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Home Sport Football

Footballers' Lives with Gareth McGlynn: 'I've had good times with Derry City but also had to deal with painful losses'

 

By Graham Luney

In the latest of our popular series, former Derry City ace Gareth McGlynn discusses European adventures, family and club tragedies and his new life in recruitment.

Q. Were you brought up in a sporting family?

A. I grew up in a remote area of Donegal called Inch Island, which is on the Inishowen Peninsula. Growing up next to the family farm, I was always an outdoors person but preferred kicking the ball about over dipping sheep. There was a big sporting tradition in my family so becoming a footballer was a natural progression for me. My father, uncle and grandfather were all heavily involved in football, Gaelic, athletics and hurling over the years. I was encouraged to participate in all sports until I found my niche, although at 16 when I had to decide between Gaelic, hurling and football I wasn't best pleased as I really enjoyed all three. I still play for a team in Donegal, Aileach, but don't see myself as a coach - you need a certain set of skills, patience being one of them!

Q. What was your best moment in football?

A. Representing the Republic of Ireland at Under-21 level was a big honour for me, the big European nights in Paris, Gothenburg, Gretna and at Apoel Nicosia were great times and of course cup finals; I've been fortunate to win seven trophies with Derry City, five League of Ireland Cups and two FAI Cups. A big regret is missing out on a league title. I finished runner-up three times with Bohs and Derry twice and lost one on goal difference.

Q. What was your worst moment in football?

A. I've been fortunate in terms of injuries, thankfully a 12-week medial ligament injury was the longest injury I had over the 17 years. I have been fortunate to have had some great times and really enjoyed my career, even though we had some tough times at Derry. Losing a cup final is never a great feeling, the build-up to the day and the work that goes into preparing for it make it hard to take. But the hardest moment was missing out on the treble with Derry City in 2006 on goal difference; that year we were the best team in the league but failed to get over the line for the league title. I've lost the league on the last day of the season with Derry; we travelled to Cork on top of the league and only needed a point but got beat 2-1, although I believe Cork were the best side in the league that year and probably just deserved it.

Q. Who was the best player you played with and also your toughest opponent?

A. I have been lucky to play with some decent players, the likes of James McClean, David Forde, Niall McGinn and Paddy McCourt, but the one player who seemed to be playing a different game to everyone else was Liam Coyle. It's almost hard to describe how easy he managed to make the game look. Only for a bad knee injury, Liam would have played in a top European side, I have absolutely no doubt about it. Toughest opponent League of Ireland wise would be Owen Heary from a brilliant Shelbourne side. He was an aggressive, tenacious player who never gave you a second.

Q. Who were the biggest influences on your career?

A. My parents, mum Aileen and dad Sean, were a huge support. My dad didn't push me into football. When I see the parents now and the pressure they are putting their kids under, it is not healthy. I am only starting to appreciate all the taxiing my parents did when I was a kid. Within football, John Clifford at Tri Star really helped me when I was a teenager and throughout my career Stephen Kenny managed me very well.

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Gareth McGlynn showing off the FAI Cup in 2002 with mum Aileen and late father Sean

Q. You had three spells at Derry City. Does the club mean a lot to you?

A. I broke into the Derry team at the age of 17 and spent most of my career there. I was at Bohs for a year and had spells in Australia and America but Derry has a special place in my heart. I have a season ticket for the Brandywell, and love going to the games - especially now that the facilities have been redeveloped. Great credit has to go to the current board as the new ground is very impressive. Derry had to do something because the facilities used to be like something you would see in a Third World country. You would be embarrassed to welcome a top European club to that environment but thankfully that has been addressed.

Q. Do you feel the Airtricity League is a natural home for Derry City or would you like to see them compete in the Danske Bank Premiership?

A. Speaking to the fans, there are mixed opinions on this. Derry have had ups and downs in both leagues over the years but I feel the League of Ireland league is the best place for Derry, although personally I enjoyed the Setanta Cup battles with the likes of Linfield and Glentoran and believe the only reason for its demise was the economic climate at the time. I think if the Setanta Cup format was resurrected it could be developed into something special. But having the majority of the teams in the south full-time is a huge advantage and a better platform for the young players in the academies.

Q. Your father Sean passed away in 2006. How do you reflect on that traumatic time?

A. My dad was 50 and very young. It was a huge shock to the family, he had never been sick and his parents were still alive at the time. There were no warning signs that something like this would happen. He suffered a heart attack while playing golf with my brother Dermot in Buncrana. It was the first tragedy for the family and it was a very difficult time. Thankfully we had great support from family and friends and Ciara, who is now my wife. Before he died, my father had seen friends battle cancer and always said when it was his time he wanted to go out with a bang. He got his wish but sadly it was 40 years too early. I didn't have the chance to say goodbye but at least I know that he didn't suffer. We had some great times prior to dad passing away when the whole family travelled to watch our European encounter with Gretna, so we have some nice memories.

Q. How did your father's passing affect you and your family?

A. I think it brought the family closer together. The football helped me through the bereavement process, it got me active again and focused on other things; it helps you come to terms with it. Football was a great release for me at a time when I could have sat in the house and stared at the four walls. Everyone else is doing well thankfully; my mum plays golf and travels the world. Of course we all still miss my dad terribly. It makes me want to make the most of the time I have with my daughter and it reinforces the importance of family time.

Q. Derry City have been rocked by the tragic losses of Ryan McBride and Mark Farren, while former player Josh Daniels lost five members of his family in the Buncrana pier tragedy. How has the club been shaken by these terrible events?

A. I played with all three of those guys. It's difficult to comprehend how any club can get over such a sad series of events within such a short period of time. It's just terrible. Mark and Ryan were so young and Josh's family was so tragic. Mark Farren's legacy lives on with the stand named after him and the amazing thing about Mark was he started as a left-back but was then transformed into the club's record goalscorer. I've never seen a player improve so much in a different role as Mark and he did it through sheer hard work. Like my father, Ryan passed away so suddenly without any signs and as a club to have your young captain taken away was a huge shock. You still feel the sense of loss around the club and when you look at the Derry team line-up before a game and Ryan isn't there at the front it doesn't feel right. The Ryan McBride Foundation, which was set up by Ryan's family, is something positive to come out of the darkness. Ryan epitomised everything that Derry City stands for. All he wanted to do was play for the club and his leadership qualities, morals and ethics are what Derry should always strive to maintain. When these tragedies happened the whole city felt pain. It's devastating to lose friends you respect so much but they will not be forgotten and through the Foundation the kids will be given the help they need to follow their own dreams. Myself and Josh did some coaching at a Ryan McBride Foundation camp and thankfully Josh is doing great at Glenavon.

Q. You are married to Ciara and have a young daughter with another baby due in June. How did you and Ciara meet?

A. It was back 14 years ago now! When I was 21 we met at a Derry City coaching seminar. Ciara was playing for the Derry City ladies' team and I was playing for the men's. We got married in 2014 back in Donegal, we were living in Manhattan and wanted to come home to tie the knot. We have a beautiful daughter Shea, who turned two on Thursday this week and another baby due at the end of June so that keeps us busy!

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Gareth McGlynn and his wife Ciara, with daughter Shea

Q. You played for Stirling Lions in Australia and Lansdowne Boys in New York. What are your memories of those times?

A. In 2009 we decided to go to Perth. I had been there three years previously during the off season and loved it. I played with Stirling Lions who were a Macedonian club, another ex-LOI player Jason Gavin was playing there, I won a title in Australia and enjoyed the lifestyle there. I would recommend every player should experience playing abroad. While I was playing part-time I had to look for a real job for the first time. Thankfully I had a degree which opened doors for me, one of which was recruitment. I loved the lifestyle and the people in Australia while New York is a real financial hub with hard-working people. Stepping out of the football bubble can be a scary time. I think it's an easy option for players to stay in that bubble for as long as they can but your career is short and players have got to start stepping out of the football bubble earlier than their mid-30s. Professional sports people have so many transferable skills that will allow them to be successful in the corporate business world. I found the discipline of training, diet and emphasis on repetition within training were key, replicating that in the business world has been a big factor in the success of Niche SSP.

Q. How is your recruitment business going?

A. It has been going great so far. As a company we partner with Construction Firms in the United States, by helping them to recruit the best quantity surveyors (estimators in the US). Starting out we got a lot of support from our Local Enterprise Office. As of today we are one year ahead of schedule and we will appoint our fourth employee soon. With huge demand from our clients we hope to have 15-plus people working for us in Donegal by 2022. Back in December 2017 we won €15,000 (£13,074) as Donegal's Best Young Entrepreneurial Start-up business, which was a fantastic achievement. We have progressed to the final of 'Ireland's Best Young Entrepreneur' competition which will be in Google's Dublin HQ on April 19, so fingers crossed we come away with the €40,000 (£34,865) first prize.

Q. Could your business win a prestigious award soon?

A. That would be a nice way to celebrate our work. 'Ireland's Best Young Entrepreneur' recognises the work of start-up businesses for those aged 18 to 35, with a business under 18 months old. The official presentation takes place on April 19 and the award ceremony will be at Google Headquarters on Sunday, April 22, where we will be joined by the 24 finalists. We are also competing in the Irish National Enterprise Awards and have been nominated as 'Best Start-up Business'. The prize fund is up to €10,000 (£8,716) with the event held in Dublin on May 24. The future is looking promising. We appreciate everyone's support and you can find us at nichessp.com.

Snapshot

Date of birth: October 29, 1982

Place of birth: Donegal

Previous clubs: Derry City, Bohemians, Stirling Lions, Lansdowne Boys

Derry City record: 43 goals in 378 appearances

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