The next few days could be massive in determining how Dundalk FC’s year pans out.
Discussions are set to continue between the FAI and clubs on Wednesday as the association looks to put together a financial package that will allow the SSE Airtricity League to return.
It emerged on Sunday that the league’s four European qualifiers, a group which includes Dundalk FC, had rejected a request from the FAI to contribute €100,000 each from their European prize money to help restart the league.
It is now back to the drawing board as the players, who returned to training next week, await clarity on when they will be playing again.
Meanwhile, UEFA are also set to meet on Wednesday to determine when this year’s European Qualifiers will take place.
While the league is first and foremost in everyone’s mind, manager Vinny Perth quashed the suggestion that Dundalk were looking to get back playing no matter what.
He told The Argus on Monday morning: “There’s a presumption that Dundalk are ready to jump back in no matter what, which I would say is untrue.
“We want to know what we’re coming back to and what league we’re coming back to. What will it look like? What do the other teams in it look like? If teams decide they can’t afford to play will they play understrength teams? It’s not a true reflection of where we are so we’ll just have to assess everything when we know what we’re dealing with.
“We haven’t got all the details. We’ve nowhere near all the details so we’ve no idea where we stand on it. We want to go back to a league that has the utmost sporting integrity and if teams aren’t going to come back in the right manner then we need to be careful what we wish for as well.
“That said, ultimately we’re eager to get back playing once it is under the correct terms and conditions and not just for the sake of it.”
The manager is not hopeful of a resolution to the league debate this week.
“I don’t think everything will be sorted this week within the domestic league.
“I think there’s too much to sort out and we’ll have to make the right decision whether it’s right for us to return in the environment that is laid out. It has to be fair and equitable and teams have to come back in the right manner because it’s not something that appeals to us coming back into a league that hasn’t got the right sporting integrity. We’ll go back when it’s correct and ready but I’m not sure this week will sort everything out.”
With the Premier League set to return this week, Perth did express the fear that the reputation of the league would take a hit if it failed to return this year, with one suggestion on the table being that it doesn’t return until January.
“I think it will reflect badly on us if we don’t return and that it will be a long way back for Irish football,” he said.
“Out of sight, out of mind is what will happen. The two guys who meet up for a couple of pints and go to a League of Ireland match may find something different to do on a Friday night and create a new routine. Families who turned up to the games, maybe they’ll find something new to do and we can lose that support.
“It is concerning that we’ve taken so long to get back to where we are but as much as we’ve asked so many questions we don’t have the answers at the moment and we’re struggling to get answers as to what the League of Ireland will look like at the back end of summer.”
One thing that looks almost certain to fall by the wayside is the proposed July tournament that was to involve Dundalk, Shamrock Rovers, Bohemians and Derry City to help prepare them for Europe.
With no fixtures to look forward to on the horizon, Perth said he had no fear of his players lacking motivation once the novelty of being back in training wears off.
“My understanding is that that tournament is gone but we never had any detail of what that tournament was anyway. Again, we’re devoid of detail,” he said.
“We have a goal ultimately though. We do believe in the club that Europe will happen. Under what terms and conditions, we don’t know for sure but Europe will happen so we have to act and behave like European footballers. They wouldn’t sit around waiting so we have to act in the same way.”
While reports emerged on Monday morning following quotes from Lars-Christer Olsson, the president of the European Leagues organisation, that the European qualifiers could be one-legged and either played at one team’s home ground or at a neutral venue, Perth said he would be awaiting further clarity on this.
Asked for his view on the possibility of one-legged ties, the 43-year-old said: “I don’t know because he’s only saying they could be that.
“We’re at that stage where I just wish people in administration would shut their mouth and be quiet and make decisions instead of talking saying this might happen or this could happen.
“It’s a bit like in our own domestic league, there’s a lot of maybes and speculation. People need to make decisions behind closed doors with the relative people and then release it.”
Meanwhile, Perth said there was no update on the future of Cammy Smith after the end of his loan spell at the club.
“Cammy Smith is back at Dundee United and he’s under contract until the end of the year so we just have to see what way that one plays out.
“There’s nothing one way or the other with that one. Dundee United have to make a decision. He’s their player and his loan is over so there’s nothing we can do on that one.”
Asked would he like to hold on to the midfielder, Perth said: “Yeah, he was excellent for us. He’s a really good player and someone we have a lot of time for but it’s completely out of our hands.”
Perth also said there would be an update soon on the future of Cameron Dummigan, whose loan spell from Dundalk to Crusaders is also up at the end of the month.
Meanwhile, the search for Perth’s new assistant continues.
“We’re in the middle of a fairly detailed process and I’m not finished yet,” he said, when asked for an update on a replacement for Ruaidhrí Higgins.