“Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.”
The words of Dr Seuss were rhymed out last week by one Dundalk fan as supporters across the town came to grips with the sight of two of their heroes wearing the jersey of their fiercest rivals.
And yet it was difficult for any Lilywhites fan to find reason to smile as they came to grips with the news that both Sean Hoare and Sean Gannon were now Shamrock Rovers players.
That, coupled with the continued uncertainty around many more of last season’s squad, meant that even the good news of the signing of Norwegian striker Ole Erik Midtskogen and the launch of the club’s new away jersey – dedicated to the late club historian Jim Murphy – went largely under the radar.
He may yet prove to be an astute acquisition but fans could be forgiven for thinking he’ll do well to match the achievements of Gannon and Hoare, who between them played over 400 matches for Dundalk and collected 23 winners’ medals along the way.
With all due respect to Hoare, the sight of Gannon in the green and white hoops particularly stung. He was a virtual nobody when he arrived before the start of the 2014 season but what he went on to achieve at the club was simply outstanding and something few could have imagined when he was roasted in a 4-1 defeat at United Park on his debut at the start of what would be a title-winning season.
He’ll go down as arguably the club’s best ever right back and there have been a few good ones over the years. Perhaps it’s a case of reading too much into it or hoping for something that isn’t really there but the fact he couldn’t muster a smile for any of his signing pictures at Tallaght Stadium gave some insight into how he felt about departing.
To make matters worse, fellow long servants such as John Mountney and Dane Massey are also expected to depart Oriel Park soon too.
So, how did it come to this?
Quite simply, in both players’ cases they got better security elsewhere.
Both were wanted by Filippo Giovagnoli for next season but one year deals were all that were offered. Instead Hoare got four years at Tallaght with Gannon signing on for three. When you take out the emotion that comes with football, it’s hard to blame people for looking out for their long-term interests.
Gannon’s departure came exactly three years and one month after what would prove to be his last deal at Oriel Park. That was a three year contract which was extraordinary at the time for both Dundalk and the League of Ireland. Why now the change of tactic from Dundalk?
Without defending their actions, it’s perhaps understandable why owners PEAK6 would be cautious about long-term deals right now.
For a start, Covid-19 has changed the world. There is no guarantee when fans will be allowed back into the grounds with Taoiseach Micheál Martin speculating at the weekend that it could be the autumn at best.
The ongoing financial troubles at the FAI and the fact there is currently no sponsor in place for the league next season or a TV deal of any description means it probably doesn’t make good business sense right now to make any sort of long-term commitment in relation to players.
Perhaps they’ve also felt a little burned by more recent deals which have failed to work out. Will Patching and Stefan Colovic are two players still under contract having arrived at the start of last season but it’s fair to say neither have hit the heights expected of them as yet.
With Gannon 30 next year and having just come off a bad campaign by his own lofty standards, there could also be doubts about handing such a long-term deal to someone within that age range.
Of course, most of this matters little to supporters. They love their heroes and just want to see their side do well.
With several of last year’s squad yet to be tied down and various off the field departures rumoured, including the continued uncertainty over Martin Connolly’s role at Oriel Park, many are worried about the direction the club is taking.
Perhaps now is not the time to panic though. There’s still a long way to go before the start of next season so let’s see what Filippo Giovagnoli and Jim Magilton conjure up.
The other day I stumbled across an old article I had written for The Argus four years ago this week in which Stephen Kenny was pleading for patience from supporters as he looked to build a squad for the 2017 season.
Then, like now, the club were just coming off the back of a Europa League campaign and fans were concerned that Sean Hoare was the only arrival at that point with Andy Boyle, Daryl Horgan and Darren Meenan having departed. Those concerns would only grow more a few days later when Ronan Finn also departed for Shamrock Rovers.
Admittedly, 2017 turned out to be arguably the least successful of Kenny’s tenure at the club but it was not the end of the success – more a point of rebuilding before a double the following year.
Here’s hoping that happens again. It’s a big job to replace the likes of Gannon and Hoare but then this is nothing new for a club who have had to move on from losing the likes of Horgan, Boyle, McEleney, McMillan, Finn, Towell, O’Donnell and others over the years.
Having sat down with him recently, Jim Magilton definitely talks a good game. It’s only really kicked off for him at Oriel Park and, through no fault of his own, he might be a goal down in the eyes of many right now but there’s a long way to go.
We’ll always remember the contribution of Gannon and Hoare, of that there is little doubt and it is sad to see them go.
Giovagnoli is confident of replacing them with players of a “similar or better quality”. It’s a big ask but he has already confounded many doubters in his short time here. Let’s hope he can again!