Dundalk FC over the last 6 seasons are probably the most dominant team since I started regularly attending games in the late 80's as a teenager. Continual success and built on very solid foundations which means that the success may well continue for years to come. Its hard to begrudge them this success given they earned it on the pitch over these 6 years.
New Owners (2012)
The current trading company that run Dundalk FC was set up in Oct'12 and the new owners Paul Brown and Andrew Connolly paid €77k to acquire the club name from Gerry Matthews. On the 21st November 2012 these new owners made probably their best decision when they appointed Stephen Kenny as manager. The club had finished second last in 2012 and only avoided relegation with a playoff win versus Waterford. In Kennys first year they finished second to St Pats with a very new team and since then have won 4 titles.
The table below shows some of the key metrics at Dundalk FC over the last 6 seasons. Unlike some clubs success in previous decades Dundalk's success is built on solid foundations with the club making big profits and having large cash reserves. Dundalk have won 4 leagues, 2 FAI cups and 2 league cups, also finishing runners up twice in the league and twice the cup.
The table below highlights the profitability of the club, since the new owners acquired it the club has been well run making only a small loss in their first year. Over the 5 years to November'17 the club made accumulated profits of €3.3m and had circa €2.5m in the bank at Nov'17.
What makes Dundalk's success even more impressive to me is the amount of key players they have lost and Kenny has replaced them every time. All of these players were lost with no transfer fee income to the club due to short contracts, a situation that they seem to be rectifying this year with longer contract terms. At the end of the 2014 season they lost their top goal scorer Pat Hoban, followed by at the end of the 2015 season losing Richie Towell, again the top goal scorer. At the end of the 2016 season they lost Andy Boyle, Ronan Finn and Daryl Horgan both of whom where key players in winning the league the previous 3 seasons. Finally at the end of 2017 they lost both David McMillan and Patrick McEleney.
They suffered for these losses eventually in 2017 and being up against a very strong Cork City team with their lowest points per game since Kennys first season but with the re-signing of Pat Hoban for 2018 they have gone from strength to strength.
Oriel Park/New Owners
Over 2016 and 2017 the owners of Dundalk FC spent circa €900k on acquiring the lease of the club and Youth Development Centre https://www.talkofthetown.ie/dundalk-fc-take-over-lease-at-oriel-park/ which allows them to develop the ground and they also relayed the pitch with a new artificial surface. The success on the pitch together with the acquiring of the site allowed the club to be sold if someone was interested.
The club was sold to Lilywhite Holdings LLC on 18th January 2018. The 2018 season was the first season for the clubs new owners and clearly it has been a very successful season. The new LLC is the 100% owner of the club and is a subsidiary of Peak 6 Investment LP. Peak 6 have a lot of interests in sports clubs as can be seen with their interests here https://www.peak6.com/strategic-capital/ but buying an Irish club would have historically been seen as an odd investment.
Dundalk built their success in the earlier years on good management and unearthing players. In recent seasons with the cash made in 2016 they have been able to recruit more established players. This has allowed Dundalk to continue the success while not losing money.
In previous decades, even in the 2000's the dream was to make big money in European Football. This was very hard to achieve but now even limited success in Europe as champions is worth a lot.
Due to Dundalk regularly winning in Europe and their very good year in 2016 Dundalk now have a coefficient of 7 for the 2019/20 CL campaign. This ranking will comfortably see them seeded for round 1 in the CL. At a minimum Dundalk are guaranteed 2 games in Europe assuming they lose their first one in the CL. Based on the 2018/19 figures these 2 games are worth €800k (€540k from the CL and €260k from the EL). However if they can win their first round game which they will be seeded they will make €1.2m (€920k from the CL and €280k from the EL).
Why I think its very hard for any club to catch Dundalk without significant outside investment is that most LOI clubs would not have turnover of €1m per annum from normal football activities and Dundalk can make this level of income from just 3 games. From clubs that do publish a P&L only Cork City would be above the €1m and I suspect Shamrock Rovers would be too. Rovers, Waterford and maybe Cork City will all be unseeded in the EL next season meaning they may bring in circa €240k from Europe v €1.2m for Dundalk. Obviously if these teams can win a few games this prize money will go up but as unseeded teams this will be harder than Dundalk.
In recent years clubs like Rovers, Derry and Pats have made losses (Rovers) or been heavily subsidised (Derry/Pats) and they have not been able to keep up with Dundalk. Only Cork City who have made modest profits over the last few seasons have been able to keep pace but they have indicated for 2019 they will have to reduce spend etc. Other clubs like Bohs, Sligo, Galway, etc have cut their cloth to measure but can't compete in the league as a result.
Given the financial head start that Dundalk will have from European money, for any team to catch them they will need very deep pockets. Some clubs have benefactors but the scale of Euro money means these benefactors will have to spend more to try and catch up. And ironically the team with the biggest benefactor are Dundalk who don't need them based on their rewards on the pitch.