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Saturday 21 October 2017

Stephen Kenny: It's all about glory for Dundalk

Dundalk boss feels the club's revival has lifted border town ahead of title decider

Stephen Kenny and Dundalk head into the decisive game of the campaign on Friday night knowing that the difference in reward is substantial once Champions League cash is factored in. Picture credit: David Maher / SPORTSFILE
Stephen Kenny and Dundalk head into the decisive game of the campaign on Friday night knowing that the difference in reward is substantial once Champions League cash is factored in. Picture credit: David Maher / SPORTSFILE

FOR any football club, especially a League of Ireland outfit, a sum of €200,000 is not quite loose change or the stuff you find at the back of the couch.

That two hundred grand is one major difference between winning and losing a certain game in Co Louth next weekend, when Cork City and Dundalk go head to head in what is effectively a playoff for the 2014 Premier Division title.

Cork are one point ahead of second-placed Dundalk, so a draw will give John Caulfield's men their first title since 2005 while Dundalk, of course, need a win on Friday.

For Stephen Kenny, aiming to win the second league title of his managerial career and the first for Dundalk since 1995, it's not about the money and the Champions League riches which could flow. It's all about what a league title could do for Dundalk, a town which feasted on success (13 major trophies from 1975-1990 alone) but has endured famine and hardship in recent times.

"These things do have an impact, but this isn't really about money, it's about glory, it's about the opportunity to have an unbelievably special night here, winning the league title here and lift the whole community, the whole town as they would never have felt it was possible two years ago. It was completely unrealistic to even expect that," says Kenny ahead of Friday's clash with Cork at a sold-out Oriel Park.

"To have everyone experience that and the effect it can have on people, just to be part of that, would be unbelievably special and that's what we want.

"It's a great position to be in knowing that we are going in to the last game of the season. The town is coming to a stand-still, the excitement of the game itself, it's fantastic to be involved in that.

"Us going into the game against Cork knowing that if we win the game we win the league title is a huge incentive. There is tremendous belief within the players that we can do that. And I believe we can."

HIVE OF ACTIVITY

Oriel Park was, unusually for a Tuesday afternoon, a hive of activity yesterday. Players hung around to fulfil media duties, Gardaí and security officials were on hand to oversee plans to install temporary seating, those extra 750 seats bringing capacity close to the 5,000 mark.

Dundalk struggled to get a fraction of that support in the miserable 2012 season, just before Kenny took over, when the side narrowly avoided relegation, reportedly a crowd of just 200 for the final home game of that season.

So the 'sold out' signs, and the chase of tickets for Friday around the town, is most welcome for Dubliner Kenny who had to be persuaded to take the job two years ago.

"I felt that trying to get players here would be a difficult assignment at the time, but luckily enough some of the players we got, we knew they were good players but they turned out to be even better than we'd have hoped, some of them have been outstanding and they deserve the credit," added Kenny.

"It's one thing having a bit of talent but the level of professionalism in the group of players is as high as I have ever experienced. Hopefully they will get their rewards on Friday for their levels of dedication."

Afitzmaurice@herald.ie

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