Where now for Dundalk and Collie O’Neill?

By Dermot Keely(@keelysbar)

Last Friday the beloved Jimmy Dainty was laid to rest. Unfortunately circumstances prevented me from being there but I would like to extend my sympathy to Helen and all the family. Jimmy was one of the English men who came to Ireland(Dundalk) and loved it.

Dundalk also loved Jimmy and like Ritchie Blackmore and myself took us into the Dundalk family. I cannot put into words how it felt when I heard of his untimely death. Jimmy was the most likeable of men and will be remembered by the people of Dundalk for a long time to come. R.I.P. DAINT

Jimmy’s sad demise got me reflecting on Dundalk Football Club and its current owners – Peak 6. I presume these are a group of venture capitalists who are looking for a return on their investment. I have no problem with that but the failure to ensure the Wednesday night European match was shown on TV quite frankly deeply disturbed me. I believe Eir Sport made an offer to show the game, but this offer was turned down. Now this could be because the TV company’s offer was so small that it could not be accepted, or was it that the current owners wanted to ensure that people had to travel if they wanted to see the game. Methinks this was the motive of the club. They were able to stream the match for people outside of Ireland. Keely’s Bar was one of the businesses to benefit from this. But why can you watch the match if you are on holiday and not if you could not get time of work to travel to Dublin, or if you genuinely could not get to the game? The attendance was not, I believe any greater than usual attendances for European matches. Let me say that Dundalk people will travel to a European game. They will not sit at home and watch it on television. My own son, who does not travel to games, but went to this one with his daughter.

The problem here is not supporters; the problem is that we haven’t got a stadium that is capable of showing a European game. May I say to Peak 6 – you may own the infrastructure of Dundalk FC but you do not own the club. It is owned by the people of Dundalk past and present. So I understand your priority is to improve the standard of the players so that they can be serial winners of the League, and hopefully in the near future progress to the knock-out stages of a European competition. But along with this we must also have a stadium that reflects this great club. For too long we have been boom and bust. My fear is that this will happen again to our great club. If the owners cannot get a return on their investment, an investment that they feel is appropriate, then they could depart. Leaving us with a load of memories and a stadium that is a disgrace in this day and age.

I repeat, it is time for everybody to get together and put plans in place for a proper stadium to be built. Let that be the legacy of Peak 6 NOT just the desire to get a financial return on investment. We have already been down that road, and it was left to the ordinary supporters, the Maxi’s of this world, Andy Connolly and Paul Brown and all the people who put money in to save the club, let’s not let that happen again.  C’MON THE TOWN.

UCD were beaten 10-1 by Bohs last Friday, what exactly does it mean for the League of Ireland structure? The people running our League have no interest in our League. The First Division is a joke and teams that get promoted from it invariably go back down almost immediately. I have long called for a larger Premier Division with a Regional League to back this up. The winner of this Regional competition would then play off against the last team in the Premier Division. But to play in the Premier Division you should have to meet a fixed set of criteria;

1. To have a ground available that is up to standard

2. To have the financial capability to survive the Premier Division e.g. Sponsorship, proper budgets etc

3. To have a fan base or potential fan base that will allow the club to survive.

There are many more basic standards that could be applied.

So when we get results like the last weeks game between Bohs and UCD and the recent result against Rovers what do we see? We see a club with one of the best coaches in the country struggling in the Premier Division. So it is not his problem. UCD are different to all other clubs, they use the football team to promote Academic excellence, it does not matter what division they are in. Their model is not conducive to winning League and cups.

They do however produce fantastic players. These players are then cherry-picked by league clubs. If UCD were able to keep their promotion team together then they would not be in the position they are in now. They had two 5th year students and two 6th year students in their team last week. Alex Ferguson couldn’t coach this team successfully, so having a brilliant young coach will not help when half your team wouldn’t get in to see an over 18 movie.

Former UCD manager Collie O’Neill

Since I wrote the above, events have overtaken me. UCD took the decision to sack Collie O’Neill, a decision that defies logic and is an insult to a really good coach. What do they expect to achieve by this outrageous decision? Where will they get a coach who is prepared to build a team and have it whipped away from under his feet? To the people who run UCD – shame on you. I thought you were different. I thought you were smart. I thought you had the education of players, both academic and football at the heart of your club. You don’t, you have become just another second rate club.

To Collie O’Neill I say, you have performed a minor miracle with this team. You will be appreciated over the next period of time.You are a man slight in stature but huge in integrity. I have had the pleasure to work with you and see your ability and character. You will be a huge loss to UCD and more importantly to our league. Take a break, you will be back soon. Our League cannot afford to be without people as good as you.

I have deliberately stayed quiet about Shelbourne in the First Division. I have been afraid to say anything in case things went belly up. But their win over Longford Town at the weekend puts them in the driving seat. I hope they can now finish the job and get back to their rightful place in the Premier Division. Shels tick all the boxes as far as eligibility for the Premier Division is concerned. I hope this year they finally make it.


Main Picture Credit: Dundalk FC


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