WANTED: SEAN MCCAFFREY. Regularly seen on the sideline at Dundalk’s Airtricity League games but frequently disappears at the final whistle. If found, please direct towards the media for questioning.
McCaffrey will have easier months in his life than his first two in charge at Oriel Park. Some of Dundalk’s failings have been papered over by the fact that there are four other teams currently below them in the table, but the stats paint a bleak picture. Goals win games and, with just four in nine matches to date, it’s hardly a shock that there’s a dark cloud beginning to descend.
There’s no sugarcoating the fact that McCaffrey has one of the least attractive jobs in the top flight. Tight finances have forced him to work with a squad of young, largely untested players who are getting their first real taste of football at this level. A highly-competitive Premier Division is no place for kids to be cutting their teeth.
With that in mind, there are some positives to be taken out of Dundalk’s start to the season, particularly in the 2-1 win away to Derry. Questions remain, however, about McCaffrey’s approach to the task and the manner in which he is allowing a negative discourse to build up around the club.
A number of times already this season, he has refused to give post-match interviews to MNS on RTÉ, shoving his assistant Darius Kierans out to face the music instead. Extenuating circumstances can account for the occasional no-show, but McCaffrey has been in hiding after at least three games, a pattern which must be coming dangerously close to violating the FAI’s Participation Agreement to which all clubs in the league sign up.
Although he’s dodging interviews with the league’s flagship broadcaster, he has fulfilled some media duties, granting a handful of interviews to the Dundalk Democrat and Extratime.ie. But even in these conversations, he seems to be getting bogged down in negativity rather than endorsing his project and his players, giving them confidence.
“You have to cut your cloth accordingly and sign young, cheaper players and try and get the best out of them,” he told the Democrat yesterday. “You need time to do that but knowing the Dundalk philosophy and the demand for success, I don’t know if we’ll get time to do that.”
Much like Roberto Mancini’s behaviour in the Premier League title run-in, the argument has been made that it doesn’t matter what McCaffrey says in public — or if he says anything at all — once he is getting the right message across to his players within the four walls of the dressing room.
While that may be true, Dundalk’s paying fans deserve more than a manager retreating back into his shell after every disappointing performance. An admission of blame or an indication that he’s working to improve matters would be much more beneficial for all concerned.
Life’s not easy for Dundalk. The last thing the club needs is their manager making it harder.
Airtricity League fixtures (Friday, 7.45pm unless stated)
- Derry City v St Patrick’s Athletic (Friday, 7.05pm)
- Bray Wanderers v Bohemian FC
- Cork City v Dundalk
- Drogheda United v Sligo Rovers
- Shamrock Rovers v UCD (Friday, 8pm)
- Shelbourne v Monaghan United (Friday, 8pm)
- Limerick v Mervue United
- SD Galway v Waterford United
- Longford Town v Wexford Youths (Saturday, 7.30pm)
- Finn Harps v Athlone Town (Saturday, 7.45pm)