Dundalk boss Vinny Perth has praised the unsung heroes behind the scenes at Oriel Park for the work they have been doing in the community in recent weeks.
With the Lilywhites players out of action since beating Finn Harps 4-0 in Ballybofey on March 6th and having not trained collectively since March 12th, most of the activity at the Carrick Road has been going on behind the scenes.
Last week many season ticket holders received phone calls checking in on them from the club while others have availed of offers to have groceries and other items delivered to them.
Staff both on and off the pitch have been chipping in towards general improvements around the ground as well and while the latest lockdown initiated on Friday night by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar means Perth’s daily trip from his home in Citywest to Dundalk is temporarily halted, he feels the club is in good hands at present.
“No, I don’t think so,” he said when asked if he would still be present in Oriel Park this week.
“The new regulations you have to abide by them so it’s difficult but in the last two weeks so many people in the club showed real leadership and were inspirational.
“Generally it’s the players who get all the credit around the club but from Martin Connolly to David Minto and from Ailish Kelly to David Caldwell and Harry Taaffe, some of the stuff that they have done in the last few weeks is superb.
“The ground has improved from the last time anyone was in it, of that there’s no doubt. It’s a better ground and a cleaner ground. There’s a lot of work to do still but they spent two weeks solid basically improving the ground. They’ve been getting a dig out from some staff members on the football side of things but they have shown real leadership around the ground.
“It gives you a real sense that when we do get back playing there is a community within the club.”
Perth described the last fortnight as a “good two weeks” for the club given the circumstances.
“I think what we do around the community sometimes goes unseen, which is fine, because you don’t do it for clicks or likes or stuff like that.
“We’ve been contacting a lot of our older fans and that has gone down really well I think. That was led by Ailish Kelly but so many of us have done it, including myself, David Minto and Martin Connolly. It has been a brilliant club effort and I’m very proud to be associated with the people that are there. It’s great to see how hard the people who don’t get any credit have worked. It has been a good two weeks for us.”
Perth said making a number of phone calls to people over the last week or so had reminded him of how important Dundalk FC was to the town.
“It’s great to be in a privileged position to be able to make a call like that to be able to give someone a boost.
“We get so obsessed by the football part of it but you forget the other side of it that so many people use it for social reasons, whether it be to meet up with friends or to switch off from life or whatever. It’s times like this they tell you some of the stories and you sort of wish you knew the half of them before now.
“Some of the stories I heard in the last week, it leaves you a little bit emotional hearing some of them and some of them are personal obviously. Some people do rely on football and Oriel Park for escapism from their lives. It’s very humbling for us as players and staff to be able to give them that.
“We forget how much football and sport plays a central part in our lives but things like this remind you of that. That’s why I do cry out at times for a little bit of help because life is definitely better I feel when there is sport at the heart of your community.”
It will be June at best before the action returns to Oriel Park but Perth encouraged everyone to adhere to the Government guidelines for the foreseeable future to ensure Ireland comes through the current predicament it and the world finds itself in.
“Once everybody is safe and healthy, that is all that really matters. Football can take a back seat,” he said.