16 Aug 2022

Bill Hulsizer must stand down as Dundalk FC chairman, writes Gerry Malone

SSE Airtricity League Premier Division

Bill Hulsizer must stand down as Dundalk FC chairman, writes Gerry Malone

Dundalk FC chairman Bill Hulsizer (left) with his son, Peak6 owner, Matt.

Many things have been happening at Dundalk Football Club since I last wrote my weekly piece.

Going to publication in the paper the week before last meant news of Filippo Giovagnoli’s appointment to the position of Dundalk manager, with his assistant being Guiseppe Rossi, was omitted. Both men are Italian, yet the surprising fact is that neither has ever been in charge of a senior soccer team equal to that of a team of League of Ireland status such as Dundalk.

Immediately, the alarm bells rang with me when I heard the news as it seemed like yet another of many in a succession of gaffes by the club owners, Peak6.

Both coaches’ main experience has been working in summer camps in America and training teams up to the level of under 18. It’s a far cry from the long list of the experience that most other managers and assistants that have had the hotseat in Oriel had obtained.

I spoke in detail to the new Dundalk boss on the day he was unveiled to the media, which got the attention of national media and TV. I asked boss Filippo about past interference in team affairs by Peak6 and mainly club chairman Bill Hulsizer. 

He was aware of what had happened in this regard and how it played a key role in the dismissal of Vinny Perth. Filippo said it would just simply not happen on his watch. I asked him if it did happen would he walk away from the job? His answer was emphatic. He said it just simply would not happen. Three times I asked the same question and three times Filippo said it just simply would not happen. Filippo repeated three times that he was the boss.

Those words brought me back to the same fateful ones issued by Steve Staunton. The Dundalk man did use different words which meant the same thing when he told the media at his unveiling as international manager that he was ‘the Gaffer’.

When asked about the players he had he said they were now his family. The new boss showed a marvellous trait of decency, sincerity and integrity in his answer.

I was left in no doubt that the new boss will be a man the media will be able to work with and that I would be too.

However, meaning absolutely no disrespect to the new management appointees, I firmly believe that Peak6 must look for an experienced manager before the end of the season and have him in place to take over when the last whistle of the current season blows. This man must have an indelible knowledge of the league.

If this is not done then Dundalk’s sudden race to the bottom will continue. No way will the best of players come to Oriel or some of the current squad that should be resigned come or stay when there are no experienced coaches that know the League of Ireland in charge.

Most importantly, if Peak6 are to have a sound future at the club then Hulsizer must also stand down as chairman.
Mr Hulsizer has gone way beyond his role description and at the latter end of Perth’s reign interfered in that most fundamental and sacred part of a manager’s job by sticking his nose into team affairs.

No manager worth their salt would put up with what went on in the latter days of Vinny’s role as boss. The club chairman directly intervened in team selection. That’s an absolute ‘no, no’. The owners have the right to dismiss a manager if they do wish but they can never, ever have a say in the picking of a team or certain tactics or who should take throw-ins or take corners. 

The new manager says these things will not happen on his watch. But I’m sorry to say I can’s see Bill Hulsizer stopping his medaling with team affairs. But we will see.

John Gill and Alan Reynolds were gone from Oriel very quickly after the Perth departure. Team analyst Shane Keegan is the only one of Perth’s staff to remain on. He has a full pro licence, thus allowing Filippo take up his post as manager. Keegan is to be given a bigger role at the club. That’s understandable. He has managed Wexford Youths and Galway before but he is not the person, as far as I’m concerned, that should sit in the Oriel hotseat next season.

It has to be somebody completely new but that knows the league inside, out and has been successful. 

On the last point, success next season, as I said, cannot only be guaranteed along with a new manager, we need a new chairman. 

Bill Hulsizer must stand down.

Otherwise, the club will continue to decline and slip back into the First Division.

Peak6 are paying the highest weekly wage bill of any club as well. There can be no complaints about that. The money they are spending is way too high for a League of Ireland club. But there has been a huge wastage in much of this money. This should be cut back on as well going into next season.

New boss Filippo was recruited by phone on the weekend following Perth’s dismissal. This followed rejections by Robbie Keane and another Irish international for the job. The Glentoran boss, Mick McDermott, was also sounded out but he spurned the approaches. 

Filippo guided his team safely through to the quarter-final of the Cup with a 2-0 win in Cobh. Dane Massey fired home a piledriver to the net while David McMillan shot home a late penalty.

A couple of days before this game there was more turmoil in the club with the stepping down of Martin Connolly as director. News also emerged that club volunteers Simon Blackmore and Colm Murphy were gone.

Remarkably, despite all the goings on at Oriel in the past number of weeks, it’s nearly been forgotten that Dundalk are in the Europa League. Having been dumped out of the Champions League on a night when Hulsizer’s say in team affairs was at its height, Dundalk automatically transferrEd into the Europa League.

Dundalk must travel to Andorra to play Inter Club d'Escaldes in the second qualifying round of the competition. 

Win this game and Dundalk are off to Moldova to play there in round three. The draw has been kind to Dundalk. They can beat anybody on their day, but given recent form they can also lose to anyone as well. If Dundalk take the Andorrans for granted then they will be out of the competition in 90 minutes. But winning the Andorran and Moldovan games will bring €729,000 to the club as well as progress to within one round of the elusive group stages.

I have to say the way Dundalk have been playing domestically they may enjoy Europe this year as I can’t see them qualifying next season unless they win the FAI Cup.

This weekend Dundalk were supposed to play Derry City in the league. The game was called off as Derry had a number of players on duty on the U21 international front.

Next Friday, Dundalk return to Oriel to play Shelbourne. Shels have been doing okay since they returned to the Premier Division and could cause Dundalk problems. They were held to a 1-1 draw by Cork City at Tolka. 

Shamrock Rovers clinched the league title on Saturday in Tallaght with a 1-0 win over Bohemians. An early goal was enough to give the Hoops the win and all but seal the title. 

It’s exciting times at Tallaght these days. On the week of September 17 they play AC Milan in round three of the Europa League in Tallaght. Unfortunately, there will be no fans and one has to presume it’s the end of their European journey this season. But who knows what will happen?

Next season the champions-elect will play in the Champions League, which will automatically be worth €800,000 next season.

Peak6 continued to dominate the headlines this week. They intend opening a technology company in Belfast with the aim of employing 126 people. The news was very much welcomed north of the border. But, to me, with the north being dragged out of the EU by the British government, why did they not set up in Dundalk?

Out of the EU, they will not have the advantage of free trade and will be faced with severe quotas. It’s sure to be export orientated so why not the Republic and why not Dundalk where the skilled workforce is already here with many IT graduates from the local Institute of Technology available?

News emerged at the weekend that Peak6 did, indeed, offer to buy out the FAI’s interest in the Aviva Stadium. The offer came at a time when the FAI were in a deep liquidity crisis.

Dundalk offered €20 million. Had it gone through, Peak6 would have played all home games at the Aviva. The Americans would have put supporters on trains to take them to the Aviva.

Under the deal, Peak6 would have had the options to buy United Park in Drogheda and also St. Colman’s Park, Cobh, plus at least one other venue. 

The FAI and Peak6 have refused to comment on the story. But one has to worry about Peak6’s lack of understanding or feelings of club supporters for asking them to have to travel to Dublin every week to the Aviva to see Dundalk play there. The move showed a complete lack of respect or care about how supporters would have felt. There would have been uproar.

Spend the money on redeveloping Oriel or building a new stadium in Dundalk. 

To Peak6, please, understand when Dundalk have home games they play in the home town of Dundalk, not Dublin.

We are not a Dublin club. Our home is Oriel Park or any new stadium development built in the town.

Anyway, the deal collapsed and Peak6 must continue to use Oriel as a location to play Dundalk home games.

It was great to see Stephen Kenny take charge of his first senior international game on Thursday night. Ireland showed great signs that they would not play with the stranglehold style that has been used by Mick McCarthy, Martin O'Neill and Trapattoni.
Kenny has been a breath of fresh air since taking up his role as senior manager.

The players like him as do the fans. In his first game against Bulgaria in Sofia, Kenny had his side pushing forward all the time, looking for goals.

Ireland were caught on the hop and totally against the run of play went 1-0 down. But as Kenny’s teams always show, they never give up. Thursday night was no different. In the darkness of Sofia, Ireland lit up the night sky with a goal late into injury-time that got a point in a game they deserved more.

I was very disappointed to read the criticism by Ian Harte of the way Ireland played. They played well and given time, Kenny will turn Ireland into a side that will be respected and feared as a real force in Irish football.

Anyway, that’s all for now. Be careful out there and look after yourselves. Have a very safe week.

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