After a week of speculation, Dundalk FC chairman Sean O’Connor sat down with Gavin McLaughlin on the first episode of Inside Oriel with BetRegal for a lengthy discussion about investment, recruitment, sponsorship and the club’s future. You can watch the interview above while below are some excerpts from the piece.

GMCL: I suppose there’s only one place to start because it’s been a bit of a crazy week. Looking back at it, what was your initial reaction to it all?
SOC: Yeah, it definitely took an unexpected twist last week. As I said to Daniel McDonnell in the Irish Independent interview I gave back in January, we’ve been open in that we have been approached by people regarding investment. I’m sure all League of Ireland clubs get questions and enquiries from groups and from individuals about getting involved and that has been common in the last 12 months. The point I made in the interview was that nothing had changed in the last couple of months that was different to previously.
We had conversations with Hull City. I think that’s apparent and that’s been well covered, but we’re at a point now with those conversations that we’re not going to progress with them at this point. We both kind of decided to put things on ice and we’re not going to be going forward at this point.
These conversations will come and go. Certain conversations will go down a path and they won’t move on but that’s the nature of this business, that’s the nature of football, and that’s what we expect to happen. The things that happened over the last seven days took us all by surprise. It was never as close as what was being made out.

GMCL: Were you surprised by the coverage of the discussions with Hull City? Even though you’ve said all along that investment is something you’d be open to, things just seemed to blow up in the past couple of months…
SOC: Yeah, and that’s the part that puzzles me. I’ve said recently, and we said in the letter that went out to fans on Friday, that these conversations are par for the course. They happen, people will come, we’ll talk with people, and in most cases, they won’t go further but in some cases, we’ll have conversations that we’ll explore to see what is best for Dundalk Football Club. I think things take on a different dimension when you bring in an actual club and you can put a name to it and it becomes something that people can see as being real. This idea of being a ‘feeder club’ and things like that…it was never going to be the case.

GMCL: Can you understand when supporters hear the term ‘feeder club’, they’re thinking Dundalk FC has its own identity and our own history and we should always have our own identity.
SOC: Absolutely. When I think of feeder clubs, I think of the eighties and nineties and Home Farm Everton. That’s a feeder club model. Within a multi-club model, which is quite common around in world football, every club has to be able to stand on its own two feet. It has to be able to have the potential to be successful and have its own identity. It doesn’t work if one is a feeder club to the other. That was never going to be the case and it never would be the case. We would never go into an agreement or relationship with somebody that Dundalk become subservient to a bigger club.
There are huge upsides to multi-club models and there’s no getting away from that but it always will have to be what’s best for this club and this club has to have its own identity, has to have its own pathway, and it has to have its own plan and be successful in its own right. Being part of any club, or any structure that prevents that from happening, will not be the right thing for the club and we won’t go into it.

GMCL: We issued an open letter to supporters on Friday, which was the day of a game, and far from ideal. I get asked all the time, ‘why are you not doing this?’, ‘why are you not doing that?’ but you can’t come out and comment on every discussion you’ve had…
SOC: This is a football club, but it’s also a business and if we were to report and talk about every conversation we’re having, we’d never be done just feeding information. The majority of the conversations won’t go anywhere but that’s how businesses grow and that’s how relationships grow. We have to talk to people and people will come to us and we’ll explore all the right avenues, again, with the interest of Dundalk Football Club at heart.
When we look at it now, and the momentum around the Hull thing, we didn’t come out and talk about it because we didn’t see it as something that had progressed far enough to be something that needed to be talked about. It’s come and now it’s going to move on and, for me, that could have happened with anybody realising it but it was made into a bigger thing, not by us, but by people picking up on soundbites and getting information however that may be. Conversations are going to be ongoing but the fans have to trust that we’re here to serve them and the club in the best way. We are very aware of the recent past and the stuff that’s worked really, really well and the stuff that hasn’t worked really well and we’re certainly not going to put it on a path to repeat any of the bad history.

GMCL: As we sit here today, where are we in terms of investment?
SOC: Well, we’re in the same place as we were a few months ago before this became a thing. We’ve had conversations with people and we have ongoing conversations with people who want to kind of explore the idea of being a partner or coming in as part of the club, be that as an individual or a group. There’s nothing imminent, there’s nothing on the horizon right now that we’re holding back and not telling anybody about. but we are open to conversations and we’re always going to explore because ultimately, look, around at what we have here. We have a great club with a great history, but the facilities we have here have been neglected for all sorts of different reasons over the last number of years. So to get this club and the facilities and the academy structure to where it deserves to be and needs to be, that takes a huge chunk of investment in parallel to the team and what’s going on out on the pitch. We can’t do all of those things at the same time in the current structure. If we want to expedite the development of the facilities, then we’re open to conversations with people who will help us get there quicker.

GMCL: You, Alan Clarke and Andy Connolly are from the area and are supporters of the club. You’ve seen the trauma that the club went through in 2021…
SOC: Absolutely, and we’re here. We live it and breathe it. We see it. I can’t, in all good consciousness come in, take over the club one year and then ship it on the next. That’s not what this is about. This is about speeding up the development of the club if something was to happen.
We’re very aware of what happened and we’re not remote owners. We’re not distant or in a different country or running this over the phone. We’re here and we know that we’re in a position to do something and that we can’t just kind of moonwalk out of this. That’s not what we want. Anything that we’re talking about or any conversations that we’ve had or will have in the future will see us as being part of this going forward. It’s not about us moving out of the club. It’s about us bolstering what we already have and we believe in what we can bring to the club.