Filippo Giovagnoli is set to have a reduced role at Dundalk FC this season with Shane Keegan named as team manager ahead of the start of the new SSE Airtricity League season.
The Italian, who had previously been coaching at the Metropolitan Oval Academy in New York, was a shock appointment as Vinny Perth’s successor last August following his departure from Oriel Park.
However despite some struggles in the league, Giovagnoli confounded his critics by guiding the Lilywhites to the group stages of the Europa League before clinching the FAI Cup with a 4-2 victory over Shamrock Rovers at the Aviva Stadium last December.
While the 50-year-old was appointed permanent head coach of Dundalk before Christmas, his title was downgraded to coach following a press conference by the club last Tuesday with Keegan, who had previously been an opposition analyst with the club, upgraded to team manager.
This is down to the fact the Laois man holds a Pro Licence. The former Galway Utd boss was in the dug out for most of Dundalk’s European matches last season after UEFA fined the Lilywhites €50,000 for ‘shadow coaching’ by Giovagnoli.
The latest move, announced by the club’s new sporting director Jim Magilton last week, is seen as a way of avoiding a repeat fine this year when the club returns to European action.
Confirming the club had discussed the matter with the FAI, Magilton said: “We just want to be open and transparent with you guys.
“It’s foolish not to be speaking to your governing body, we’re here to work with them. The lads are desperate to get their coaching qualifications and hopefully with the help and assistance of the FAI they can do that. Any guidelines they can help us with, we’re going to take it on board and work with them.”
Asked would Giovagnoli be picking the team for matches, Magilton said: “Filippo does not pick the team.
“In all my experience, I picked the team when we won. When we lost, the group picked the team. There is lots of consultations.
“You guys know the inner workings of a football club, there’s a lot of consultation. Opinions will be talked about and then it will ultimately be the manager that picks the team and you have to stand over that and we’re all aware of that.”
Asked would he expect pressure to come on him rather than Giovagnoli if results weren’t good, Keegan said bad performances would have a negative impact on everyone coaching at the club.
“If a team is doing poorly you tend to see the entire management structure or coaching structure as the ones who get the bullet, not just one person,” he said.
“Genuinely, I could count on one hand the amount of times myself and Filippo have actually had any serious disagreement in terms of picking the team. Thankfully the way this structure has come about, the lads have managed to put a structure of management staff and coaching staff that think extremely similarly in terms of our broad principles of the game and how the game should be played and what we want to try and do.
“It’s not going to be the case of one particular person pulling rank over any other particular person because 99% of the time after a discussion we generally tend to converge down the same path and almost always our outcome in any situation around our training plan for the week, our tactics for the weekend or our starting 11 generally come to a similar conclusion that we’re all happy with so there’s no pulling rank or anything like that.”
Magilton insisted that Giovagnoli, who was not present for the press conference at Oriel Park, was on board with the process.
“There are no issues. Okay there’s going to be times where there’s debate about picking a team but it’s about putting them into a shape and letting them play.
“How can you tell Chris Shields how to play or Cameron Dummigan? It’s about putting them into a shape that suits and benefits the team. We’re very lucky that we’ve got lots of good player and very lucky that lots of good players have come into the club. Coaching is very much about the mental side of this and getting them in a good place but ultimately what we want to do is really produce a playing philosophy throughout the club.”
Asked how the players felt about the new setup, club captain Chris Shields said: “Well I suppose you don’t run papers single handedly do you? You all work as a team and that’s the way we’ve got used to the coaching staff working, it’s a team effort.”
Magilton confirmed that he was working on getting Giovagnoli on a Pro Licence course as soon as possible although none are available in Ireland until next year.
It was confirmed that the Italian will continue to be in the dugout for matches.
Asked did he feel like the top man in the manner that he was previously at Galway and Wexford, Keegan said: “Probably not in the way that you said in Galway and Wexford because, in Galway and Wexford, I probably structured the management team a bit differently.
“Would I have massively sought everybody else’s opinions at Galway and Wexford, maybe, maybe not. Was I surrounded by the same amount of years of experience and different knowledge bases, maybe not.
“Filippo and Giuseppe’s approach to training is very different to that model and that’s been brilliant. I’ve been able to pick up so many different things, naturally enough you’re inclined to talk an awful lot more and seek opinions an awful lot more anyway just by the experience that is around, even without the kind of different model that’s here.”
Pressed on did he feel like he had been promoted, Keegan replied: “Em, I don’t know. I suppose technically, in terms of having the final final say that everyone seems to be so obsessed with then, it is seen as a promotion.
“I was 100pc involved in everything for the second half of last year, as was Filippo, as I will be this year, as will Filippo this year.”