Boss Kenny plans bigger and better things for Dundalk
AS STEPHEN Kenny prepares to take his Dundalk side into the Champions League next summer, it won't have escaped the Tallaght man's notice that his previous employers are relying on a favour if they are to avoid spending a third successive summer without European action.
And while Kenny has chosen not to gloat over the fortunes of Shamrock Rovers (who will only qualify for Europe next season if St Patrick's Athletic beat Derry City in the FAI Cup next Sunday) since they sacked Kenny midway through the 2012 season, he has admitted that he had to dig deep within his own reserves to recover from the Rovers episode and turn around both his own managerial career and the fortunes of Dundalk.
Just as Bohemians went through a barren four-year spell after sacking Kenny in 2004, so Rovers have struggled since they dismissed Kenny two years ago.
"I only lost four league games at Shamrock Rovers and we were in a Cup final, those are the facts," says Kenny, after winning the second league title of his coaching career thanks to Dundalk's defeat of Cork City.
"It would be too easy for me to lash Shamrock Rovers now and that's not what I am about. But I have had to draw huge strength to come back from that and build this team in the mirror of my own philosophy.
"I thought long and hard about coming here and my first instinct was not to take the job. I knew my next job was very important but when the people at Dundalk came to my house I knew the passion was there."
Kenny has take some tough blows since he started out in management at the tender age of 28, getting the boot from Bohemians (despite winning a league title) Dunfermline (despite leading them to the Scottish Cup final) and Rovers but he has managed to bounce back.
And the Dundalk boss has promised that neither he, nor his club, can afford to rest on their laurels.
Interest in Dundalk's star players is inevitable and it's hard to imagine that Richie Towell, Daryl Horgan, Pat Hoban and Sean Gannon will all still be at the club for next season, such is the level of interest.
"We will improve and we want to hang on to our players but we can't be certain of that. We have some hard work ahead but we will leave no stone unturned in pursuit of that," says Kenny, eager to better himself as well.
"I feel I have to improve myself, I am driven to improve again," he says.
"I am going away, to Switzerland and Belgium, to spend time with clubs over there. I am driven and I want to be the best I can be, I want to improve all the time and I won't stand still. We need to build on this as a club and look to fill Oriel Park.
"A whole generation of support was lost, they had seven years in the First Division, a no-man's-land and there is a capacity to improve," he added, stating that European success is also a clear aim.
"We beat Hajduk Split away and they were really hanging on for dear life against us, we beat Jeunesse Esch twice and they were decent. We won three games in Europe and that's great experience," Kenny added.