Dundalk FC and the Spoils of Europe

The Guardian reported that four years ago the existence of Dundalk was in danger after fan attendance dropped and the club suffered financial troubles with wages going unpaid. In a strong reversal of fortunes over the past four years, the club has won the League of Ireland Premier League twice, and gone further in Europe than any Irish club before them. The club came within one match of competing in club football’s most prestigious competition: The Champions League, and are currently doing well in the Europa League.

Dundalk’s European success has had a significant impact on the club’s finances and their position in the Irish Premier League.

The strong run in Europe ended Dundalk’s financial worries for the foreseeable future with the club picking up €3million just for reaching the play-off qualifying round of the Champions League. Unfortunately their journey to Europe’s top tier ended when they lost to Legia Warsaw 3-1 on aggregate. While they might not have qualified for the group stages of the Champions League, Dundalk are exceeding expectations after automatically qualifying for the Europa League. The league champions beat Maccabi in their second game 1 – 0 to become the first Irish club to win a European group stage match. In their previous match they had drawn 0-0 with Dutch club AZ and the team are currently second in group D with four points.

Betfair who cover all of football’s major European leagues reported that before the victory Dundalk had put together a ten-match unbeaten run in all competitions. They also state how Stephen Kenny believes that Dundalk’s success is demonstrating the quality of teams in the League of Ireland. Their next game is against group leaders Zenit who have won both their previous games. The match will be a true test of how far Dundalk can progress in this competition.

While the financial rewards of a strong run in Europe have been great for Dundalk some news sites are reporting that it might not be so good for Irish football. The Stats Zone state that the top four clubs of the League of Ireland Premier League have a significant advantage over the rest of the league as they can afford higher wages and transfer fees. They worry that the league could start to resemble the English Premier League where the wealth differences are even bigger.

If Dundalk progress even further in the Europa League and make it to the knockout stage they have the potential to become the wealthiest club in Ireland by a large margin. This will give them a significant advantage in future seasons, which is not bad for a team that couldn’t pay its wages four years ago. Yet it isn’t all roses for the Irish team as Irish news site The 42 report that the Dundalk players are struggling with the volume of matches. Yet the manager remains optimistic insisting that despite the games taking their toll Dundalk are still enjoying their European run.