three with Putin threatening to launch a nuclear strike on Western Europe should it do so.

However, as tensions continue outside the Ukraine, talk of a World War Three continues. If this happens the world as we know will be wiped out with no winners.

A nuclear conflict grows ever the more of a possibility while the people of the Ukraine are persecuted and murdered by the Russians. The thought of what could happen is just so frightening to contemplate that it sends shock waves around the world.

But the way the innocent people of the Ukraine have been slaughtered and murdered on a daily basis by Putin’s Russia is just impossible to take. The Irish government seems prepared to take in over 80,000 Ukrainian refugees. This is proper order.

Final Thoughts

Meanwhile it appears that Bohemians may be ground sharing with Pat’s in Inchicore when the €35 million refurbishment of Dalymount Park gets under way. 

It had seemed they would ground share with Shelbourne at Tolka Park until Dalymount’s refurbishment is complete. Shelbourne were then to move to Dalymount with both clubs being joint tenants while Dublin City council would use Tolka Park for some form of possible housing.

However, Shelbourne have indicated they want to buy back Tolka Park from the council. The basic cost alone for that would be €4 million, that’s before any type of redevelopment of the ground happened. Anyway, the situation will become much clearer in the coming week.

Congratulations to Stephen Bradley on becoming the Irish Soccer Writers Player of the month for February. Bradley has been a sensation for Dundalk since the start of the season.

He has bagged three goals over three games for the award. Stephen, who is aged 19, is on loan from Scottish Premier League side Hibernian.

Dundalk will be hoping to keep him at Oriel beyond June when the loan deal expires. Only time will tell. Have a very safe week. And please remember to be careful out there.

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