STEPHEN Kenny has recalled how a chance meeting with the late Bishop of Derry, Dr Edward Daly, in a newsagents inspired him to uproot his family and settle in the North West when appointed manager of Derry City 12 years ago.
A longtime Derry City supporter, Bishop Daly, who passed away last month, had told Kenny when he took charge of the Brandywell club back in 2004 that he was ‘managing more than a football club’.
And those words uttered by the highly respected clergyman clearly inspired the Dubliner and left a lasting effect as he reflected back on that conversation in his programme notes ahead of Dundalk’s historic UEFA Europa League Group Stage win over Israeli side, Maccabi Tel Aviv in Tallaght.
The Dundalk boss, who along with his wife, Siobhan and children, still reside in Inishowen, despite leaving his Derry City managerial post in 2011, believes the Lilywhites’ famous European run has ‘captured the imagination’ of the Irish public.
In the Dundalk FC magazine, Kenny said Dundalk were also ‘more than just a football club’ following three memorable years of league, cup and European success.
He said: “The recent TV documentary on the life of Bishop Edward Daly was fascinating. Bishop Daly first came to prominence as a young priest on Bloody Sunday.
When I first met him in a newsagents on the Culmore Road after being appointed a manager at 32 years of age, he said to me, ‘Stephen you are managing more than just a football club’Stephen Kenny
“Everybody can remember the pictures of him waving the white handkerchief as he carried the injured through the crossfire.
“When I first met him in a newsagents on the Culmore Road after being appointed a manager at 32 years of age, he said to me, ‘Stephen you are managing more than just a football club’.
“I understand what he meant on so many different levels and it was those reasons that attracted me to move my family north.
“I don’t feel I am suffering from delusions of grandeur when I say at Dundalk FC we are more than just a football club.
“In the town of Dundalk, and throughout the surrounding regions and villages, this group of players have captured the imaginations of different generations of support over the last three years.
“They have raised spirits, created real excitement, lifted morale giving people something to look forward to and created new dreams.
“The league title win in 2014 couldn’t have been any more dramatic with the cliffhanging finale. The achievement of winning the double in 2015 so convincingly, culminating in winning the FAI Cup in front of 25,000 in the Aviva, was a special feeling for everyone.
“However, there is no doubt that it is this season that has captured the wider public attention. The seven UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League games to date and the subsequent qualification for the group has undoubtedly elevated the status of the team and increased the recognition and profile of the players.”
It’s not the first time Kenny has mentioned ‘inspirational’ figures associated with Derry in his programme notes entitled, ‘From the Sidelines’.
Indeed, in last weekend’s edition previewing the Derry City league clash at Oriel Park, Kenny said how Derry player, Josh Daniels, who lost his mum, sister, brother-in-law and two nephews in the Buncrana Pier tragedy, was ‘undoubtedly the most inspirational player in the league’.
He said: “We talk about strength and adversity in a sporting context but in the aftermath of the Buncrana Pier tragedy, Josh’s return to playing, scoring goals and playing his part in Derry City’s promising season has been heroic and has illustrated the strength of spirit that we can all learn from.”