Dundalk fans hopeful of their Mourinho moment
On subjects of cash and construction, there was little of substance from new chairman
At Oriel Park on Sunday evening more than 300 Dundalk supporters turned up hoping for concrete commitments from the club’s new owners. Photograph: Donall Farmer/INPHO
When Jose Mourinho was appointed as manager of Inter Milan a decade ago there was a moment at the press conference when he announced he was no mug but used the local slang term “pirla”, and so instantly won over a million hearts and minds.
At Oriel Park on Sunday evening more than 300 Dundalk supporters turned up hoping for concrete commitments from the club’s new owners and perhaps a Mourinho moment. Mike Treacy, the chairman of the new chairman of the board came close to producing the latter with a jokey commitment to sort out the infamous puddle outside the Youth Development Centre “in due time”.
The Chicago businessman got a laugh and all of the newcomers at the top table got a warm welcome in what must have been subzero temperatures inside a hall that had had to be pressed into service at short notice because of the larger-than-expected crowd, on the subjects of cash and construction, there was little enough of substance to warm an audience willing itself to believe that this is not all going to end the same way Arkaga’s ill fated involvement with Cork City did back in 2008.
There was well-received talk from the top table of titles and European runs but the air of deflation among the audience when the first question about the redevelopment of the club’s ageing and dilapidated home was still fairly clear.
‘Excited but apprehensive’
Just short of two-thirds of respondents in a recent poll run by local online sports service DundalkSport had ticked the “excited but apprehensive” box and, to be honest, while the new owners were clearly doing their best to make the right noises with talk of the title having been “lent” to Cork City for one year only, it is hard to imagine that anything said here would have done too much to shift substantial numbers towards the “just plain old excited” option.
“Our priority is to build a first-class football side,” said Fred Spencer, who has, among other things, been a football agent and founded the New York-based investment group Kicking Capital. “We will look in the long term at the stadium but if we don’t have a first-class team coached by Stephen, there’s nothing after that.”
It’s top-down stuff it seems then, but a lot of confidence among the newcomers that they can make the model work and that, if they do so over a prolonged period of time – as they insist they intend to, then the rewards will be plentiful enough so that they can turn a profit and all of the supporters’ concerns can be addressed.
“Obviously we’ve read about what happened at Cork and this is a completely different situation,” says Jordan Gardner, a stakeholder in Swansea and, until recently at least, a driving force behind a club in San Francisco that had been lined up to join the now deeply troubled NASL.
“We are serious investors who have stakes in global football clubs; investors that have business acumen, football acumen. We bring to the table a completely different level of investment and experience than anyone else who has invested in the League of Ireland before.”
Gardner refused to be drawn on the scale of the consortium’s financial commitment, he was not even precise really about how many individuals are participating in the venture (between eight and 10, it seems). However, he pointed to Stephen Kenny’s comments about having been impressed by their collective enthusiasm which had clearly impressed a crowd that also clearly sets a lot of store by the willingness of former owners Andy Connolly and Paul Brown to sell to the new group.
New CEO Mal Brannigan is obviously still getting to grips with the sort of day-to-day issues that affect even the biggest of League of Ireland clubs but there is the usual talk of commercial opportunities and moving players on for more significant fees while Gardner suggests that progressing “two or three,” rounds in Europe each year will be seen as success. It is all rather different to when Arkaga initially came in talking about constructing a stadium that would cost tens of millions and that might be seen as a good thing.
The problem is that it is difficult really to know, even after this meeting, quite where the bar is being set or how much the club’s new famously wealthy owners are going to commit to clearing it. Bankrolling a bit of short-term success may well not be beyond the new arrivals. Building a relationship that endures longer than most of Mourinho’s will be another. Although sorting the puddle will clearly be a popular be a start.