AUTHOR: Kieran Burke – @kieran_b_sport
Dundalk FC Sporting Director Jim Magilton has confirmed he will once again be in the dugout for the Lilywhites upcoming league matches away to Waterford FC and Longford Town as the search for a new permanent manager continues at Oriel Park. Magilton took the reins during Saturday’s Louth derby which resulted in Dundalk’s first win of the new campaign, a 2-1 victory at home to Drogheda United. A number of names including the likes of Ger Lyttle and current Linfield manager David Healy have been floated in some quarters of the press as potential candidates for the vacant position but at a media day on Wednesday Magilton insisted there was no rush to get a new man into the hot seat just yet.
“We’re in a rush but not a rush, we want to make sure we get the right person in place. It’s ongoing (the recruitment process), there are lots of people who are interested in the job and you can’t blame them so we’ve got to take our time and make sure we get the right one.”
Aside from former Dundalk boss Vinny Perth, who has publically stated he would be open to discussing a potential return to the club where he won a league and cup double in 2019 before departing amid speculation of interference in team selection from the powers that be, there are very few obvious contenders with experience in the League of Ireland being touted for the manager’s position at Oriel Park. While Ger Lyttle has managed in the league with Sligo Rovers his 18-month tenure certainly didn’t return the sort of riches Perth achieved as head coach at Dundalk and that’s without touching on his time as assistant to Stephen Kenny and his illustrious playing career as well. When asked if knowledge of the league would be a desired attribute for candidates Magilton seemed to suggest personality and character were more important than an in-depth knowledge of Irish football.
“I think just the right person and the right candidate (are important), if you’re a coach now and you hold a pro license you can coach anywhere in the world so what I think is most important for us is the right fit, the right character with the right personality which Filippo (Giovagnoli) had in abundance and Filippo did a great job here and Shane Keegan was a fantastic support for all of that so I think now we are in this position we’ve just got to weigh everything up and keep our options very much open and hopefully get the right one.”
Given an upturn in performances and results since Magilton, who has managed the likes of QPR and Ipswich Town during his career, stepped back onto the training pitch and into the dugout, some Dundalk fans have suggested the Northern Irish man may be the best-qualified candidate of any to replace Filippo Giovagnoli and Shane Keegan. However, when made aware of such commentary Magilton was eager to stress he very much sees himself as nothing more than a stopgap solution.
“I’m here for the long haul (as Sporting Director), I’m a multitasker I always have been for the last number of years and I’m quite happy to step into the position and I’ll be quite happy to step out of it but it’s a case of making sure there’s stability and consistency. Performances are the most important thing, I’ve got a great backroom team on both aspects, and without their help and support this would be very difficult but at the moment it’s a case of all hands to the pump but no panic.”
As highlighted by his above comments Magilton is currently overseeing first-team affairs in conjunction with academy director Stephen McDonnell and Filippo Giovagnoli’s former number two Giuseppe Rossi. Given it had been initially reported Italian coach Rossi was to leave the club alongside Giovagnoli and Shane Keegan the question of retention of staff was put to Magilton in terms of would a new manager have the option to bring in his own men or would he have to make do with those already on the payroll.
“That will be open to suggestions and conversations we have with that person, normally they bring someone in don’t they? And I’ve seen in the past where there have been huge names go into football clubs without bringing anyone with them, Carlo Ancelotti for example went into Chelsea and didn’t bring anyone with him and dealt with the people there so again it comes down to the person his personality and character and again we’re establishing our coaching group where we are trying to build a structure for the club moving forward” replied Magilton.
Whoever comes in at Dundalk there is no doubt they will be walking into a star-studded dressing room the likes of which this league has rarely seen before with a number of full internationals among the Dundalk ranks these days. One such international who has already made a big impact on the Dundalk fanbase in a very short period of time is Central African Republic midfielder Wilfried Zahibo who made his first start against Drogheda at the weekend. Involved in the build-up to the opening goal Zahibo could be the answer to some of the issues Dundalk have faced in the middle of the park this season while South Korean winger Han already looks like a potential crowd favourite at Oriel Park as he grabbed the winner in the Louth derby. Despite the positive signs from Dundalk’s high-profile arrivals Magilton still feels its early days as the overseas arrivals adjust to their new surroundings on and off the pitch.
“It’s still early days for a lot of them they’re still adjusting to the league, Wilfried, in particular, he hadn’t played competitively since November and he had Covid-19 so we don’t know how that impacts on the body but the more minutes he gets the better he will become and we know he will be a big asset for the football club.”
“Han has shown really great flashes of his ability and his application in training every day has been first class so we felt he deserved to play and he rewarded us with a top-class performance.”
As mentioned it’s struggling Waterford FC up next for Dundalk before a trip to another potential relegation candidate in newly promoted Longford Town who went down 1-0 at the RSC on Saturday last. With the County Louth club coming into that bank holiday doubleheader off the back of a morale-boosting win over their local rivals this does look a good opportunity for Magilton to shoot Dundalk up the league ladder.
“That’s the plan and that’s the pressure which these boys have played under for a lot of years, it’s a position they’re not using to being in so it’s a new experience for them but there are no excuses, I still think we’ve got gears to go and there’s no margin for error now we’ve got to win games. Shamrock Rovers and St.Pat’s have been so consistent, we’ve given them all a head start it’s up to us now to win football matches” declared the Belfast native.
In terms of team news, Magilton confirmed Andy Boyle has sat out training this week on a precautionary basis with no other issues of note to report ahead of a busy few days for the reigning FAI Cup holders.