Stephen Kenny’s outstanding achievements correctly recognised

Dundalk boss ‘hugely honoured’ to have beaten exalted competition for 2016 award

Stephen Kenny had spoken a few weeks back to The Irish Times about the challenge for a manager of achieving some sort of work life balance and readily acknowledged how their loved ones tend to lose out.

"The more successful you are, the less you get home," he said, and so it was apt somehow that while he is away with Dundalk in Israel, his wife Siobhán and daughter Caoimhe had to fill in for him by swinging down to Dublin and picking up the Philips Manager of the Year award that his work this year had earned him.

“We’re proud of his achievements,” said Siobhán, who talked good-naturedly about the reality of being married to the sort of person who wins an award like this, but perhaps Caoimhe’s accent told the real story, with the teenage daughter of two Dubliners charming the other monthly winners and assembled guests with a bit of chat delivered in soft-spoken Donegal

"We moved to Scotland as well," explained her mother, who has lived with Caoimhe, Niamh, Fionn and Eoin in the northwest since Stephen was at Derry City. "But when the kids get to a certain age you stay put. We didn't move to Dundalk."

Recognition

Her husband, of course, has never stayed still, not on the sporting side of his life at least. Dundalk is his seventh club as a manager and the award yesterday is recognition perhaps not just of the title he led the club to in October and the European adventure he and his players embarked upon back in July, but also the road travelled to get the Oriel Park outfit to this point. Nobody close to him, though, will need reminding that three of his jobs ended in the sack.

Shamrock Rovers is probably the best remembered of his supposed failures, as it had seemed at the time to promise so much, but the man he succeeded in Tallaght has no doubts about which side let the other down in that particular partnership, or about the scale of Kenny's achievements since.

“Obviously he came in at Rovers after me and he was given really no opportunity to show what he was capable of,” says Northern Ireland manager Michael O’Neill. “[It was] a really poor decision by Rovers to make the decision that they made.

“He then took a job that wasn’t the most attractive job at that moment in time and what he’s done with it, to turn it around in the space of time that he has, is phenomenal. It’s not only winning the leagues that he’s won, but the cup, the FAI Cup and the European thing; to go and compete in Europe with those players, I know most of those players, four of them were with me at Rovers, and I never cease to be impressed by how his team has tried to play throughout the Europa League, how they played throughout the league.”

Now, he says, after a year in which Kenny and his players have dominated at home and defied the odds in Europe, “Dundalk need to hold on to their manager [but] I think it’s going to be tough. Stephen has to be ambitious. It’s hard to see now where Stephen’s career can’t progress from here, he’s been phenomenal.

Sacked

“He’s 45, he’s been in the League of Ireland for a long time and I think that he’s learned a lot. I’m sure the six months at Rovers and getting sacked was something that he had to rebuild himself from; it took enormous character to do that and I’m sure Stephen Kenny is on the radar of a lot of clubs.”

Kenny, of course, was not there to comment and would, in any case, surely have talked only of Maccabi and further progress in Europe. In the video message the organisers had laid on, he said he was "hugely honoured" to beat competition for this year's award from the likes of Michael Ryan, Joe Schmidt and Pat Lam and to join a list of previous winners that includes just two from the League of Ireland.

He talks about one, Jim McLaughlin, from time to time, and his team is sometimes compared to that Shamrock Rovers side that won three of its four straight titles in the 1980s under the guidance of the northerner. Dundalk will hope that Kenny still has his eye on the history books, and if he does, this Manager of the Year thing might just be one more title for him to retain in 2017.

Monthly winners

December (2015):

John Kavanagh

(Conor McGregor) January:

Mark Keenan

(Templeogue Men’s Premier League basketball team) February: Shane McGuigan (Carl Frampton) March:

Willie Mullins

(Champion jumps trainer) April: Michael (Mouse) Morris (Aintree Grand National and Irish Grand National trainer) May: Pat Lam (Connacht rugby team) June: Martin O’Neill (Republic of Ireland) and Michael O’Neill (Northern Ireland football team) July:

Liam Kearns

(Tipperary Senior Football team) August: Morten Espersen (high performance director and Olympic manager, Rowing Ireland) and

Rory Fitzpatrick

(manager and Olympic coach, Irish Sailing Association) September: Michael Ryan (Tipperary hurling manager) October:

Jim Gavin

(Dublin football) and Stephen Kenny (Dundalk FC) November: Joe Schmidt (Ireland rugby team)

Emmet Malone

Emmet Malone

Emmet Malone is an Assistant News Editor at The Irish Times

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