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‘I genuinely treat every final like it could be our last’ - Kenny hungry for more success

With Saturday’s EA Sports Cup triumph over Shamrock Rovers Stephen Kenny secured his eighth trophy in his last four seasons at Dundalk.

Stephen Kenny celebrates after the game 16/9/2017 Dundalk manager Stephen Kenny has his eyes fixed on the FAI Cup. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

THE FINAL WHISTLE of the 2017 EA Sports Cup final confirmed the eighth trophy Stephen Kenny had won as manager of Dundalk in less than four seasons.

The Dubliner marked the beginning of a famous era at Oriel Park with a League Cup three years ago in 2014, and on Saturday evening in the midst of a miserable Tallaght afternoon rainfall his side had their hands on the cup for a second time.

Between the two League Cup titles have come three consecutive Premier Division league titles, a Presidents’ Cup, a Leinster Senior Cup and an FAI Cup, on top of their famous odyssey to the group stages of the Europa League.

The most successful period in the Louth club’s history continues unabated and though the Lilywhites boss maintains the same desire to collect trophies season after season, he still strives to better each performance.

When asked to sum up his team’s display in their 3-0 victory over Shamrock Rovers, he noted some areas of improvement.

“I didn’t feel we were comfortable,” said Kenny. I wouldn’t say we were, I think the first goal was important in the game. David McMillan got it and it was a great goal.

“Rovers pressed us and they can mix it up with their style of play. So we were never as fluid as we might have been.

Chris Shields lifts the trophy 16/9/2017 Defender Chris Shields lifts the League Cup in Tallaght Stadium following Dundalk's 3-0 win. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

“But a lot of players came in — Shane Grimes after only a few games and Jamie McGrath, who came in straight after having his appendix out. We had a few changes and they all acquitted themselves very, very well.

“I think our midfield could have functioned better overall. In the last couple of weeks I think they have played better at times. Our three midfielders did well today, but they are capable of even better and they’ve got to raise the standard when we go again in two weeks here in the FAI Cup.”

The Dundalk manager said that despite his side’s likely second place finish and Cork’s surge to the league title — denying the Lilywhites the chance to match Shamrock Rovers’ four-in-a-row achieved during the 1980s — they still had a lot to play for.

Were his side to win all of their remaining 10 fixtures this season they would lay claim to a domestic treble as well as second place in the Premier Division.

With a Leinster Senior Cup semi-final against UCD to come, as well as a rematch with Stephen Bradley’s Rovers in the semi-final of the FAI Cup, a season where Dundalk have faced criticism for poor league form early in the campaign could prove immensely successful in the trophy department.

“Listen we’ve a lot to play for, absolutely,” said Kenny. “But we’ll enjoy this tonight. I do genuinely treat every final like it could be our last — you have to think like that. You can’t take them for granted and you have to go and enjoy them.

“I say that to the players: ‘if it’s there to be won, go and win it.’ I’m delighted for them. They’ve been getting a bit of criticism this season because we’ve been in second place. But it’s great to win a trophy and there’s more still up for grabs.

Stephen Kenny celebrates with his daughter Caoimhe 16/9/2017 Stephen Kenny celebrates Dundalk's EA Sports Cup victory with his daughter Caoimhe. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

“The three trophies are important. Obviously we rotate the squad throughout the rounds, some of our senior players like Dane Massey, Brian Gartland, Gary Rodgers and Stephen O’Donnell didn’t play today.

“So there is an element of risk with that because you’ve lost your leaders and their experience. Other players have to emerge, and they did that today.”

He remains adamant that should Dundalk continue their now eight-game winning streak into league fixtures against Drogheda and league leaders Cork City, as well as their FAI Cup meeting with Rovers in Dublin in a fortnight, they will need to improve on their 3-0 win on Saturday.

“We’ve got to play better. We’ve got to go and try and play better than we did today. We won this cup but our performance level has got to come up another notch in the FAI Cup, and we will be looking to do that.”

Asked what the latest addition to the trophy cabinet meant to newer members of the Dundalk squad who had only joined in recent seasons, Kenny said it mattered not for the future, but for the present.

“I think it’s important for now,” he said. It’s important to win a trophy not just to act as a springboard, but in its own right.”

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Aaron Gallagher

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