Stephen Kenny says west trumps Dublin for Dundalk
Dundalk boss says west of Ireland provides more players than Dublin for his side
Dundalk manager Stephen Kenny: “people love two teams really going at it with a view to trying to win the cup and bring it home. That has its own intrigue.”Photograph: Bryan Keane/Inpho
As he celebrated his 47th birthday with an afternoon of FAI Cup final-related media interviews, Stephen Kenny seemed to view the claims of Cork City manager John Caulfield that Dundalk were using their European money and investment from America to corner the market for young Dublin talent as something of a gift.
“We actually have more players from the west of Ireland than we have from Dublin,” said the Dundalk boss with more than a hint of bemusement. “The west of Ireland is a great market for us. We have players from rural parts of Ireland, Belmullet and Bohola, Loughrea and Salthill and Galway, three [Pat Hoban, Stephen O’Donnell and Stephen Folan] from Galway.
“We have four from the northwest as well,” said Kenny, appearing to be enjoying himself. “Georgie Kelly and three lads from Derry. We don’t have many Dubs, four or five. All of our players came mainly from, clusters, two from Bray, two from UCD, two from Mervue, two from St Patrick’s, two from Derry. Portadown with Brian Gartland. It’s been different.
“We’ve not signed any players from the top two clubs,” observed the former Bohemians and Dunfermline boss, a point he has made more than once before. “Cork City or Shamrock Rovers. not signed any. We have all young Irish players who want to get better, that’s really it. Young Irish players who want to get better.”
The back and forth between the two managers has become a staple at this time of year with this being the fourth straight cup final to feature their sides, and both could be forgiven if they were tiring slightly of the rivalry.
Kenny admits that he can understand the suggestion that the public might feel the same way about the games, but he says he thinks the clash of styles still presents a particular attraction.
“I understand the fatigue,” he says. “I was in two finals with Derry. We drew 2-2 and lost on penalties in 2008, then two years earlier won 4-3 against St Pats. Eleven goals in two matches.
“These three games haven’t been absolute thrillers. We’ve set out to play but they’ve had a game plan to sort of stifle and try and keep it tight. They’ve all been a bit different obviously, but certainly there hasn’t been the goals scored or the two-all or three-all draws that people like to see in a final. So I can understand that to a degree.
“But in other ways it’s been quite fascinating. These things are never easy to predict. People going into Sunday would be saying, ‘well, you wouldn’t know what way it will go’. It’s unpredictable because of the nature of it. But people love two teams really going at it with a view to trying to win the cup and bring it home. That has its own intrigue.”
Dundalk’s prospects of bringing it home on Sunday depend to some extent on getting the likes of Jamie McGrath, Robbie Benson and top scorer Pat Hoban out on the pitch, but Kenny says it will be another few days before any decisions are made on their fitness.
“He [Hoban] hasn’t trained the last few days. He just came down heavily on his ankle. Hopefully he’ll make it. We’re not playing games. He’s obviously hurt himself.
“We also wait on Jamie McGrath and Robbie Benson. Robbie’s been out for the last two weeks with a knee injury that he sustained in the game against St Patrick’s here. Jamie has a groin injury. So we wait on those players and see how they’re fixed by the end of the week.”
Meanwhile, Stephen O’Donnell’s hopes of playing a part seem limited to an initial place on the bench, with the returning midfielder appearing to have too little game time under his belt of late to force his way back into the starting 11. Yet his manager has not quite ruled it out.
“Stephen played obviously on Friday and trained today, so we’ll have to see on that one,” says Kenny. “It’s an amazing recovery really from a broken leg and a tough period for him wondering when he would get back. But he’s obviously short of match fitness and training, so we’ll see how that one goes.”