Abibi to wear number one jersey but not guaranteed starting role at Dundalk

Abibi to wear number one jersey but not guaranteed starting role at Dundalk

Alessio Abibi will wear the number one jersey for Dundalk this season but has not been guaranteed the starting position by head coach Filippo Giovagnoli.

The Albanian is currently the only goalkeeper on the books at Oriel Park following the retirement of Gary Rogers and departures of Aaron McCarey and Jimmy Corcoran at the end of last season.

However, The Argus understands that two new goalkeepers could be signed this week.

One of those is likely to be a loan signing of a player from a Championship club in England with the Lilywhites understood to be closing in on a deal to bring over 6ft 7in goalkeeper Corey Addai from Barnsley.

The article as it appeared in The Argus on February 16th 2021

Dundalk are also expected to hand a deal to one of the two out of contract goalkeepers who are training with them at present.

Former Huddersfield Town, Galway Utd and Cork City netminder Tadhg Ryan, who was at Waterford last season and 2014 title winner Peter Cherrie, who was released by Derry City at the end of last season, have been taking part in pre-season at Oriel Park in recent days.

While Ryan is the younger option at just 23, 37-year-old Cherrie is thought to be ahead of him in the pecking order for a contract at present.

The Scot – who still lives locally – made 237 appearances for Dundalk between 2009 and 2014 having arrived from Clyde. Since departing Oriel Park, Cherrie has played with Cliftonville, Bray Wanderers, Cork City and Derry City but could now be set for an emotional return back to a club where he was hugely popular amongst fans in the early part of the last decade.

Asked about the two trialists, Giovagnoli said: “They are doing well. We are probably going to decide this week what to do with them.

“They’re doing well. They’re good people and good players. They’re working hard and we like them both. We’re going to decide this week but I’m happy with what I see from them. They’re really good players.”

Asked would Abibi be his number one at the start of the season, the Italian didn’t give a firm commitment that he would be.

He said: “With a coach like me, I’ll play who deserves to play. The pitch is going to talk. We have to do the best for the club.

“If Alessio is the number one it’s because he is the best at the moment or it’s going to be another goalkeeper. That’s not a problem. Let’s see who is going to be the other two goalkeepers and then they’re going to fight for the spot, like all the other players.”

Despite this, Giovagnoli dismissed rumours which spread via social media last week suggesting Abibi had failed to settle in Ireland and had already departed just a month after his arrival.

“I don’t even know what the rumour is but Alessio is doing really well and he’s happy,” said the coach.

“He’s a really strong, modern goalkeeper. He’s a big size, really aggressive and he is something that is just different than the profiles that are here in Ireland. We are really happy with him. He is doing well and he’s working hard. He’s a really hard worker.

“Alessio is going to do really well,” he said.

One goalkeeper who did depart last week was American underage international Alex Rando, who opted to return Stateside to pursue a scholarship rather than accept an offer at Oriel Park.

On the player he had worked with in New York, Giovagnoli said: “Alex is a really good goalkeeper. He came and we were going to offer him a contract but he had this thing with his college and he spoke with his family and in the end they decided it would be better to go back to the college.

“For American players sometimes this is the decision they have to make and we respect that. It’s fine. We’re going to get other goalkeepers with competitive profiles, there’s no problem.”

Giovagnoli hoping new recruits given Dundalk the element of surprise

Giovagnoli hoping new recruits given Dundalk the element of surprise

Dundalk head coach Filippo Giovagnoli is hoping his side’s new recruits give the team an element of surprise in the early weeks of the season.

While most of the new additions to squads across the league this winter are well known here, there is most certainly an unknown element to Dundalk’s five new recruits to date: goalkeeper Alessio Abibi, defenders Sonni Nattestad and Raivis Jurkovskis, midfielder Sam Stanton and forward Ole Erik Midtskogen.

“This is beautiful for the league,” said Giovagnoli.

The article as it appeared in The Argus on February 16th 2021

“Here in every game you know what to expect so now maybe you won’t know what to expect and that’s nice. I think it’s important.”

While traditionally slow starters over the years, Giovagnoli is hoping his side can hit the ground running as they attempt to wrestle the title back from Shamrock Rovers.

“We don’t want to start slow, we want to start strong. We want to make a statement right away. We’re going to be really aggressive from the beginning. I’ve no doubt on that. We are working for that.

“I think if we have our best team on the pitch then we’re going to be really strong. I hope to have headaches every weekend and I think I will because even with the new players that we’re going to sign we will have almost two players for every position so then they have to fight for their position.”

Dundalk face a difficult start to the new season with games against three of last year’s top four in their opening four league matches but Giovagnoli is confident his side will be ready for the challenge.

“In this league I don’t think there are any easy games. Whether you play someone in the third game or sixth game, it’s not going to change much.

“We just need to be ready and healthy and fit for the start of the league and we’re going to be. We just need to recover the players that are injured and then we’ll be okay because our team is strong.”

The Italian is also keen to see how Shamrock Rovers look this season having lost Jack Byrne and Aaron McEneff to APOEL and Hearts over the winter.

“Shamrock will be a different team from last year because without Jack Byrne and Aaron McEneff it’s going to be a different team. They cannot be the same.

“Nobody is going to be the same but of course if you replace a player with a player that you know then at least you know their individual characteristics but the way that they play is going to be different for sure. The style will change for sure but let’s see how they look. I’m curious because I’m a student of the game and I like this kind of challenge,” he said.

Trip to face Derry City the first of three pre-season friendlies lined up

Trip to face Derry City the first of three pre-season friendlies lined up

Dundalk will travel to the Ryan McBride Brandywell Stadium next Tuesday February 23rd for the first of their pre-season friendly fixtures against Derry City.

The match with Declan Devine’s side is the first of three in the pipeline for Filippo Giovagnoli’s side ahead of the new campaign with a trip to United Park to face Drogheda Utd in the Jim Malone Cup and the visit of Bohemians to Oriel Park also on the agenda. Exact dates and times for those matches had yet to be officially confirmed at the time of going to press.

The article as it appeared in The Argus on February 16th 2021

Those three matches, as well as the President’s Cup final against Shamrock Rovers in Tallaght Stadium on Friday March 12th, could be the only games the side plays before the new league season kicks-off against Sligo Rovers at The Showgrounds on Saturday March 20th.

“They’ll be the three games before the President’s Cup,” said Giovagnoli.

While looking forward to getting his side back on the pitch, the Italian said he was unsure at this stage how many first-team players would be ready to face the Candystripes next week.

“Derry will be just the first approach to giving minutes to some of the players because I’m not going to have many players available for this game but it doesn’t matter. We’ll play some of the younger players as well and some of them could surprise us.

“We want to be challenged. We have to be use to playing strong teams so those games are going to be really good for us.”

Asked would he be treating the President’s Cup match as a friendly, Giovagnoli said: “Not really, for us it’s a Cup and we want to win.”

With continued doubts over the WatchLOI service for the forthcoming season, Dundalk are understood to be exploring the possibility of streaming their own matches with a trial possible during the pre-season games.

Dundalk boss hopeful of having full squad available for start of the season

Dundalk boss hopeful of having full squad available for start of the season

Dundalk head coach Filippo Giovagnoli is hopeful of having a full squad available for the start of the season next month.

At present up to half a dozen key players have yet to train with the rest of the squad due to injuries of varying scale.

However, speaking to The Argus on Sunday, Giovagnoli said he was confident almost all would have a good chance of being back either for the President’s Cup tie with Shamrock Rovers on March 12th or the league opener away to Sligo Rovers eight days later.

The article as it appeared in The Argus on February 16th 2021

He said: “We have injuries that we’ve carried over from last year with Pat Hoban, Sean Murray and Daniel Kelly and even Mickey Duffy has something from last year.

“They are the ones that we have to observe more right now to make sure we have them back in March.

“Then we have a few minor injuries like Brian Gartland and Patrick McEleney but they’re really minor injuries and it should just be a matter of a few days.

“The four that I mentioned are the ones that are going to take a little bit longer but still I think I’m going to have them available for the President’s Cup or at least the first game.

“They are progressing a lot but we’re not going to push them or risk anything but I think by the middle of March we’re going to be in a different position.”

The Italian said that, despite those six absentees, pre-season training had gone well so far with the club’s five new signings all settling in well.

“They have completely confirmed the idea that I had about them,” he said of the new arrivals.

“They are doing well and they have a lot of potential. They’ve shown already their potential. They’re going to do well in this league and they’ve come here really motivated to do well. They are young players and I think that they can build a good future in Dundalk. They’re going to perform.

“I’m happy about all the new players. All of them are really good. We lost some players but we’ve replaced them with really good quality. To be honest, I’m really, really happy and this is just the start for them,” he said.

Giovagnoli’s backroom team now complete with Byas and Mac Colgáin’s arrivals

Giovagnoli’s backroom team now complete with Byas and Mac Colgáin’s arrivals

Filippo Giovagnoli says his backroom team is now complete following the appointments of new goalkeeping coach Graham Byas and new club doctor Dualtach Mac Colgáin by the club last week.

As first revealed by The Argus a week ago, Byas comes in to replace Steve Williams as goalkeeping coach having most recently worked with Shamrock Rovers II and the Rovers academy sides at Roadstone.

Mac Colgáin, who holds a BSc and an MSc in Sports Medicine, has worked with the Meath GAA senior team for the past couple of seasons and replaces David Connolly who stepped down from the role last month.

The article as it appeared in The Argus on February 16th 2021

The arrival of Byas was particularly welcome given the club had struggled to identify a UEFA A licensed goalkeeping coach in recent months, something which is a requirement for licensing purposes.

Speaking about the Dubliner, who has also worked with Longford Town, St Patrick’s Athletic and the Irish amputee and cerebral palsy squads, Giovagnoli said: “We interviewed a few profiles and Graham was the one that hit more of our objectives.

“We were happy with the way that he was proposing his job and the way that he can see the goalkeepers and how he wants to develop them. He has a good structure in his job. He is organised and it was a good pick for us. He is doing really well and we’re happy with what we’ve seen up until now.”

He added: “With the staff we are complete so we’ve not got a problem any more now that the doctor is in.

“We’re in a good spot now. We are working on some ideas already among our staff on how to use them as best we can but we are almost there.”

Shane Keegan, who will now have the title of Team Operations Manager, will continue to provide opposition analysis for the foreseeable future with clubs unable to travel to games.

Another new addition over the off season is sports scientist Lorcan Mason, who also joined from Shamrock Rovers.

On the 23-year-old, Giovagnoli said: “He’s a very good guy and a really hard worker. We really like him. He’s a really good person and a very good professional. He’s a perfectionist and the work that he is doing together with Graham Norton is a big, big thing.”

Dundalk hopeful of receiving clearance to complete deal for Han Eui-gwon

Dundalk hopeful of receiving clearance to complete deal for Han Eui-gwon

Dundalk FC are hopeful of securing a special dispensation to complete the signing of South Korean winger Han Eui-gwon.

Last week Lilywhites head coach Filippo Giovagnoli revealed to The Argus that an agreement between the club and player had been reached but added that the move was now in doubt due to question marks over the 26-year-old’s eligibility for a work permit.

As part of an agreement between the FAI and the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, a player seeking a work permit must “have participated in a minimum of 25% of his club’s league fixtures during the current or most recent full season.”

The article as it appeared in The Argus on February 9th 2021

The issue with Eui-gwon is that he falls just outside this criteria having only played in 22% of K League matches for Suwon Samsung Bluewings last year.

Given that he was just one game away from reaching the quota required to receive a work permit in a season that was curtailed due to Covid-19 and in which he was often sidelined by injury, Dundalk are expected to argue that the “most recent full season” should apply.

In the 2019 campaign, Eui-gwon played in 76% of his side’s K League 1 matches.

Officials from South Korea are also understood to have written to Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Leo Varadkar to plead the player’s case.

Speaking at an FAI press conference on Thursday to announce Bank of Ireland coming on board as an associate sponsor of the SSE Airtricity League, Giovagnoli said he was hopeful the deal could go through because he felt the winger had the potential to really shine in the league.

“I think the club is working on it.

“Han is a super talented player. I think Han in this league will be just amazing because he could be the star of the league.

“This could also make the League of Ireland known in Korea and in Asia. That would be amazing in my opinion but let’s see. I hope they can sort it out because he is a top player.”

Dundalk are also working on a number of other deals at present, with a young Scottish-based winger also on the radar, as well as at least one – if not two – new goalkeepers with former Huddersfield Town, Galway Utd, Cork City and Waterford keeper Tadhg Ryan understood to be on trial at Oriel Park at present.

Canadian underage international full back Terique Mohammed is also a target while a number of American players are also anticipated to join the set up at Oriel Park. These will include German Giammattei, who was listed among the squad for last December’s FAI Cup final, and Jesus ‘Chino’ Perez, who had a trial at Oriel Park in January last year before returning to America having been drafted by New York City FC.

It is also understood that the club have recruited a new goalkeeping coach in the form of Graham Byas, who most recently worked with Shamrock Rovers II and the Rovers academy at Roadstone.

While this had yet to be officially announced by the club prior to publication it would fulfil one of the gaping holes in the club’s ability to receive a licence to compete in the league this season as a UEFA A Licensed goalkeeping coach has been a requirement of the licensing process since 2018.

Meanwhile, there was another off the field departure at Oriel Park last week with Chief Business Officer David Minto handing in his notice to take up a new position at another local firm.