Dundalk manager Stephen Kenny is hoping that former lilywhites Daryl Horgan and Andy Boyle can both earn Ireland call ups following the duo’s selection to Martin O’Neill’s squad for the World Cup qualifier with Austria in November.
Horgan and Boyle were both selected for O’Neill’s 28 man squad against Austria with Horgan named on the bench for the game in Vienna, and now watching from afar, Kenny is hopeful that the pair will earn more call ups in the future after their stellar performances for Dundalk last season.
“We had three players in the international squad last year, Gary Rogers was of course in the squad first and then we also had Andy Boyle and Daryl Horgan,” Kenny said at the League of Ireland launch at the Aviva Stadium on Tuesday.
“Like some of the players in previous seasons they got the move that they wanted. They wanted to move scene and we have to respect that, and it’s a great opportunity for them, and hopefully they can get an opportunity at international level further down the line and they can go on and do well.
“We’d be delighted for them.”
“But from our point of view the challenge is how do we maintain the standards, and not only maintain them, how do we increase them in relation to losing your better players, but that’s the challenge that’s presented to us and it’s not one to be fearful of.”
Kenny lost both Horgan and Boyle to Championship side Preston North End over the off-season while Darren Meenan and Ronan Finn both signed for Shamrock Rovers. Dundalk have brought in St. Patrick’s Athletic duo Jamie McGrath and Sean Hoare as cover for Horgan and Boyle, but Kenny is adamant that his group this year is in no way less talented in comparison to some of his previous squads.
“Some of the players coming in are very young, we have a younger group this year, but they’re no less talented and we’re certainly looking forward to trying to reach the heights.
“It’s a very short off-season. We just finished in Mid-December and we’re back at it early January so it’s a real quick turnaround and looking at the league this year it’s much stronger.”
This season will also see the introduction of a three team relegation system compared to previous seasons where the bottom place team in the Premier Division would face automatic relegation to the First Division, while the team second from bottom would enter a relegation play-off with the second placed side from the First Division.
This season will see the bottom three teams relegated and Kenny claims that it’s very harsh given that the Premier Division is only a 12 team league.
“The stakes are high, and it’s very harsh in a 12-team league for three teams to go down; very, very harsh,” added the Dundalk boss.
“I think the European places are up for grabs; the league title is up for grabs, a lot of teams will feel that they can make a fair challenge at it.
“The way we feel about it at Dundalk is that nobody gives you anything. We understand that we have to start again with no points and what we’ve done before counts for nothing now; we’ve got to go again.”
Jack O’Toole, Pundit Arena