Second time lucky for Dundalk as club close on South Korean signing

Second time lucky for Dundalk as club close on South Korean signing

Dundalk are set to finally land a South Korean winger after being frustrated in their initial attempts.

Over the winter Han Eui-gwon had agreed terms for a move to Oriel Park from K League side Suwon Samsung Bluewings but failure to secure a work permit having been just one appearance shy of the quota required scuppered a move for the 26-year-old who has since signed for Seoul E-Land in his homeland.

Now Dundalk have turned their sights to another of his countrymen.

It is understood that the man in question is Han Jeong Woo, a 22-year-old right winger who has been capped at both U-18 and U-22 level for his country.

He is a free agent having departed Suwon FC in January after helping them to promotion to the top flight after a runner-up finish in K League 2 last season.

The player is understood to be currently in Ireland with his agent so a deal could be completed this week.

Speaking to The Argus earlier in the year, sporting director Jim Magilton had spoke about expanding the brand in Asia.

“We’re looking to expose and expand the brand as far as possible but he’s also a good player,” he said of Eui-gwon.

“If we can attract players from that part of the world it means that the Dundalk FC brand gets more exposure, the league gets more exposure and it could then open opportunities for other players to come into the league and we know that Korean players bring a fantastic attitude and work ethic and they’re top, top people,” said Magilton.

A potential move for Jeong Woo may not be Dundalk’s only business this week either. As revealed in last week’s Argus, Central African Republic international midfielder Wilfried Zahibo is expected to sign upon his arrival from France and he could be joined by fellow French born defender Tom Gaston. The former Bordeaux player, who has been capped at U-19 level by Ireland, trained with Dundalk last week. Australian goalkeeper Patrick Beach is also on trial with the Lilywhites at present with Armagh GAA goalkeeper Niall Brady also training with the first team.

With Raivis Jurkovskis and Sonni Nattestad away on international duty for Friday night’s home game against Finn Harps and Brian Gartland struggling with an injury that saw him press pre-season, Gaston could also be fast-tracked into the side if he impresses.

Dundalk had been hoping that the Finn Harps game, which kicks off at 5.45pm on Friday, would be postponed due to international call-ups but the club only discovered last Tuesday morning that this would not be possible due to what team manager Shane Keegan described as “one of the strangest rules” he has seen.

Clubs can have games called off if two or more players are away on international duty but this only applies to call-ups for the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.

With goalkeeper Alessio Abibi also said to be on the fringes of the Albanian squad that could leave Dundalk without several key players for not only the Finn Harps match this weekend but also the trip to face Waterford on September 3rd, the home fixture with reigning champions Shamrock Rovers on October 8th and the Louth derby with neighbours Drogheda Utd in the penultimate game of the season on November 12th.

Keegan called for the rule to be revised ahead of next season.

“In fairness to the FAI, the explanation I got was that this is a rule set out in the participation agreement which is something technically agreed by the clubs. It’s very black and white so we can’t argue.

“There’s no room for manoeuvre there really.

“We have plenty of quality there and it’s up to us to make sure it doesn’t become an issue by others stepping up to the plate.

“I think it’s something that the clubs will need to look at before the start of next year.

“I suppose it was something that was agreed without much thought because we didn’t really have mass volumes of internationals from outside of the Republic. I don’t really understand what the thinking was behind it but the FAI’s argument is that it’s not our rule, it is the participation agreement which is something that you’re involved with coming up with.

“It seems a very, very strange one because Abibi could be called up too. He has been in the past and he’s going to be in with a chance of being called up so it seems a strange one and it’s going to make life a little bit more difficult on ourselves but look we have good strength in depth too so we just have to try and cope with it,” he said.

Meanwhile, Shamrock Rovers’ trip to face Derry City this weekend has been postponed after Candystripes goalkeeper Nathan Gartside was called into the Northern Ireland squad. Asked would it give Dundalk an advantage to be playing ahead of the meeting of the two sides next week in Tallaght on April 2nd, Keegan said: “It all depends on the result against Finn Harps.

“If we get a win next weekend and we have momentum heading into the Rovers game then it definitely works in our favour all right. That’s the only way I can look at it really that if you get the win you have that bit of momentum whereas they might be caught a little bit cold but these things are always looked at with revision in that the result will dictate everything.

“If we beat Rovers in that game and we’ve played the week before then everybody will say Rovers were a bit rusty because they hadn’t had a game the previous week whereas if they beat us people will say they had more energy because they hadn’t played the previous week so it’s going to be the same either way,” said Keegan.

Fairclough’s 39 year run as Dundalk’s last international set to come to an end

Fairclough’s 39 year run as Dundalk’s last international set to come to an end

Mick Fairclough’s near 39-year record as the last Dundalk player to be capped at international level is set to come to an end this week.

The Annagassan man – who won a league, FAI Cup and League Cup with Dundalk in the early 80s – remains the last from the club to win international honours while still at Oriel Park having come off the bench at the Arima Municipal Stadium for Brendan O’Callaghan in the 2-1 defeat to Trinidad and Tobago on May 30th 1982.

Nine days earlier he had his made his Republic of Ireland debut in a 1-0 defeat to Chile on Eoin Hand’s side’s ill-fated South American tour which included a 7-0 thumping by Brazil in which he didn’t feature.

Since then many ex-Dundalk players have received international recognition, with Daryl Horgan in Stephen Kenny’s plans for the World Cup Qualifiers with Serbia on Wednesday and Luxembourg on Saturday, as well as the friendly with Qatar next Tuesday. However, Raivis Jurkovskis and Sonni Nattestad’s inclusion in the Latvia and Faroe Islands squads mean they are set to become the 12th and 13th players to be capped while at Dundalk.

Jurkovskis will be hoping to add to his 13 caps when Latvia play World Cup Qualifiers at home to Montenegro on Wednesday before travelling to face the Netherlands on Saturday and Turkey on Tuesday.

Likewise, Nattestad will be expecting to add to his 31 caps for the Faroes when they take on Moldova on Thursday, Austria on Sunday and Scotland next Wednesday.

Should either or both play they will be the first to be capped at international level in a competitive game while at Dundalk since Turlough O’Connor and the late Tommy McConville were part of the Irish side which lost 6-0 to Austria in Vienna in a European Championship qualifier almost 50 years ago in October 1971.

Dundalk’s international caps so far are as follows:

  1. Robert Egan
  2. Joey Donnelly
  3. Billy O’Neill
  4. Mick Hoy
  5. Dicky Lunn
  6. Terry Murray
  7. Tony O’Connell
  8. Tommy McConville
  9. Turlough O’Connor
  10. Synan Braddish
  11. Mick Fairclough
Keegan frustrated to only take a point from Sligo but knows it could have been less

Keegan frustrated to only take a point from Sligo but knows it could have been less

Shane Keegan admitted his frustration at Dundalk’s failure to get their season off to a winning start in Sligo at the weekend but was well aware they could have had no points at this stage just as easily as the one they left The Showgrounds with.

Speaking to the media afterwards, the Laois man said he felt his side were about to kick on after bright starts to both halves of the match but was relieved at the end not to have lost to Liam Buckley’s side.

Asked if the Lilywhites were hanging on a bit at the end, Keegan said: “Yep, we definitely were.

The match report from Dundalk’s opening day draw in Sligo as it appeared in The Argus on March 23rd 2021

“It was a very frustrating game because at two different stages of the game I thought we were going to kick on and win the match. We’ve gone 1-0 up and you’re thinking let’s kick on now and go and get a second and then the game is over and we haven’t managed to do that and then in the first 10 minutes of the second half we started well and Pat has hit the post and there was the one he squared back to Cammy and there was a chance for Greg.

“Again, I was thinking just put the ball in the back of the net here and we’ll go on and win this game but then it became anything but.

“You get games every now and again where both management teams are probably coming away giving out and disappointed and that was definitely the case tonight because they’ll be coming away scratching their heads as to how they didn’t win it in the end.”

Keegan said a change in formation to bring Patrick McEleney deeper had paid dividends at the start of the second half but admitted that ultimately the switch left Dundalk exposed.

“We tweaked it a little bit at half-time and 15 or 20 minutes into it you’re thinking this tweak has really worked and it is working brilliantly and then by the final whistle you’re thinking maybe that wasn’t the right thing to do at all because we’ve ended up on the back foot for so long.

“They were being very aggressive in their press which we knew they would be which meant that we thought if there’s not a huge amount of space in front of them then maybe the space is behind them so that’s probably why we tweaked it a little bit and it has worked to a certain extent. Hoban, for the first 10 or 15 minutes of the second half, has bullied the life out of them really and really put us on the front foot but with any system it’ll give you some advantage but it’ll also give you some disadvantages and they probably exploited some of the disadvantages to the tweak at that stage then as well.”

Keegan admitted there were a few occasions where the side looked like they had still some work to do in terms of bedding the new signings in but he wasn’t overly concerned about it being a factor in the long term.

“It was probably the first time that we have seen signs of lads only getting the feel for each other a little bit,” said the former Galway Utd boss.

“We probably gelled a little bit better in some of the pre-season games but at the same time it is their fourth ever time playing together so it is inevitable that they’re not going to be fully on the same wavelength but yet they were in periods.

“From our point of view we need to establish a performance over 90 minutes rather than the likes of this game where it was up and down and peaks and troughs the whole time through the game. Trying to get a bit more consistency over the 90 minutes is key for us.”

Keegan said he felt the offside call to deny Mark Byrne a late winner for Sligo was the right decision but admitted he hadn’t seen it back despite Bit O Red officials insisting afterwards the linesman had got it wrong.

“I did expect the flag to go up but bear in mind I haven’t seen a replay.

“Now when I say I expected to go up, I was also praying it would go up when I was looking down the line but I did immediately look down the line expecting to see it but until I see it back they could be right, maybe it was onside. They were certainly appealing like they felt it was. If we’ve got away with one there we’ve got away with one.”

Keegan hoping to have some players back for first home game against Finn Harps

Keegan hoping to have some players back for first home game against Finn Harps

Dundalk team manager Shane Keegan is hopeful of having some players back from injury for his side’s first home league match of the season against Finn Harps on Friday (kick-off 5.45pm, live on WATCHLOI).

Having only named seven subs instead of the nine allowed for their draw away to Sligo Rovers on Saturday night, the Lilywhites will now be without both Raivis Jurkovskis and Sonni Nattestad for the visit of Ollie Horgan’s men due to international duty for Latvia and the Faroe Islands respectively.

Brian Gartland, who had hoped to be back in the squad for the trip to Sligo, suffered a setback in his attempted return from injury last week while Daniel Kelly and Sean Murray remain sidelined at present.

The article as it appeared in The Argus on March 23rd 2021

While Gartland and Kelly both have a chance of making this weekend, Keegan is hopeful that youngster Val Adedokun will also be available.

Asked why Dundalk only named seven subs in Sligo, the 39-year-old said: “Bodies and injuries.

“Garts had a little bit of a setback in terms of his recovery. We’re still a couple of bodies down with Daniel Kelly and Sean Murray so we need to get a few more back because we’re down a couple of bodies for the next game but at the same time we still have serious strength in depth.

“We’ll have a look at it during the week. There is a chance that we might manage to get one or two more bodies back. I don’t think Val’s injury would definitely rule him out for next week yet. I think Daniel Kelly may have a chance as well.

“We need to see over the weekend how Garts has reacted to his little bit of a setback.

“Again, I don’t think we can overly whinge or moan about missing a couple of bodies. We’ve got real strength in depth and we’ve got quality all over the field so we should be able to cope. You’re going to be down a couple of bodies be it from international duty, suspension or injury over the course of the season and you just have to deal with it as best you can.

“I mean you can only bring on a certain amount of bodies too. The 20 player thing is probably a help in terms of less lads dissatisfied at not actually making the match day squad but does it affect how you can actually impact a game? No because the first five subs who you’re likely to use are the first five whether you’re naming 18 or 20.”

Following their opening day victory over Bohemians at Finn Park, this will be the Donegal outfit’s first visit to Oriel Park ahead of Dundalk in a league table since first half goals from Gary Crossan and Kevin McHugh earned them a 2-0 victory on August 26th 2004.

After their strong finish to last season, Keegan is expecting a tough test from a Harps side who drew 0-0 on their last visit to Oriel Park last October.

Anything you say about Harps at this stage sounds clichéd but they’re still true,” he said.

“Ollie, you just don’t ever get an easy game off him. Their tails will be up on the back of that one so it probably does make it a little bit even tastier again.”

Sloggett feels Dundalk will get over opening night issues as side gels

Sloggett feels Dundalk will get over opening night issues as side gels

Greg Sloggett feels Dundalk will gel in time to ensure they claim their first victory of the season at home to Finn Harps this Friday night (kick-off 5.45pm, live on WATCHLOI).

By their own admission, there were a few teething problems for the Lilywhites as they opened their campaign with a 1-1 draw away to Sligo Rovers at the weekend.

By contrast a Finn Harps side with just two debutants in the starting 11 – one of whom was the returning Ethan Boyle – claimed arguably the result of the weekend in beating Bohemians 1-0 at Finn Park.

The article as it appeared in The Argus on March 23rd 2021

Sloggett admitted there was a bedding in process required for sides across the league to get used to new recruits but he doesn’t feel Harps being the most settled of anyone will help Ollie Horgan’s men when they arrive at Oriel Park on Friday.

“I think year on year you want to have settled squads but if you need to change over players then so be it.

“It’s renowned in this league that players come and go and chop and change and there’s plenty of that and plenty of years where it hasn’t affected teams and they’ve gone and kicked on.

“I think everyone has gelled in quite well here. Were there some teething problems? Yes and no. They came out and pressed us aggressively and pressed us high up the pitch and any game like that where they are pressing high and we’re pressing high it is going to end up in a kind of a frantic feel to it and it had the opening night nerves to it as well.

“Yes, of course we have plenty of new players in there as well so there’s a bedding in process as well but it’s apparent in a lot of the first games I think.

“We were short a game in pre-season as well that we missed out on up in Derry so there is going to be a bit of that in the first couple of games.

“It was a frantic game tonight as we’ve mentioned but I don’t think there will be any issues bedding in players.

“Harps had a good win tonight but we’ll have to go and beat them now next week, it’s as simple as that,” he said.

The midfielder admitted to being disappointed at not having won at The Showgrounds.

“Every game we go into we want to win so in that regard it’s disappointing to only be coming away with one point.

“I think that’s definitely a game we felt we could have won. We kicked on and got the first goal which is positive. We came with a plan to press hard and aggressively and it has paid off.

“We’ve worked on defending set pieces but we didn’t set up quick enough. That is disappointing and something we’ll have to look back on but I think looking back on it they had a couple of chances in the second half and it could have gone either way so a point in some ways was a fair result.

“You know you’re going to get tough games in this league, particularly on the opening night. I remember last year we played Derry on the opening night and it was a tight game but then Dane Massey popped up and came away with a goal from a corner and that’s sometimes that’s all the difference is. We’re disappointed not to come away with three points but in the end a draw is possibly a fair result,” he said.

Giovagnoli’s league record will need to improve after less than impressive start

Giovagnoli’s league record will need to improve after less than impressive start

Leaving aside the charade that Shane Keegan is now team manager, Saturday’s game against Sligo Rovers at The Showgrounds was the 10th league match which Filippo Giovagnoli has been in charge of Dundalk for.

While a new season brings a fresh start, his record over those 10 games is far from impressive reading.

The article as it appeared in The Argus on March 23rd 2021

Just 13 points out of a possible 30 on offer makes his the worst start of any manager since the late Sean McCaffrey managed nine from his first 10 games in that dramatic 2012 season in which the club struggled to survive both on and off the field.

Either side of that Ian Foster, Stephen Kenny and Vinny Perth all managed 18 points from their first 10 matches but the budgets of the first two could be deemed significantly less when they started while in Perth’s case the side did improve after a shaky start which saw him lose Robbie Benson and Patrick McEleney to broken legs in his first league match in charge, ironically in a 1-1 draw with Sligo Rovers.

Giovagnoli – whose patrolling of the sidelines at The Showgrounds for the second half on Saturday shows who is really still in charge – will undoubtedly argue that this is a new season and a fresh start after a debut campaign in which he prioritised other competitions.

That may be fair too as, of the last 10 managers the club has had, he is the only one whose 10th game fell in a different year. However, given the budget and ambition of modern day Dundalk that excuse will not wash for long unless results improve.

Trevor Anderson, who had the worst record with just 6 points from his first 10 league games in charge, got away with the excuse of rebuilding for far too long.

While it’s much too soon to judge Dundalk or its boss one game into a new season, his league record to date doesn’t make impressive reading. He’ll now have to follow in the footsteps of his predecessor Perth and even John Gill – who lost his first four matches in charge 15 years ago – and start picking up results so that when such statistics are reviewed after 20 games in charge he is much further up the list.

Last 10 Dundalk managers’ points total from first 10 league games in charge:

Martin Murray – 19 points from his first 10
Trevor Anderson – 6 points from his first 10
Jim Gannon – 14 points from his first 10
John Gill – 12 points from his first 10
Sean Connor – 10 points from first 10
Ian Foster – 18 points from his first 10
Sean McCaffrey – 9 points from his first 10
Stephen Kenny – 18 points from his first 10
Vinny Perth – 18 points from his first 10
Filippo Giovagnoli – 13 points from his first 10