Richie Towell had agreed to re-join Dundalk before doing an 11th hour U-turn to sign a pre-contract agreement with Shamrock Rovers, The Argus can exclusively reveal.
News broke last week that the midfielder will join Stephen Bradley’s side this summer when his contract with League Two side Salford City comes to an end.
However, Dundalk believed they had convinced a player who scored 54 goals in 126 appearances for the club between 2013 and 2015 to return to Oriel Park before a last minute change of heart.
It is understood that the Lilywhites had agreed to match Towell’s package from Shamrock Rovers with the player initially accepting the offer verbally.
Dundalk believed the 29-year-old’s return was a done deal until the midfielder’s agent Graham Barrett contacted the Lilywhites to say the player had changed his mind.
Chairman Bill Hulsizer, who had been involved in the negotiations with first team coach Filippo Giovagnoli and sporting director Jim Magilton, sought a meeting after that with Towell to try to determine the reason for the change of heart but despite a call being arranged the player failed to show up for it.
Asked about the Towell deal, Magilton confirmed Dundalk had been in the running for the 2015 PFAI Player of the Year’s signature but wouldn’t elaborate further.
“We were definitely in negotiations with Richie to bring him back to the club.
“We were prepared to meet Richie’s demands but he decided to go elsewhere. That’s fine. He has had a fantastic history with the club but he has decided to move on.”
Towell could now make his Shamrock Rovers debut against Dundalk with the Hoops scheduled to face his former employers in a crunch league match at Tallaght Stadium on July 2nd.
Despite the transfer deadline now being shut, Magilton said the club were still looking to add to their squad with free agents still able to be signed at any time.
“We’re still looking,” he said.
“We’ve got one or two things in motion and if they’re right we’ll do it.
“I still think we need a playmaker type player in our group.
“We’re always looking to improve the group though and we just feel that maybe we’re one short in midfield. I’ve always said that if there’s a really good player out there then we’ll look at them.”
As well as a midfielder, Dundalk remain on the look out for another goalkeeper to contend with Alessio Abibi and Peter Cherrie for number one jersey.
“It’s another area that we’re looking to strengthen and if another one comes along then we’ll definitely be in the hunt,” said Magilton.
“We’ve one or two options still lined up and we’re looking at those very closely.
“I think the signings we’ve had so far are good and I’m looking forward to seeing how they all gel. I liked lots of what I saw on Friday. We like adaptability and flexibility in the group and we certainly have that,” he said.
Magilton also said he was hopeful that the players currently sidelined through injury – Brian Gartland, Michael Duffy, Patrick Hoban, Sean Murray and Daniel Kelly – would return “sooner rather than later.”
He said: “It’s just about making sure that we get them right for the kick-off.
“These are experienced players and they know their bodies very well. They’re under fantastic supervision and guidance from the backroom team at the club, who I’ve been very impressed with. They’ll be pushed and challenged but it’s a long season for us and we have to be guided by these guys and their expert opinion. We’re very hopeful that we’ll get them all on the pitch sooner rather than later.”
Magilton also moved to allay fears that Duffy could be set for an extended spell out.
“He’s one that we have to make sure is right. We don’t want him breaking down.
“Michael Duffy would play no matter what so you have to put some reins on him. We’re not going to take chances. We want a full season out of him and we have to make sure he is spot on before throwing him in because we know what a fantastic asset he is to our club.”