Former Dundalk FC General Manager Paul Johnston feels that the club is in safe hands under the guidance of current owners Andy Connolly and Paul Browne of Fastfix.
The duo took control of Dundalk FC at the end of 2012 - a season that almost saw the club fold - and, since then, the fortunes of the Lilywhites have changed dramatically.
Their appointment of Stephen Kenny has paid off and there will be European football at Oriel Park this season. And Johnston said that Browne, Connolly and Chairman Ciaran Bond deserve huge praise for taking over from Gerry Matthews and giving the club a new lease of life.
“Fastfix have given the club a huge injection,” said Johnston. “They are football orientated men who have been supporters throughout the years and they understand the club. I take my hat off to anyone who gets involved with a League of Ireland club and puts their shoulder to the wheel financially. They are not doing it to get anything back from it, they are doing it to keep an institution going. They grasped an opportunity in getting Stephen Kenny as manager and everything has fallen into place.”
Johnston pointed to the retention of most of last year’s squad along with the signings of David McMillan and Daryl Horgan as further proof that the owners were fully committed to bringing the glory days back to Dundalk.
“In Dundalk, we always expect to compete every season and the owners are aware of that. With their support, Stephen has kept the nucleus of the players. That’s the first time since I became involved in 2007 that has happened. They have also backed Stephen and he has added quality in Daryl Horgan and David McMillan. They know that the town expects us to compete.”
Despite that expectation, Johnston said that the owners were mindful of overcommitting on the financial side.
“That’s the fine balance,” he said. “If you overcommit then suddenly the wheels can fall off. Finances dictate a lot in League of Ireland football and even in the good times there is still a lot of money needed to prop a club up. You have to try and keep things at an even keel. When things are going well you still have to put money away for a rainy day.
“The supporters have been great in my time and they have more than met their obligations but it is an extremely difficult balancing act and the economic situation has made that even harder.”
As well as competing for the title, Johnston said that FAI Cup success was something that the club was hungry to achieve.
“The FAI Cup is a huge thing. Last season would have been another milestone. It would have brought that 2002 vibe out again where everybody from town went to the Aviva for the final.
“Sligo Rovers are the barometer of that,” he added. “Although they have won the league title in recent years it is the FAI Cup finals that have given them the opportunity to grow.”