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Dublin: 10 °C Tuesday 11 December, 2018

Kenny claims Sheppard reneged on deal and slams Caulfield's 'absurd' comments

“It’s bordering on the ridiculous,” the Dundalk manager said of his Cork City counterpart.

STEPHEN KENNY HAS resumed the war of words between himself and Cork City this evening by addressing Karl Sheppard’s decision to stay with the Leesiders.

The Dundalk manager also responded to comments made by City boss John Caulfield during an interview which was broadcast last night on Newstalk’s Off The Ball.

Stephen Kenny Dundalk manager Stephen Kenny pictured before Sunday's FAI Cup final. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Sheppard, who has spent the last three seasons in Cork, was heavily linked with a move to Dundalk next season until the 2017 double winners announced on Tuesday that the Dublin-born attacker has signed a two-year contract extension.

In the build-up to last weekend’s FAI Cup final at the Aviva Stadium — in which Cork City defeated Dundalk via a penalty shootout — Kenny refused to deny reports which claimed that Sheppard was set to move to Oriel Park in 2018.

In a press release issued by Dundalk FC tonight, Kenny praised the Lilywhites’ supporters and referred to positive behind-the-scenes developments regarding the future of the club. But most significantly, he offered the Dundalk perspective on the Sheppard saga.

According to Kenny, the 26-year-old agreed to join the Louth outfit back in September but changed his mind following Sunday’s FAI Cup final. Cork City completed the first double in their history having already dethroned Dundalk as Premier Division champions.

“Karl Sheppard approached a member of our staff to say he was moving to Balbriggan and would we be interested in signing him. He’s a good player. He can play in a number of positions,” Kenny said of the former Reading and Shamrock Rovers player.

“Negotiations were concluded quickly and a pre-contract agreement drawn up by the club’s solicitor in September. Karl travelled up to the City North Hotel to sign the pre-contract agreement. A pre-contract is a big commitment both ways as, for example, the club would have been liable for this salary for the next two years if he had got injured for Cork. However, we undertook to do that.

Karl Sheppard Karl Sheppard in possession for Cork City against Dundalk on Sunday. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

“At that time, we could have announced that signing as a pre-contract signing. However, out of respect for Karl we didn’t. There had just been persistent questions in the weeks leading up to it. We didn’t confirm it but we just couldn’t keep denying it.

“It was like a situation with other players in the league. It wasn’t any different — like Greg Bolger going from Cork City to Shamrock Rovers or Tobi Adebayo-Rowling going to Cork City. There was a lot of speculation about it but we didn’t confirm or deny it.

“After the cup final, Karl had a change of heart. It’s always difficult for a player to leave and go to a rival, to be fair, and as a manager there’s nothing you can do in that situation. It’s in the club’s hands now. The club will deal with it as they see best.”

John Caulfield told Newstalk last night that he was unhappy with the manner in which details of Sheppard’s proposed move to Dundalk were leaked to the media in the week of the FAI Cup final.

Kenny expressed a belief last week that Cork City lacked class, and made an accusation that Dundalk captain Stephen O’Donnell was taunted over the phone by members of the City team in the aftermath of the 2016 FAI Cup final. This claim was dismissed as “lies” by Caulfield. It’s understood that the call was in fact made by a Cork supporter.

John Caulfield celebrates with The Irish Daily Mail FAI Cup Cork City manager John Caulfield with the FAI Cup. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Kenny said: “In relation to John Caulfield’s accusation of lies on Newstalk’s programme where he claims I made the situation up about a phone call to Stephen O’Donnell, it is common knowledge that Stephen O’Donnell got the phone call.

“We had a meal in the Aviva on Sunday after the FAI Cup final. I shook hands with John Caulfield, John Cotter [Cork City assistant manager] and Liam Kearney [first team coach]. I congratulated them on their FAI Cup win and John could have brought anything up with me then, but he chose to go on to Newstalk and attack me personally, accused me of lying and all of that which is completely out of order.

“To suggest that anyone could make something up like that is absurd. It’s bordering on the ridiculous.”

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Paul Dollery

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