Dundalk boss Stephen Kenny - the man that made it happen
DUNDALK’S amazing, remarkable, incredible Champions League win over BATE Borisov was not just for them but for the whole League of Ireland family.
I say family because Derry City, Shamrock Rovers, St Patrick’s Athletic, Finn Harps, Waterford United, Shelbourne fans were all delighted and cheered on the Oriel Park men, as they support all League of Ireland clubs who are competing in European competitions; in fact, they will be back supporting Cork City tonight as they face Genk in the Europa League.
Dundalk’s tremendous win, yes, was down to the players - but one man who deserves immense credit is manager Stephen Kenny.
The Kenny factor really is special and it’s his knack of identifying a player and getting the best out of him; players like Niall McGinn, James McClean, Daniel Lafferty, Richie Towell, Patrick McEleney, Dane Massey, Brian Gartland and Daryl Horgan to name but a few of his star players who he signed or brought through for either Derry City or Dundalk.
The 44-year-old gaffer has been there and done it at virtually every club he has been at and I say virtually because Shamrock Rovers foolishly only gave him a few months before sacking him in the 2012 season.
That has been the only blip in what has been an unbelievable 18 years and counting managerial career.
Kenny started his remarkable journey at First Division side Longford Town in 1998 and became the youngest manager in National League history at the age of 27.
He led 'Town to huge success during his three-year tenure as they won promotion to the Premier Division, reached an FAI Cup final and subsequently, qualified for the UEFA Cup.
After departing there he did wonders at Bohemians, but it was when he came to Derry City in his first spell in 2004 his wonders really started to take off.
Yes, he didn’t clinch a league title during his spells at the Brandywell, but in 2005 he lost the league title at Cork City on the final day of the season then a year later he again missed out on the top prize losing on goal difference to Shelbourne and also losing on a treble as they went onto clinch the League and FAI Cups.
However, that 2006 campaign, which is still talked about in the city to this day, saw Derry defeat IFK Gothenburg home and away and Gretna, before losing out to Paris Saint Germain.
He continued to work his magic in Scotland with Dunfermline Athletic, where he guided the SPL men to a Scottish Cup final, losing to Celtic after extra-time.
After returning home he had spells with the Candystripes and Rovers, before making the switch to the Lilywhites in November 2012 and in his first year in charge he nearly won the league title.
But since then, he and the club haven’t looked back, they won back to back league titles in 2014 and 2015, clinching last year’s at his old club Rovers, before also going on to lift the FAI Cup, seeing off old rivals Cork City.
This season they are top of the league and are still in the FAI Cup, but it will be the Champions League run, which still hasn’t finished yet, that fans on the Oriel Park terraces that will be talked about for years to come.
And, worryingly for Dundalk, if this amazing run can continue, Kenny is sure to get another deserved chance back across the water in either England or Scotland.