Stephen Kenny rounded on Shamrock Rovers manager Stephen Bradley and his Cork City counterpart, John Caulfield, after watching his Dundalk side open up a four-point lead at the top of the SSE Airtricity League table with a 3–1 win over St Patrick’s Athletic on Friday night.
The victory in Inchicore equalled a club record of 10 successive league wins — set back in 1967/68 — but, speaking to Dundalk Sport afterwards, Kenny was determined to respond to comments made by Bradley and Caulfield regarding the recruitment of Patrick McEleney and Georgie Kelly earlier in the week.
After losing out on McEleney’s signature, Bradley subsequently went on to say that the Derryman’s return to Dundalk ‘made no sense’ and that League of Ireland clubs would ‘look very foolish’ for ‘letting players walk out and then buying them back.’
He also declared that Rovers could not ‘compete financially’ with the Lilywhites – a sentiment echoed by Caulfield – but that view didn’t sit kindly with Kenny, who labelled it as ‘bravado’ and said that Dundalk had earned the right to spend whatever they felt was right on players.
“I didn’t understand Stephen Bradley’s argument,” he said. “Shamrock Rovers sent a delegation to Oldham to sign Patrick and agreed a fee. Obviously, we had a dilemma. We wanted Patrick and Patrick only wanted to come here. He didn’t want to go to Shamrock Rovers. The dilemma was to let him go or sign him.
“What people forget is that Patrick helped us earn over €7 million,” he added. “He was very influential in doing that. For us, it was without doubt great business. He is one of the most exciting players we have seen in the league in modern times. He is worth the admission money.
“His (Bradley’s) criticism didn’t make sense to me at all. It’s just a bit of bravado and playing to the gallery. I felt he wanted to criticise Dundalk to keep people happy.”
Kenny pointed out that Dundalk won the league title in 2014 with a squad that was assembled with a minimal budget.
“Don’t talk to me about resources,” he said. “If Tommy Barrett or Martin Russell want to complain about the disparity in resources, absolutely. They have tough jobs but the manager of Shamrock Rovers and Cork? They are big clubs with very good resources.
“We won the league with a back four of Sean Gannon, who was on the fringes at St Pat’s, Brian Gartland, who finished at Portadown, Dane Massey, who was at Bray, and Andy Boyle, who was at Shelbourne in the first division.
“We had Darren Meehan, who we signed off a PFAI course after a shoulder operation, we signed Pat Hoban from Mervue while John Mountney, Chris Shields and Peter Cherrie were in a relegation play-off the year before. Don’t talk to me about resources.”
Kenny also hit back at Caulfield’s claim that Dundalk had paid a transfer fee to sign Kelly from UCD, saying that the 21-year-old had an agreement with the Students that allowed him to leave for free when his studies had ended. The irony of Cork bringing former Crystal Palace defender Damien Delaney to the club was also not lost on the 46-year-old .
“John Caulfield put a statement out that we paid a massive fee for Georgie Kelly which is being completely dishonest and untrue,” he said. “We didn’t pay any fee for Georgie. He’s a young player who has come in on a modest League of Ireland wage and wants to play here. We were going to take him at the start of the year but he had a duty to UCD to finish his scholarship and didn’t feel he could leave until the summer.
“He had his own personal agreement that he could leave on a free because of that and to try and put pressure on the lad like that is unnecessary and very disappointing. They’ve (Cork) signed a ‘Premiership player’ and we’ve signed a player from the first division,” he added.
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