Stephen Kenny: 'I see a sea-change this year with the introduction of the ten-team league'

Tue, Feb 13 2018

Kenny saw his side surrender their league crown to Cork City last time out. Credit: Tom Beary

Stephen Kenny is looking forward to the kick-off of the new Premier Division season on Friday and the Dundalk manager believes this campaign will be one of the most competitive in a long time.


“We’ve had a great journey with Dundalk over the last five years, obviously winning the three league titles and in that period being runners up twice,” he said at the SSE Airtricity League Launch on Tuesday afternoon.


“We’ve been at the forefront of Irish football over the last few years and Cork, as well, have pushed us for that period. They were runners-up three times and went and won the league last year.


“It’s been very competitive, and I think this year I see a sea change with the ten-team league and the introduction of Waterford who will be really strong this season.


“The three weakest teams have been relegated and I think the fact you have a ten team league playing each other four times, 36 games, a lot of midweek matches.


“We’re seeded in the first two rounds in Europe and hopefully it goes well for us, and Cork are guaranteed four European games.


“It will be a real epic battle I feel over the season and a lot of teams are in contention.”


The manager had a quick word on the new season’s curtain raiser, which took place last weekend as Cork City defeated Dundalk 4-2 in Oriel Park to win the President’s Cup.


“We’re learning all the time – you never stop learning. We had a lot of players missing. It was a strange game to say the least. I think Cork capitalised and took their goals well and credit to them.


“We had a few midfield players playing in our back four. It was an unusual line-up but we just have to regroup for Bray this week and get people back.”


Dundalk have had their best players picked off by bigger clubs over the last few years, starting with Richie Towell in 2015 and it’s a constant battle for Kenny to replace these players each year.


One-year contracts have meant that this was a common occurrence but we’ve seen the introduction of two-year deals become more commonplace at the bigger clubs this season which may make it easier to hold on to the top stars.


“You need to be able to plan as a manager. Invariably every year you’re losing your best players.


“This year we lost Niclas Vemmelund back to Denmark, we lost David McMillan, we lost Patrick MceEleney – a big loss for us.


“We’ve got to regroup and replace those players and that’s a challenge, but you understand that.”


There are new owners at Dundalk, with a US-based consortium backed by Peak6, who have stakes in Bournmouth and AS Roma, having taken 100% control of the Louth club last month and Kenny is looking for the club to improve as a whole under the new ownership.


“I think it’s a new direction. It hasn’t radically changed anything in the short term but over the period it has to help.


“What I’d like to see is a ten thousand seater stadium full every week,” he said jokingly.


“But gradual improvements overall. We look to improve as a club over many facets in a gradual basis.”


Dundalk face Bray Wanderers on Friday night in Oriel Park on opening night of the Premier Division season (kick-off 7.45pm).