Michael O’Neil, Stephen Kenny, and Filippo Giovagnoli. League of Ireland fans would only have been aware of the former two before August of this year. But now, in early October, the Italian joins the former Northern Ireland coach and current Republic of Ireland boss as the only three managers to take a League of Ireland team to the Europa Legaue group stages.
He was a shock appointment for Dundalk, replacing Vinny Perth despite never managing a senior team. The only coaching information available about him was that he was the technical director of Milan summer camps in his native Italy, as well as the USA. 6 years in that role and he was put in charge of one of Irelands biggest sides.
Giovagnoli had a modest playing career in Italy. He featured for Serie D sides Sansepolcro and Arezzo. The highest level he reached was Serie C with Rondinella Firenze. He played as a centre-back, starting in 1987 before retiring in 2003.
He spoke to Niall Newberry, a regular on Peil and Back, and said he’d love to stay on at Dundalk.
Standing in Dundalk’s way of a 2nd ever Europa League appearance were Klaksvíkar Ítróttarfelag (KI). The Faroe Islands side had won the league last season for the first time in 20 years. The previous 3 seasons they were in Europa League qualifiers, making it as far as the 2nd round on 2 occasions. This season they received a walkover against Slovan Bratislave due to COVID-19 scares, before being beaten by Young Boys of Switzerland. They went into the Europa League 3rd round as underdogs, but stunned Dinamo Tbilisi beating them 6-1. It wasn’t going to be easy.
After a tense start in which KI took the game to the LOI champions, Dundalk took control. Sean Murray found the net after Hoare’s cross found Hoban’s header.
Just after halftime, Daniel Cleary took advantage of the KI keeper making a mess of a corner. 2-0.
Just before the hour mark Gary Rogers, the hero of the penalty shootout against Sheriff, had a big save to make. Johannesen was lively for KI, he struck a shot well and made Rogers work. The Faroese side had a spell on top from there. Eventually they got their goal, a quality strike from Midtskogen that gave Rogers no chance. 2 – 1, game on.
McMillan and Kelly came on, Hoban, who was on a yellow, and Colovic who had been struggling, made way. Dundalk regained some control but KI still had their chances. Klaksvikar were playing without fear getting to the second balls first. But Dundalk would strike on the break. It was Daniel Kelly who got on to a diagonal ball, took a touch, and coolly finished. 3-1. 10 to go.
Moutney came on, KI didn’t lie down. They had a chance immediately and there may have been a case for a penalty. The ref wasn’t well placed with bodies in the way, a corner was given. KI remained dogged in their efforts with 4 minutes added on. They played right until the end. Dundalk had to resort to scrappy defending at times. But they saw it through.
After the match Giovagnoli said he was not happy with the performance but the result is what mattered. He described Daniel Kelly as a weapon, and said he wanted Dundalk to control games more. It’s clear the man in charge isn’t going to be content with simply showing up in Europe.
Under intense scrutiny, Filippo has over performed. Having been given no chance, he has conducted himself well in interviews, and let the team do the talking. By all accounts he is well liked by the players.
The man who was unknown now has his name etched in history.
Don’t Miss Our domestic Irish football podcast Peil and Back, covering League of Ireland on Thursdays and Women’s National League on Fridays. Click latest episodes on the menu above, or search Post to Post Sport on most podcast platforms including Spotify and Apple.