THE CONFIRMATION this week that Gavin Dykes is to serve as assistant manager of Ollie Horgan at Finn Harps was met with raises eyebrows in some quarters.
Dykes’ return to Finn Park comes 15 years after he resigned during a turbulent time down Navenny Street.
The second-coming of Dykes has sparked a surprised reaction in some quarters, given both how the Sligo native parted ways in 2001 and how he was subsequently perceived among Harps supporters.
Dykes was a figure of a type of ‘fun’ that bordered on revulsion for an age after his departure.
‘A Dykes free zone’ was how the cover of Down To The River, the former Finn Harps fanzine depicted Finn Park and their editions regularly jibed at the former centre-back.
The terrace refrains directed in Dykes’ direction were hardly lovable either and the volume was turned up significantly any time he was back at Finn Park, either with Kildare County, Sligo Rovers or Derry City.
In the worst moments, it felt as if he was Public Enemy Number One.
Time heals old wounds and the hopes of Ollie Horgan and the power brokers at Finn Park will be that Dykes’ appointment is welcomed by supporters.
While there are those who will take some time to warm to his return, time will have healed most of the wounds.
The benefit of hindsight perhaps should serve as a reminder that the difficult period wasn’t all of Dykes’ making, either.
At the time of his resignation, Harps had just announced a crippling debt of €350,000 and Dykes had to put Jonathan Speak, James Mulligan, Johnny Kenny,
Mark Hutchinson, Eamon Sheridan and Pascal Vaudequin on the transfer list.
That news was relayed to Dykes after he’d asked for money to strength the squad at a time when his team was second from bottom with only three wins to their name.
Dykes had fallen into the job by default following the resignation of Charlie McGeever.
Just five months after Harps played in the FAI Cup final – which they lost to Bray Wanderers after a three-game marathon – McGeever stepped down with Harps rooted to the bottom of the table, having claimed just one points from their opening seven League games.
Dykes brings a good array of contacts to Finn Park.
It was he, remember, who brought in Mike Turner, the man who helped save Harps from relegation in Dykes’ first campaign as player-manager.
There were others, too, like Neil Fitzhenry, who was a fans favourite in Ballybofey having been recruited by Dykes.
The former Republic of Ireland international Mark Kelly was recruited as assistant manager by Dykes, but left following the resignation just after the turn of the calendar into 2001.
They were dark days when the very future for the club was bleak.
“I cannot, as a footballer manager, take money under false pretences. I have no choice with further cut-backs required,” Dykes said at the time.
Players representative Damien Bradley read a statement to a public meeting in Ballybofey noting that it was ‘agreed unanimously’ that all the players would submit written transfer requests.
“We believe that the present squad, if retained, would have been able to play their way out of trouble,” Bradley told the concerned gathering of shareholders.
A group of local business men were rumoured to have been offering to pledge funds were Dykes to return, but it never materialised and Jonathan Speak was soon installed as player-manager, with Harps only relegated after a stomach-churning play-off defeat by Longford Town on penalties.
Dykes is perhaps least fondly remember for his attempts to off-load Kevin McHugh to Omagh Town.
McHugh did spent some time on loan at St Julian’s Road, but resisted attempts to make a permanent switch. How different the history books might have been had he been persuaded…
McHugh and Dykes didn’t exactly pull in the one direction in those days, but the club captain is understood to have welcomed the appointment behind the scenes having been consulted by Horgan.
It is perhaps a case of ‘better the devil you know’ but Dykes does return armed with a pretty impressive curriculum vitae.
He was part of the coaching staff for the league-winning 2012 season at Sligo Rovers and he has just given up his role as Head of Youth Development at The Showgrounds before coming up the N15, which is maybe a pointer to how serious he’s taking the role.
“We took our time and wanted to get it right,” Horgan said on Tuesday night as he confirmed the appointment of his new number 2.
“We have someone in with Premier Division experience who knows the League well. He is someone we feel can fit the high bill that James Gallagher brought.
“He has been here before managing the club. The biggest thing he brings is his knowledge of the Premier Division. That knowledge will be huge for us.”
Dykes has an extensive coaching portfolio and although his exit was sour, it was all of 15 years ago and maybe the man noted by McGeever as ‘a special sort of character who is cut out for management’ deserves at least a chance.
After all, he’s on our side now again.Tags: