The Dundalk FC squad returned to Oriel Park this week for some testing ahead of the start of pre-season training on January 6th.
New signings Will Patching, Greg Sloggett and Darragh Leahy were all in attendance as preparations began for the 2020 season.
After confirming the arrival of Leahy from Bohemians last week, Vinny Perth said he was anxious to add further to his squad before the opening league game on Friday February 14th but said it was likely to be the New Year before he was in a position to do so.
“There’s probably certain positions that I feel aren’t at full strength yet and I think we can be better on. Until we get that bit of work done there is no guarantees. There’s a couple of decisions to be made.
Where we stand with Jamie (McGrath), for example, will dictate a hell of a lot obviously but you just don’t know. January is a long month and windows are open all over the world. For example, we have four of the best centre halves in the country but you could be offered a centre half who is the best in the world so you can never say never in terms of what we’ll bring in. I don’t expect that to happen obviously but I think it’s pretty clear that we’re a pretty strong and settled squad.
“We’re just looking for a bit of icing on the cake so we can be patient with it. There would be more glitz and glamour if the likes of McEleney, Duffy or Cleary were out of contract and we had signed them again but they’re not so therefore it looks like we’re quiet and we’re not doing loads of business but that’s because the club is so well structured now and these players are on long term contracts. We can be patient now and do our business right.
“There’s no definite number whatsoever,” he said in relation to the number of players he wants.
The 43-year-old said he hoped to know more about Jamie McGrath’s intentions for 2020 early this week having been due to meet him at the weekend but dismissed recent speculation linking the midfielder with a return to St Patrick’s Athletic.
“The Pat’s link is absolute nonsense. Jamie won’t be going to Pat’s. Jamie will go to the UK or stay here. I’m meeting him at the weekend. He has had a lot of holidays and I’ve been busy so we said we’d leave it for a couple of weeks.
“We’ve done that but now we’ll meet the weekend and I suppose early next week we’ll have a clear indication of where Jamie is going.
“Jamie is still a Dundalk player in my eyes until he tells me anything different. I don’t believe he has signed for any other club and I believe if he’s going to stay in Ireland then why would he want to go anywhere else? It makes no sense but at the same time he is a young, ambitious kid so there’s nothing set in stone in that regard. He knows how much he is wanted here but I’ll meet him over the weekend and see where we go on that one.”
One player who has departed Oriel Park in the last week is third choice goalkeeper Ross Treacy, who has signed for Drogheda Utd. Perth said he rated the Meathman highly but insisted he needed to go and play.
“The difficulty for any number three is that you’re in a no-win position because everything he does is done behind closed doors, it’s not in front of anyone.
“Ross has been a brilliant servant for the club for two years. The number three probably has the hardest workload of anyone else in the club. He probably saves 200 or 300 shots on a Thursday while the other keepers have gone in to be protected but ultimately I just felt that Ross just needs to play.
“There’s a bright future ahead for Ross but to make the next step he needs to go and play so we’ve let him go but he’s someone that we’ll be keeping a very close eye on.”
Perth said he was likely to promote U-19 goalkeeper Harry Hogan to the first team squad rather than sign a replacement for Treacy.
“We can’t compete with the top clubs in Dublin at U-19 or U-17 level in terms of winning leagues and trophies but what we can compete with is the level of coaching that they get. We’ve a core little group in each of those sections that we’re very happy with and we’re able to focus just on them so what we do is focus on those and in goal we’re in a very strong position at U-19 level last year so I’m very comfortable with where we are right now,” he said.
Perth described this week’s get together as simply assessing where players were after the break.
“It’s just so players know where they stand so it’s not cold coming in on the 6th. The difference this year on the 6th is that we feel that we need to be ready to go from the first day and that’s the idea behind the get together.
“There’s practically no physical work involved. It’s just a case of checking in and making sure everyone is fit and healthy. There’s the normal testing that goes on in terms of weight and different things. Then we’ll set them up on their programmes so they can go off and do them until they come back on the 6th January.”
The head coach confirmed Dundalk would play a pre-season match against Longford Town as well as return to Spain on a camp with the full pre-season schedule expected shortly.
“It has been difficult to get friendlies because the Northern Irish teams aren’t going to commit to a definite friendly at this stage so it is a challenge.
“We’ll probably announce in the next week or two three or four Irish-based friendlies but there are only so many First Division teams and there’s only so many geographically who would travel to Dundalk or who we’d travel to as well so it’s not easy to organise that but we’ll work on it.”
He added that the focus now was building on 2020 rather than looking back at 2019’s achievements.
“The challenge now is making the next bit of history and creating new memories. That’s what it’s all about,” he said.