Stephen O’Donnell says that Dundalk are working hard to bring some new faces in ahead of the Christmas break.
Deals for Sam Durrant, Cameron Elliott and teenager Luke Mulligan have all been announced in recent weeks but Daniel Kelly, John Martin, Robbie McCourt, Mark Byrne and Darragh Leahy have all moved on to pastures new.
O’Donnell acknowledged that the recent takeover of the club had left Dundalk ‘a little bit behind’ in regards their transfer dealings but he said he was confident that his squad would start taking shape over the festive period.
“We have a good core here and from that perspective we’re in a lot healthier a position than we were 12 months ago. We want to add quality, and not just numbers for the sake of it, and myself, Brian Gartland and the coaching staff are working around the clock to do that and also retain the players we want.
“Sometimes these things can take a bit of time,” he added. A lot of the clubs in the league would have their better players locked down on long-term contracts and there’s not an awful lot going on around that.
“I think you can see that there’s an exodus of talent going out of the league. Because of Brexit, players are starting their first-team journey here but if they show any sort of potential, they are gone very quickly so there is a dearth in regards numbers and players of a certain quality.
“We are a little bit behind because of the takeover but that’s the way it is. It’s a challenge and we just have to embrace it on,” he said. “I’m delighted that Brian (Ainscough) has come in and we’re aligned now and have a good plan going forward now.”
Members of the squad took part in a three-day pre-Christmas training block this week and O’Donnell said it was good to have the players back before pre-season in early January.
“It’s always good to get the group together and get a block of work done,” he said. “Even for the players, it can be a bit isolating doing individual programmes on your own so it’s good for them to be back in and working together.
“We can look at them closely and talk them through our plans for when we come back for pre-season in January.”
The Lilywhites begin the 2024 season with a trip to Tallaght Stadium to face reigning champions Shamrock Rovers on February 16th and O’Donnell said it was a fixture he was looking forward to.
“It’s a great game to start with,” he said. “Tallaght is a brilliant arena for players to express themselves, the fourth stand will be open, and it’s the perfect fixture to work towards in pre-season.”
O’Donnell is hoping that his squad will have had five pre-season games under their belts by the time the big kickoff comes around and he said the new group-stage format of the Leinster Senior Cup, which will see Dundalk face Malahide United, Bohemians and Drogheda United, was a welcome addition.
“It’s a lot better to have three competitive games ironed out in our pre-season schedule than trying to speculate and arrange three separate games. We’re looking at doubling the Drogheda United game up as the Malone Cup, which would make sense for both clubs.”