Who will replace Stephen Kenny as Dundalk manager? We look at seven potential candidates

Sun, Dec 02 2018

Vinny Perth consults with Stephen Kenny before Dundalk's famous Europa League win over BATE Borisov. Credit: Michael P Ryan

If Stephen’s Kenny’s appointment to the Republic of Ireland management ticket wasn’t quite a shock, the swift manner of his departure took many, including his own club, unaware.

When it became clear that Mick McCarthy was the FAI’s preferred choice, and that Kenny had turned down a consolation prize of under-21 boss, it looked like he would stay put at Dundalk.

A late re-jigging of the plan saw McCarthy take over the senior side until the end of 2020, when he would hand over the reins to Kenny, who would lead the 21s in the interim.

For a club whose recent success – four league titles in five seasons – was built around Kenny’s vision, Dundalk would have been shaken regardless of when Kenny decided to depart.

The Lilywhites’ owners, Peak 6, though they’ve been in control less than a year, would surely have had contingency plans in place as most professional clubs do, regardless of success.

FAI CEO John Delaney argued that the quick nature of the appointment will give Dundalk as much time as possible to find a replacement.

However, that’s easier said than done, especially as Kenny departed with immediate effect and, with pre-season due to begin in the coming weeks, time is of the essence.

So who are the prime candidates to take over the Dundalk job?

Vinny Perth

The immediate name on most people’s lips when Kenny’s departure was confirmed was the Tallaght man’s longtime assistant, Vinny Perth.

The former Longford Town defender – he was one of Kenny’s early signings in his first gig at Flancare Park – has been assistant at Oriel Park for each of the last six seasons.

He knows the club inside out and, only this summer, he signed a three-year deal to go full-time on the coaching staff.

 On the other hand, Perth only has the UEFA A License, and next year the FAI are set to require all permanent managers possess a Pro License.

The association may be of a mind to make an exception given they were the ones to lure Kenny away, but it’s far from guaranteed.

Mick Neville

This is where things get slightly more interesting – seven-time League of Ireland winner Mick Neville has his Pro License and is based in the area as the UEFA Regional Development Officer for Co Louth.

Neville has the necessary qualifications to take the reins – either as manager or effective assistant to Perth, as Sami Ristila served under Stephen Bradley at Shamrock Rovers in 2016.

However it’s unlikely Neville could do so and continue his role with the FAI – Harry Kenny recently stepped down as the FAI’s ETB co-ordinator for Clondalkin to take the St Patrick’s Athletic job.

If, as is assumed, Dundalk’s preference is for Perth to continue as manager, it would appear unlikely Neville would take the risk for the instability of club coaching.

Steve Staunton

What better way to replace the next Republic of Ireland manager than with a former Republic of Ireland manager – and one from the town to boot?

It’s an appointment that would sure to raise a few laughs among the public following his dismal outing as national team manager.

‘Stan’ has found employment difficult to come by since he was thrown the hospital pass of the Irish managerial gig without any prior experience following Brian Kerr’s departure in 2006.

A short spell at Darlington (where he worked with future Dundalk defender Simon Madden) and an assistant position at Leeds United aside, he’s been restricted to scouting work.

In the credit column, Staunton does hold a Pro License, which he completed with the FA in 2010, and would be the club’s first homegrown manager in decades.

Keith Long

If Stephen Kenny hadn’t scooped the PFAI Manager of the Year award for the fifth time in six years last month, there’s a fair chance Bohemians manager Keith Long would have held aloft the gong.

The immense job the Dubliner has done under straitened circumstances at Bohemians hasn’t gone unnoticed, taking a part-time to successive fifth- and sixth-place finishes.

Long’s preference for short-passing, progressive football and getting the maximum out of the players at his disposal would make him a natural successor to Kenny.

However, while Kenny went to Dundalk as a serial winner of trophies, Long has won just one – the Leinster Senior Cup – in his time with Bray Wanderers, Athlone Town and Bohs.

And it’s likely that Dundalk would require him to go full-time, which might not suit a man who has built up a successful professional life outside the game.

Long is committed to a long-term project at Dalymount Park and the announcement of four new signings on Saturday suggest he very much has his eye on continuing that work.

Collie O’Neill

If Long represents the nearest approximation of the Kenny philosophy in the League of Ireland, Collie O’Neill represents the next level.

O’Neill’s UCD side strolled to the First Division title playing arguably the most attractive football that division has ever seen – playing passing football almost to a fault at times.

Whether supporters would accept a Drogheda man at the helm – or vice versa – is another matter, but they’d have little to complain about in terms of style.

Kenny’s success has been on moulding players in his image, and O’Neill has taken his group of scholarship players and immersed them in his vision of how the game should be played.

It’s difficult to know whether he would have the same success with older pros, but he has certainly demonstrated the tools on the coaching field.

However, like Long, he has a long-term project in the offing at UCD and a good job that may not be conducive to taking the step up to the league champions.

Garry Haylock

If the Dundalk board were to look further afield and use their international connections, they could find a candidate with more than a few connections to home.

Pro License coach Garry Haylock was actually offered the manager’s gig at Dundalk in the early 2000s, when the club wasn’t quite in the rude health it is now, but turned it down.

The Yorkshire native carved out a fine career in the League of Ireland and the Irish League in the 1990s, winning titles on both sides of the border with Shelbourne and Linfield.

Since retiring, he’s managed at non-league level in England, most notable with Hayes & Yeading, who he led to promotion to Conference National (the fifth tier of English football) in 2009.

More recently, he worked as a coach under Paul Tisdale at Exeter City and has scouted for various clubs across the country, including in Ireland.

Dave Rogers

Perhaps the most leftfield appointment of all would be a man who turned his back – quite literally – on the club in 2009.

Liverpudlian Dave Rogers was sacked by Dundalk as a player in rather infamous circumstances after dropping his shorts to moon a former team’s fans.

The club took the gesture in slightly less good humour than the intended recipients and the defender was given his marching orders.

Both Dundalk and Rogers have grown up quite a bit since, and Rogers has since become one of Liverpool FC’s most-prized international coaches.

Rogers has managed DSK Shivajians in the Indian League, and was also involved for a time in the Indian national team as Steve Constantine’s assistant.

He’s currently Liverpool’s director of coaching in Utah, but fits the profile of a young, successful coach with a philosophy of passing football that would fit right in at Oriel Park.