'Any extra income into the club is welcome' Stephen Kenny eyes Euro prize
DUNDALK are in line for a €500,000 payday in the Champions League this summer after UEFA boosted clubs from the so-called smaller countries with a major cash injection.
And while Oriel Park boss Stephen Kenny says the extra revenue will be welcome at the club, progress in Europe is more important to him than the opportunity for the Lilywhites to boost their bank balance.
Dundalk will get a minimum of €550,000 for competing in the Champions League this summer, an increase of €125,000 on the sum available to St Patrick's Athletic last year. The clubs competing in the Europa League (Cork City, St Pats and Shamrock Rovers) are guaranteed at least €200,000 (up by €80,000 on last year) as UEFA have boosted their "solidarity payments" to clubs who enter the competitions but do not reach the group stages.
Dundalk can make some serious money if they get past the second qualifying round phase as even a defeat in the third qualifying round would give them a pass into the Europa League.
"It's very good news, any extra income for the club will be very welcome," Dundalk boss Kenny told The Herald.
"But the main thing for us is that we get through a round, as we have big ambitions as football people.
"Last year we got through one round in the Europa League when we beat a team from Luxembourg and we were maybe unfortunate to come up against a very good Croatian side in Hajduk Split. With the Champions League, if we get past the first round we play in, we are guaranteed six matches and that's a massive incentive. We have to see what the draw brings, and I know that St Pats were very unlucky with the draw last summer when they got Legia Warsaw.
"As a team and as a club we have a lot more European experience now. We have to prepare well for Europe and make sure that we are in form for the games in July, we have to make sure we are in good form.
"It's a big objective for us, to do well in Europe this year. We have players like Daryl Horgan, Richie Towell, Andy Boyle and Sean Gannon, young players who want to show they are good enough to compete that that level and I know that is an ambition for them.
"This increased revenue from UEFA is good news in the short term but for me as a manager, progression is a big objective.
"We know a lot comes down to the draw and we will be seeded.Pats had a hard draw yet still almost won the away leg, then they were well beaten at home.
"But our key aim is to get through that first round and get a minimum of six European matches," added Kenny, who has led Longford Town, Bohemians, Derry City, Shamrock Rovers and Dundalk into Europe.
"We will prepare as well as we can, there will be the mid-season break in the league around that time but I know my players will be keen to use that to prepare well for Europe, they will take a couple of days off to get a breather but they won't be going off for a week, they will be keen to ensure we are in the right shape for Europe.
"It's a long way off and at the moment we are focusing on the game away to Limerick next Saturday. But we worked very hard to win the league and qualify for the Champions League as Ireland's representatives so we want to do well," said Kenny.
Dundalk had three wins from four games in Europe last season, narrowly losing out to Hajduk Split but the Co Louth club did pull off a major win in Croatia in the second leg.
UCD, relegated from the Premier Division last season, are still in contention to secure a place in Europe via the Fair Play league. As of now, Ireland lead the rankings in the fair play system and should we still be in the top three when UEFA make a decision at the end of this month, the Students could be back in Europe for the first time since 2000,
Dundalk, who have yet to drop points or even concede a goal in five league games so far this season, could get another boost in the coming days as club captain Stephen O'Donnell, sidelined with an injury in pre-season, is close to a return and could feature in an EA Sports Cup clash with Dundalk next week.
"We play Shelbourne on Tuesday, that will be five weeks since he had the operation and he is hopeful that he will be ok to play," says Kenny.