The row between Dundalk manager Stephen Kenny and Cork City counterpart John Caulfield escalated on Thursday night as the former hit back at claims made by the latter.
In a somewhat detailed official club statement, Kenny recounted details of meetings with Karl Sheppard and confirming that a pre-contract agreement with the City forward was in place, before the player subsequently had a change of heard and signed a new two-year deal with the double winners.
“Karl Sheppard approached a member of our staff to say he was moving to Balbriggan and would we be interested in signing him. He’s a good player. He can play in a number of positions. Negotiations were concluded quickly and a pre-contract agreement drawn up by the club’s solicitor in September.
“Karl travelled up to the City North Hotel to sign the pre-contract agreement. A pre-contract is a big commitment both ways as, for example, the club would have been liable for this salary for the next two years if he had got injured for Cork. However, we undertook to do that.
“At that time, we could have announced that signing as a pre-contract signing however out of respect for Karl we didn’t. There had just been persistent questions in the weeks leading up to it. We didn’t confirm it but we just couldn’t keep denying it.
“After the Cup final, Karl had a change of heart. It’s always difficult for a player to leave and go to a rival to be fair and as a manager there’s nothing you can do in that situation. It’s in the club’s hands now. The club will deal with it as they see best. ”
Kenny also took exception to Caulfield’s appearance on Newstalk on Wednesday night, arguing that whatever differences the two managers had should have been settled face to face rather than making accusations in the media:
“In relation to John Caulfield’s accusation of lies on Newstalk’s programme where he claims I made the situation up about a phone call to Stephen O’Donnell, it is common knowledge that Stephen O’Donnell got the phone call.
“We had a meal in the AVIVA on Sunday after the FAI Cup Final. I shook hands with John Caulfield, John Cotter and Liam Kearney. I congratulated them on their FAI Cup win and John could have brought anything up with me then but he chose to go on to Newstalk and attack me personally, accused me of lying and all of that which is completely out of order.
“To suggest that anyone could make something up like that is absurd. It’s bordering on the ridiculous.”
Whether this brings an end to the war of words remains to be seen, but having challenged each other for domestic honours for the last four years this is certainly a rivalry that shows no sign of dying down.
In this week’s episode of the Mixer Irish football podcast, we review last week’s FAI Cup final with former Cork City defender Derek Coughlan and look ahead to Ireland’s massive World Cup play-off against Denmark.