How did you get started in the game?
I played for the same team the likes of Liam Brady and Damien Duff came from in North Dublin called St Kevin’s Boys.
Who were your footballing heroes?
I used to support Leeds so I was a big fans of Johnny Giles and Billy Bremner. Then I was a great fan of the Dutch sweeper Rudi Krol.
You then joined Bohemians and won a league medal…
Yes I joined Bohs when I was 17 in about 1976/77. It was a great experience to win the league in 1978. We had some great players. Turlough O’Connor was our main striker and even though he was coming towards the end of his career he was still a great player. We had also the likes of Eamonn Gregg who was an Irish International.
How did winning the league with Bohemians compare with winning with Dundalk?
There is no comparison. And i’d include winning the FAI Cup with Galway in 1991 as a manager. It’s much much better to win a league or a cup with a provincial or a country team than a team from Dublin. When we won the league with Bohs there was a few drinks in the bar. A few of the lads had a lemonade and just went home. We did have a reception in a hotel in Grafton Street organised by the league sponsors Bass. But when we won with Dundalk we came home to a huge reception in the town. We went through the streets and it was absolutely incredible. It was the same in Eyre Square in Galway in 1991.
Why did you leave Bohemians?
Well Billy Young basically decided that Padraig O’Connor was going to be ahead of me in the pecking order at Bohs. I then discussed a move with Charlie Walker who was the manager of St Pats. I decided to move there. We ended up playing Bohs in the FAI Cup semi-final and I scored the winning goal! That didn’t go down too well!!!
You then went to Athlone and followed Turlough O’Connor to Oriel Park…
Yes things went well at Athlone. Turlough then got the Dundalk job and he asked me to come with him as his captain.
So you were appointed Captain before even arriving?
Yes…I had been a Captain at St Kevin’s and then again at St Pats and Athlone. I think I just had the leadership qualities that Turlough appreciated. I was always a big talker and mouth in the dressing room! I had also started taking my coaching badges when I was 18 so I was well capable of organising players. But there was a lot of leaders in the Dundalk dressing room.
What was your first impressions of Dundalk?
It was a big change. I remember Turlough didn’t have a lot of money to put a team together but if anybody could put together a team on a tight budget it was Turlough. He improved the team every year bit by bit so I knew that eventually we could achieve something. We reached the League Cup final in the first season and then beat Shamrock Rovers in the League Cup Final in the following year. It was a really good club with great footballing people. I remember when I won the cup at Galway I got a good luck message from Elizabeth Duffy. Dundalk had just won the league so I was very happy in 1991.
What are your memories of the 1988 success?
As I said, we had a lot of leaders in the dressing room and some great players. Barry Kehoe was one of the best players ever in the League of Ireland. He was also a great man off the pitch. He could have easily have made it at the top level in England. Paul McGrath is a great friend of mine and he went to Manchester United at the same time as Barry for a trial. He remembers how good he was. He was a great loss to the town and the club when he died so young. I know that at the reunion night we will all be missing him.
Anyway, the big match in 1988 was the Derry City match. We had four games left and we had Bohs and St Pats breathing down our necks. We went two goals down and I remember thinking if we lost this the league was gone. But we seemed to get a massive lift from somewhere. We had great support that day. When we got the win there was just a huge euphoria about the place. But even though we had to play St Pat’s it was the Derry match that won us the league. I also remember that St Pat’s match when Paddy Dillon flicked the ball into the net with his hand. I didn’t notice it and I thought we were 2-1 down and that was the end of it but then I saw the linesman’s flag up and Paddy got a red card. I’ll never forget the pitch invasion at the final whistle.
Do you think the 1987 Cup Final defeat spurred you on in 1988?
Well yes. I have tremendous respect for Turlough O’Connor and I have said this before. But Turlough got our preparations for the ’87 Cup Final wrong. He trained us like it was pre-season. I remember training on the Monday before the final. I was a great trainer. But after that session I felt sick. I remember the press wanted to interview me but I had to just had to walk past them into the dressing rooms. I actually did get sick then. The Players of the Year night was on that Monday and we should have just enjoyed the night but we had heavy training sessions again that week. We left it all on the training ground. It was a real shame because I think we were a better team than Shamrock Rovers. But we let ourselves down in the final.
But you were able to put it right in ’88…
Turlough kept up the progression. We knew we would comeback. I actually think we should have won more than one Double. We should have won the league two or three years on the trot. With Turlough I knew that we would always be there or thereabouts to winning the league. In fairness to him he has to be ranked up there with Jim McLaughlin as the best manager Dundalk has ever had. It was sad the way it ended for him.
Are you still involved in football?
I was managing in the Leinster Senior League until before Christmas. But I have become disillusioned with it. I have high standards and when you get people not turning up for training or not being dedicated it really gets to me. I have a UEFA A License so I’d rather get back into the Eircom League as a manager or an assistant manager. I have also been a scout for Aberdeen for the past number of years and also involved with Paul McGrath in running a Soccer Camps in Mayo. We work at getting Eircom league teams to use a hotel in Mayo for pre-season preparations. So I am still very busy but hoping to get back into the league at some point.