Two rival clubs in the Republic of Ireland are making headlines and experiencing differing fortunes as they prepare for the 2009 season.
Supporters of Dundalk FC are ecstatic that their seven-year itch has been scratched. The club are about to reclaim their place in Ireland's top flight after a long exile in the second tier, and Dundalk began preparing for the new campaign in earnest when they appointed former Bohemian FC coach Sean Connor as their new first-team manager.
Dundalk supporters were raised on success – the club amassed 14 major trophies from 1976 to 1995 – but it's been a lean time since relegation in 2002, though new coach Connor is keen to bring the good times back to Oriel Park. "I'm aware of the history of the club, and I want to bring big European games back to Dundalk," he said. "I'm looking forward to the future. It's like the first time you go out with a girlfriend, everything is positive and everything is rosy, and all you can do is work on that relationship and try to develop it," he added. "My intention is to be here as long as possible and to try to get Dundalk back into European football."
For Drogheda United FC, who have been Dundalk's local rivals for decades as the clubs are just 35km apart, the priority for the rest of 2008 is to try and stay in senior football. The 2007 Premier Division champions suffered a financial crisis at the tail end of the season just finished and club chairman Vincent Hoey told a meeting of supporters in the town that the club needed €100,000 just to stay afloat in the short-term before they could deal with their overall debt. Drogheda went before the Irish courts and were allowed enter examinership, a form of receivership, in a bid to steady the ship and before the end of the year will go back before a judge where their court-appointed examiner will make a case for keeping the club alive.
Supporters have responded with a number of fundraising activities to raise the initial €100,000 needed, with one fan donating the €5,000 he had been left by his dying grandfather, who had also been a United supporter. "It's been an amazing effort from everyone so far. I'm overwhelmed by the support we've received. It shows the good of people in the town," said Hoey. "I'll fight for the survival of this club and I'll go ask the judge myself if I have to. I never take 'no' for an answer."
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