Fair bit of reaction to Dundalk piece yesterday but I'm aware that not everyone bought a paper or reads behind paywall so thought I'd put a few snippets into context to explain the story. Apologies if it's a timeline clogger.
If there's an example to sum up what's gone wrong, it's the tale of how a proposed friendly with Celtic turned into a saga that drained enthusiasm and distracted focus ahead of the league restart.
Yes, it was frustrating the game couldn't go ahead but the demands from the US to try and make it happen - when Covid-19 restrictions made a trip to Scotland a no-go - are a snapshot of everything that is wrong.
It's hard enough running a LOI club at best of times but being urged by the US to call leading politicians to question Covid strategy is a tough one for the to-do list. Also; suggesting the entire squad sleep in bunkbeds in your training ground for a 14-day-isolation period. 'No'
Imagine the optics of getting a live TV league game rescheduled for a closed doors friendly - or playing your U-19 side in it even though you're three points off the top with just 13 games to go. Hard for a manager to deal with that. Sense prevailed in the end.
As the piece says; reporting every slapstick tale with a straight news bat is probably unfair. Football worldwide is full of clubs with owners that are learning about the sport. Call it cultural differences. Unlike others, Peak6 paid all the players in full through the lockdown.
All the stuff about the goalkeeper Gary Rogers taking corners and Brian Gartland taking throws cos of basketball skills and code words for Braveheart style charges. A lot of people thought there was no harm in it initially
It's only a problem when the person saying these things finds themselves in a position where they have real authority. I get that people are saying: "Well what do you expect from a US private equity firm" etc etc etc. True.
But I think doomsday predictions were based around faceless figures in suits making cold, hard detached calls. They didn't envisage the dad of the founder of a hugely successful company (which continues to thrive) gradually becoming the face of the investment. Bill is not Peak6
People initially interpreted this emotional attachment as a huge positive. Whereas Stephen Kenny was untouchable, Vinny Perth likely knew the people who appointed him were watching his every move from the outset.
He faced battles in 2019 & Bill Hulsizer coming in helped to win some of them. When all the buffers between dressing room & USA left for various reasons, Vinny prob thought he could work with chairman but in hindsight it was false sense of security. 'Backed the wrong horse'
When there was pressure to boycott the FAI Cup final over the Chris Shields suspension - which was an internal admin error - the warning signs were perhaps there but people had to grin and bear it. Can you imagine?
There was a plan post-Kenny for continuity which was Higgins, O'Donnell etc surrounding Perth. But the CEO appointments didn't work and the others leave and at start of lockdown you're left with just Vinny primarily reporting to the idiosyncratic chairman. Not the plan.
Several people are convinced what transpired wouldn't have happened if Mike Treacy had stayed. The direct line gets pushed to the point where there are calls to staff before & during games and -yes - a chat about putting a phone line in dugout as folks weren't answering.
Some of this is pretty funny - especially for rivals that have listened to Dundalk lording it for years - but for those working at the club, it was draining and demoralising. Everyone there has a story. A lot of people who don't normally communicate were willing to speak
I didn't want to mention in the piece but you're also talking about a club dealing with the grief of losing Harry Taaffe. A lot of stress & sadness. And yet every morning you literally have no idea what's going to happen next. "It's affecting people's lives," as one put it.
I didn't go into it in great detail but the whole angle of these kids from US collegiate system arriving in at random intervals was another element of the farce - especially in latter months during a pandemic. And they are not elite recruits. Another draining exercise.
If one person steps away it's a row, but when it's a steady stream of people - whose bona fides and commitment to the club could not be questioned - then this is not a drill. It is still a club that relies on those volunteers to connect with community
Other LOI clubs had an insight through Bill making his presence felt in those return to play conference calls. Not everyone's cup of tea but I'm told he did make some connections too. He's struck up a rapport with Athlone's chairman John Hayden for example..
He's on same page as Garrett Kelleher on issues. There was that strong & useful Bill letter lashing into the FAI which got traction. That was part of an ongoing exchange which - like everything in the current FAI power struggle - makes you wonder where you go for voice of reason
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