Stephen O’Donnell says a European appearance at Dundalk trumps his FAI Cup win at his former employer St Patrick’s Athletic.
The Lilywhites secured the third spot on Friday night with a nervous 2-1 victory over the Bohemians.
St. Patt hopes Delhi will beat Shelbourne in the FAI Cup final to clinch the fourth spot in Europe.
O’Donnell lifted the trophy with the Saints last November before moving to Dundalk less than a week later.
The Inchicore Club has filed a lawsuit against the Galweis, but there have been no recent developments on its score.
After booking a return to the continent at the expense of the Saints, O’Donnell made a thinly veiled reference to the controversy.
As part of its legal allegations, the Saints accused O’Donnell of failing to act in the club’s best interests by allowing players’ contracts to expire in the final weeks of his job.
The 36-year-old has turned his focus back to Dublin 8, facing questions about Dundalk members whose contracts are expiring.
“I have told the players to focus on closing out the season and I will talk to everyone after the match against Delhi[next weekend]. That is how I am doing it, unlike reports from other clubs.” said O’Donnell, a clear nod to his old workplace.
“I don’t think they[Pat]have signed a lot of deals early this season, which is funny. Where are their multiple deals and are they getting youngsters on long-term deals? They too. I think we are running out of a lot of contracts.
“That’s how I do it. I don’t like distracted teams.”
As it happened, O’Donnell established players with long-term contracts such as Patrick Hoban, Greg Sloggett and Daniel Kelly, all of whom were injured on the run-in. – There is an option to keep the Shepard.
Others have admitted that longtime Andy Boyle wants to stay, but are stuck with what could happen from his end. “If they have me, I want to be here,” said Boyle, who has reached the end of a three-and-a-half-year contract signed under the previous owner.
O’Donnell said he told his players ahead of the Bohemian clash that finishing third this year was comparable to winning the league in his prime.
And that’s why he prioritizes Cup success with the Saints when all sides are considered.
“From where we came from and the budget we were facing, the signing of two players in mid-December last year ensured a third-place finish and won Europe. I feel it is a great achievement on behalf of the players,” O said. “Donnell conceded that Bose’s play was probably one of the worst of the year, if not as bad as the pre-season friendly between the teams.
“We played here against Bose and lost 5-1 in pre-season, but after that performance you wouldn’t expect to finish third. It would be my crowning accomplishment with respect to the challenges we thought we were facing.
“The cup final is clearly closer to the grand finale at the Aviva Stadium, but five games.
O’Donnell plans to discuss the impact on the budget with the club’s owners, and the €250,000 minimum currently secured was a goal for his first season of ‘consolidation’ and to fight for a place in Europe. He says it’s ahead of schedule to get there soon.
“Dundalk has a well-established and successful name, so I think it was under the radar from where we were. It’s a given,” he said.
“Perhaps at certain clubs, if we try to get the same player, we will have problems. We want to get into the next bracket and be competitive. I’d like to think about it, and it’s tougher on the football side, so we’ll have to.
“Now we can sit down and talk about it. Was it on their (owners’) radar this time last year? It wasn’t a grand plan to strike, be ready to rock.It was last minute at this time.To finally achieve something is a glorious achievement for the whole club.”