Ex-Hoop Ronan says Kenny just wants to reclaim title for Dundalk
THE HOOPs are about to become Nimbys, for an evening at least.
A win for Dundalk this evening would guarantee them their second successive Premier Division title, allowing them become the first provincial club to retain the league in four decades.
The fact that their game is away to Shamrock Rovers adds fuel to the fire of what is bound to be an emotional evening. Dundalk players like Ronan Finn, Ciarán Kilduff and Stephen O'Donnell all won league medals while at Rovers.
And for Dundalk boss Stephen Kenny, the chance to win the league away to the club which sacked him in 2012, less than one season into a three-year contract, is surely - for all of Kenny's protestations about harbouring no bitterness towards his former club - a motivating factor. For the home side, one phrase will sum up their approach to tonight: Not In My Back Yard. Dundalk winning the title is a formality, so is a place in Europe next season for the Hoops, so Dundalk will get to hold that trophy at some stage this month, it's just that Rovers, as ex-Hoop Ronan Finn admits, will not want to see any celebrations in Tallaght this evening.
"I know from having been at Rovers, I know from the way Pat Fenlon thinks, that they will not want to see us celebrating in front of them," Finn told The Herald.
"I am sure Rovers will do everything they can to put a stop to that, they won't want to see us celebrating a league win on their home patch. If I was one of their players, the last thing I'd want to see is them celebrating on our pitch."
Kenny was very emotional when he spoke to the media after last week's FAI Cup win over Longford Town when asked if a title triumph at Tallaght would give him added pleasure. The former Rovers boss insisted that he was not driven by bitterness or the thoughts of giving "two fingers" to Rovers, a club who sacked him mid-way through his first season, a club who have won just two of the lesser trophies since Kenny's exit while Kenny has already won a league and can land the double this term.
Finn, who was lured to Dundalk from Rovers by Kenny at the end of last season, has a similar view.
"Stephen is the type of man who just wants to win the league," says Finn, who had four seasons with Rovers.
"What he has done since coming to Dundalk, winning the league and now going for two in a row, is amazing. I don't think Stephen would care where we won the league, it would be the same if we won it in Galway or in Tallaght as the trophy is all that counts.
"A few of us here at Dundalk are ex-Rovers so I suppose that adds to it. There's certainly no personal vendetta for me, I had good times at Rovers. But just to win the league for us is massive."
In the modern era, only the Dublin clubs like St Pat's, Rovers and Bohemians were able to retain a league title as the last side from outside the Pale to manage it were Waterford, in 1973.
"Retaining the league is very hard, when I was at Rovers I did win a league but we weren't able to win it again it so I know how difficult it is," admits Finn.
"Every team raises their game against the champions, they make life difficult for you, they sit in against you and are happy to take a point. I know that from the other side, being at UCD when you play a top side, so we have to work harder in every game to get the win when we are champions."
Dundalk were effective, rather than thrilling, in their last outing, Friday's 2-0 dismissal of Longford Town in the FAI Cup semi-final, but they will be able to raise their game tonight.
Their cause is not helped by squad problems, however. Former Rovers player Seán Gannon, an ever-present in the league, loses that record as he's out of the game due to suspension and Brian Gartland is out due to injury, posing defensive issues for Kenny while forward Sean Maguire is on international duty with the Irish U21s, so it's not an easy task for Dundalk.
"The games against Rovers have been tough this season," added Finn. "We have nothing to fear, we have done well against them but I can guarantee that Rovers will not lie down."
Shamrock Rovers v Dundalk live RTE2 (KO7.45)