Interview with 'Michael Dunleavy'

Part one - As a Player with Athenry FC:

When did you start playing with Athenry and when did you leave?
- I joined I think in the mid 70’s. I arrived in Athenry after moving from Castlebar. I went down to Raheen one day after arriving and a bunch of lads Sean Monaghan, Dermot Monaghan, Niall Murphy, Hilary Walsh and Adrian Ruane were having a kick-about and I joined in and it went from there.My first manager was Micky Gill. We had the bare 11and our best player and manager were sent off. Micky was sent off for time wasting when he was kicking a ball back it hit a wall and went 50 yards behind him. Some ref, we were a few goals down and trying to get back why would he time waste!! I went working in Dublin for a while and trained with a very good Templogue team (Training was a ten mile run around the streets followed by indoor gym session then anyone left standing could have an indoor 5 a side!) but despite them begging me stayed with Athenry and moved back playing after 6 months. I emigrated for 2 and a half years in 1986 and played with a couple of games with 2 teams in England but they were poor and didn’t train so stopped playing. I still togged for St Stephens day game when came home at Christmas. I stayed playing till 2004 at least as I see I scored a couple of goals in the reserve league (we must have been stuck for players!).

Biggest influences as a player -
- One of my earlier coaches as an underage player was Desmond Glynn who was excellent. Mike Kilkelly was good also. At senior level Paddy Forde and PJ Killen did quite well with us. I also enjoyed playing under Duncan McMillan who gave me a free role. Lots of funny memories playing under Noel Ward and Gordon Dean even though Noel put the fear of God in us!! One wild night in Kiltimagh comes to mind. There wasn’t really a lot of coaching in those days only Dessie Glynn. He was really ahead of his time. You would enjoy playing under most managers as long as you are getting game time. At the start of my career there was only one sub allowed out of 2 so as a young lad you would be either on the bench or brought off (a good learning experience though). Funny enough I didn’t enjoy playing under one manager (myself) couldn’t concentrate on playing spent too much time watching other players!

Players who influenced me -
- First memory as a player was watching Joe Glynn for Athenry. He beat at least 6 players in a run from the half way line on a mud bath of a pitch and with only the goalie to beat from 5 yards out hit it straight at him. Then 5 minutes later he put one in the top corner from 25 yards. He was without doubt the most skillful player ever to play for Athenry. It was a pity he stopped playing so young. After that I played with some great players over the years. At beginning at senior level Mike Kilkelly was excellent. He could head a ball harder than most could shoot.I also enjoyed playing with Frank Joyce who was a very calming influence. Pete Gilhooley and Michael Morrissey. Dave Ward a brilliant keeper who rarely played there because he could play as good anywhere else. The best player we have ever had in the air an excellent centre forward. We played Galway United in a friendly when he was back from the states after emigrating and he won every header in both boxes despite not playing for 2 years. Sean Monaghan was a very fast winger an excellent crosser of the ball. Pete Hession very skillful, Dermot Monsie Monaghan another quality centre back. Lukey Glynn and PJ King both hard as nails defender. In later years Francis Holian and Keith Nevin were quality players. David Crimmins and Tony O’ Shaughnessy also come to mind with Shaughs senior scoring 10 goals in his first 8 games in the premier division as a 16 year old (including a few headers!). I also enjoyed playing with Adrian Ruane, Alan Clarke, Aidan Archer, Adrian Devally, Joe Tighe, Frank Coyne, Paul Mitchell, Eddie Fox, Neville Hynes, Neil Murphy, Stevie Duane, Kevin Quigley, (good left back!) Timmy Holian, Gabriel Glavin, Willie Killeen, PJ Kileen, Patsy Lynch (Who can for got Patsy in his tights suffering from a groin strain and rubbing some deep heat in that area before the match, ten minutes in to the match he roars at the line screaming for water, game stopped for 5 minutes as ref and all 22 players on their knees in knots laughing as Patsy poured water in that general area for about 5 mins). Towards the end of my career I really enjoyed getting to the indoor final togging out with the young lads Kevin McCarthy, Ronan Kineen, Fergus Farrell and David and Shane Donohue.

What did you achieve in your career as a player with the club?
- I won 2 leagues and 2 or 3 cups and also finished second a few times in league to get us promoted to the premier league. I still feel very proud that I was captain of the first Athenry team to stay up in the premier division (I got 17 goals that season between reserve and 1st team, played for both). We were unbeaten till Christmas. At that time we had a lot of very good young players but a lot emigrated and a few quit. I left myself for a few years and when I came back we had gone from Premier to Division 2. I also won 3 of our local indoor tournaments with 3 different teams and was runner up a few times. The Athenry indoor tournament was huge for a few years with over a 100 teams from all over Connacht entering. So winning, playing and managing a team with all my friends was great.

What else have you achieved with the Club?
- I also served as Chairman twice, Secretary, PRO and committee member. I was chairman when we purchased the grounds in Moanbaun. We had a great committee (Michael Morrissey, Tony O’ Shaughnessy, Michael Doherty, Willie Killeen, Timmy Holian Terry Nolan, Peter Gilhooley, Gabriel Glavin and Eddie Fox) who went around door to door selling ticket for about 30 days in a row one summer. I am still honored to be a trustee of the club. It was also a brilliant achievement for Timmy and the lads to get to an Irish Junior cup final. I helped produce a great programme which started off as 10 pages and went in to a few 100 thanks to the support of the local community (also made good money for the club even if it took me 20 hours a day for 3 weeks to do it!). I also helped run a very good Easter camp with over 120 attending. I did the first development plan for the club which resulted in the purchase of the pitch and having some sort of coaching structure (getting coaches going on courses). I also did the first website, code of conduct, child protection policy and facebook page. Many of those policies are still in place. I also got the club nominated for Club of the Year which we were very unlucky to lose (we were second I think). I wonder if we would have won under a different FAI regime! I worked with some great people on various committees throughout the years and got good support from most of them. If I haven’t mentioned ye don’t be offended and thanks for all the help. Special thanks to Michelle Michelle Leggett for all the good work she did with the girls teams while I was there.

Any other good memories?
- I spent nearly 40 years with the club so plenty. My first trip away to London was absolutely brilliant craic. We went to see a great Luton team with Irish international Tony Grealish and a good few of them went on to become England internationals. They came to see us play on Sunday but game called off due to waterlogged pitch. The whole travelling party went to see life of Brian which was banned in Ireland at time. The 2 trips to Scotland were also brilliant craic. Who can forget being stoned by Rangers fans and seeing guys you’d never seen run before sprint past you! Dermot Monsie Monaghan keeping us entertained with funny stories and him Micky Crimmins, Georgie Clarke and Roy O’ Brien leading the sing songs. Davie Crimmins, Terry Nolan and the Buckfast! Willie Killeen trying to keep up with PJ Killeen drinking! All the above were organized by the great Mike Morrissey. Trips to Carrick on Suir and Kiltimagh also come to mind. Celebrating our indoor win in the Jersey bar and being thrown out by Guard Pat Nally at 3 in the morning as he asked us by the way did ye win? Then Mike Melia let us in again a while later. Hearing Pierce Coffey singing Pipes of Peace after Carnaun win in the Shed pub! Celebrating cup win in kno Kno’s in Galway a mad night! Seeing Willie Killeen sing Coward of the county! Meeting Martin Keown (ex Arsenal player) and having him as guest at our awards night.

Who was the toughest opponent you ever played against?
- I can’t remember most of them at this stage! John Tierney Hibs was excellent, Pa Dunne and Tommy Carton both from Dynamo blues, I remember seeing Eamon Ryan against us when I was younger (what a player), John Gonzo Leahy, Kiltullagh (very underrated and clever), Gerry Moran, Colmanstown. Indoor John Coll (played rugby for Connacht at time like running in to a brick wall! But did score twice against him). In the club Francis Holian hated playing against him in training could never go around him, he read everything.

Toughest Team You played against
- It was probably Hibs and Dynamo Blues who were 2 of the top teams at the time. Another great memory when I was around 18 we played Hibs in Terryland in some area Junior cup quarter final. We were 2 down and I came on as sub and set up one and scored the equalizer (Jimmy Laffey who went on to play with Galway United was marking me). Although that memory is tinged by me hitting the post with a peno in the penalty shootout. I also remember the first time we beat Blues it was in Tuam. A cross by Dave Ward and a Willie Killeen lay off set me up and I curled the ball in to the top corner with the outside of my foot (probably the best I ever scored). Both Hibs and Blues beat us most times though they were great teams with a lot of quality players.

In all the Athenry teams you have played with name the following:
Tough as Nails – Dave Ward, PJ King and Pat Kilkelly (RIP)
Funny Guy –Dermot Monsie Monaghan and Pat Kelly (Pat was a teacher in Craughwell who played a bit of reserve football and trained with us. I always remember a game in Galway where he got kicked by an opposition player. About 5 minutes later Pat flattened him with a kick I front of the ref, straight red card. As he was about to go off he turned around and walked up to the ref, showed him the stud marks on his leg. The ref ignored him. Then he prodded the ref and said “Its not that I mind being sent off but being sent off by a little shit like you does my head in”). Just one of numerous stories
Fastest player –Sean Monaghan
Most Skillful –Pete Hession, Tony O’ Shaughnessy Most Modest Player – Aidan Archer
Most Grumpy –Gabriel Galvin and Timmy Holian
Worst Trainer – Patsy Lynch
Best Player – Dave Ward

From all the players you played with, name your strongest five a side team which includes yourself:
I was fortunate enough to have achieved this in the Indoor tournament. We used to hire the hall on our own to train before tournaments. My training regime when I was younger: Monday Free, Tuesday and Thursday: Soccer training 8 to 10 with club in pres gym followed by game of squash for an hour, Wednesday at Friday: An hours indoor soccer with team below, Saturday: Reserve game, Sunday: First team game. We were fit then!! Anyway here’s the team!
Goalkeeper - Patsy Lynch/PJ Killeen Defenders - Adrian Ruane and Dave Ward Midfielder - Me Striker- Sean Monaghan Subs - Dermot Monaghan, Tom Dempsey Manager - Me no one else would do it!!

Part 2 - Coaching:

When did you start coaching and what qualifications have you?
- I first started managing in early 1980’s doing a 5 a side team with my friends. I really got involved in 1989 when I returned from England and was asked to manage the team with Timmy Holian helping me as there was no one else (Not a good reason to do it). I think it lasted a few years then we quit. Then in early 1990’s Johnny Delaney asked me to get involved with the under age as he needed help.Myself, Timmy Holian and Gabriel Glavin were the first to go on a coaching course. It was for one day. I went on to do level one, two (UEFA B) and three (UEFA A) I don’t even remember what year that was.

Name the clubs and years you spent at each club?
- I was at Athenry till 2013 and have been with Mervue United since. Although at the moment I am on my first break since I began coaching in 1989. I have coached and managed from under 13 to 18 and both senior teams at Athenry. I have coached from under 13 to 18 in Mervue with 2 different teams. At both clubs I had 2 or sometimes 3 teams on the go at the one time so Friday was the only evening I had off (not recommended!). I also coached the Galway District league team at under 17/18 level (lost a Connacht final) and lost 2-1 to a Leeds team with 9 internationals. I also coached Galway United’s A team.

Who/What was the biggest influence on you as a coach?
- In Athenry Johnny Delaney got me involved in coaching and I think he was a massive influence on everybody. He must have been doing 5 teams at one stage. All the managers you played under would also be a good influence, you learn something from them all (thanks guys), or most of them! Also any coaches I worked with I would have massive time for them. I had a great year coaching with Johnny Delaney (first game I saw them in they got hammered by Corrib Rangers yet later in season the team only lost 1-0 to a last minute goal to the same team in a cup semi final. I had a great under age team with Sean Mulroe who was also a great coach. We were very unlucky not to win a premier league losing in last match of the season. I think it was the only one we lost (we had already beaten Mervue and gave Salthill their first defeat in 2 years). If we had a full squad at start of season we would probably have won a few of them but games clashed with GAA ones at times. A lot of those players went on to achieve a lot for the club winning title and leagues. Ronan Kineen, Kevin McCarthy, Paddy Quinn, Fergus Farrell, David and Shane Donohue, Colin O’ Grady all played for Galway squads. Paddy went on to play for Ireland, Fergus Farrell got picked ahead of David Forde for Connacht so very proud of the lot of them. Paul Fitzgerald was also another good guy I had the privilege to work with. Timmy Holian and Paul Mitchell were others I worked with and also enjoyed a year with Sean Flaherty, Roger Leggett, Nick Hitchcox and Andy Bichard. Dessie Glynn was another great coaching influence. Outside the club Dave O’ Connell (great coach) who did my first coaching course, and managed the Galway under 18s when I was coach. Maurice Price on our coaching courses was also brilliant. He also went on to coach Galway United. I still talk to him. At Mervue, Stephen Lally is obviously a big influence and a gent, Sinesa Radevic and Henry Williams are both excellent coaches and enjoyed my time under managers John Stewart and especially John Donovan. Special mention to Nugger Healy who I had one great game with and Joe at reception who is a calming influence before matches. And also Liverpool FC Bob Paisley, Kenny Dalglish and Jurgen Klopp and Pep isn’t bad either! And last but not least special mention to Conor T McNamara (RIP) who I enjoyed coaching for a while during my career (another gent and big Liverpool fan).

You were instrumental in a very successful period for the B team. How did you get it to work? What were the strengths of the squad? What did ye achieve?
- We got it to work by hard work and dedication. If you have over 16 players attending over 75% of the training sessions you have a good chance of winning something so the players were dedicated and we trained 3 times a week if we didn’t have a game. We had good players, and good leaders all over the pitch, a good system of playing and all the players knew their jobs. We won two leagues and a reserve league.Actually one of my best achievements as coach was the first season I took over. The team had conceded 57 goals the previous year and we brought it down to 8 (Shaughs, Quigs and Niall Tomas at the back). When you win something it is usually player driven, I had good captains in Niall Tomas, Neville Hynes and David Glynn who never let the other players slack.

In 2004 the B team won their ever league title. What are the best memories from the season?
- We made hard work of it at times (won 10, drew 5 and lost 1 in league) but beating Medtronic in last game and then beating them in play off for the league were undoubted highlights. Also that year beating the first team in the Michael O’ Byrne cup quarter final in front of a packed Raheen was fantastic. We scored over 70 goals (including friendlies) that season and conceded only 14 in the league, so we had a strong defense and attack. Our strikers got 34, midfielders 30 and defense 7. Ciaran Callinan, Derek McDonagh and Conor O'Grady were top scorers banging in goals for fun.The sessions in the Hop inn on Saturday evenings after games with some fantastic food from Mourad and Tara in La Rustica supplied by our host and sponsor Neil Molly Molloy (Thanks to all 3of ye). Getting Derek McDonagh in to Coffey’s for the celebrations after the league win (He was barred. Thanks Andy Kelly). The session after the play off win in the Hop was good as was the party afterwards in Choppers! The Paulie McCarthy award! Biggest disappointment was losing the Michael O’ Byrne semi final to Renmore after beating 3 premier teams in previous rounds. We came back from 2 down and missed sitters in extra time. We went out after a wrong decision by the referee and linesman in the shootout. After going 2 up our third peno hit the post and then the back of the goalies head and went in. The linesman came over and said to the ref to disallow it because it hit the post firstand they came back to win. I met the linesman a few months later and he admitted he made a mistake. I was a bit disappointed the club didn’t object but that’s life. Special mention to Marin Gafney (RIP) who banged in 5 goals for us that season (top man, LFC supporter and a gent).

In 2005 the B team gained promotion again winning the league . How good was this group of players ? What was the mentality of the squad? What was the recipe? Reserve league win 2007?
- We were on a roll from the season before Again an excellent group of players with a great attitude and mentality. We won 11, drew 6 and lost one scoring over 70 goals (including friendlies) conceding a bit more 20 this time.Our strikers got 34, midfielders 29 and defenders 5. Wayne Finn and Alan Lynch were our top scorers. We lost a few players from the previous year but also gained a few great additions from the A squad (Gary Coffey, Brian Carroll and Paul Flaherty). The recipe was the same as before hard work, dedicated players, good leaders and training hard no excuses. We had a chance to win it in our last game by getting a result against West United in the swamp but they deservedly beat us. But pulled a few strings to get the play off in Mervue as I knew a big pitch would suit us. It didn’t start off well but in front of a huge crowd we came from 2 down to win 4-2 after extra time, a magnificent performance from all our squad (from our keeper to every member of the panel) on the big day. A few great nights celebrating league win again in the Hop Inn including a great party in Lynchy’s house. Trying to get David Glynn home after the party (especially when he didn’t seem to know where he lived himself) was a great experience!! The Reserve league win was also good we won 7 and drew 2 scoring 28 goals and conceding only 5. Vlasta and Darragh Starken were top scorers. Again a great squad and great attitude with David Glynn providing good leadership as captain. It is an easy league to win though if you watch the fixtures and go strong against the good teams but I also think we became the first B team to win it. I think the trophy was the biggest the Galway FA has. Celebrations were in the Raheen Woods (thanks Lester). I think a young Colin Bane was part of the squad!

Toughest Opponents as a coach?
- At under age level, Mervue when I was with Athenry and Salthill when I was with Mervue. At senior level West United come to mind especially in the swamp. I hated going there. They had a lot of good and tough players. Jody Curran always had them well prepared and tough to beat and watching Eamon Chick Deacy (RIP) play was always a pleasure. He was first up to congratulate us after our win in the play off (what a gent). Also I would like to wish a speedy recovery to Paddy Grant who I got to know when he worked in Eamon Deacy Park. We used to have great chats every time I called in to the Galway FA and hope to have many more with him.

Can you name your three fondest memories with Athenry FC as a coach?
- I think I have mentioned a lot of them already. Winning the leagues were obviously great but developing players and seeing them develop into very good players and nice people. The first great memory I have is from the first under age team I managed.After losing our last league game (a draw or win would have seen us finish top) myself and Sean Mulroe went in to the Square Inn for a pint (very depressed) and found when we went to pay for it the players had already paid for it. A lovely gesture as they were all only 14 at the time. The other one was getting two awards from the B team players (I have a lovely glass boot and a trophy at home on the mantelpiece). It is always nice to be appreciated as a manager especially by your players. I never won any award as a player or manager from clubs (although I was up for player of the year once voted for by a 3 man committee, the other 2 voted for me but I voted for the other player and overruled them and gave it to him!) so It really was appreciated.Seeing my youngest son Eoin get a player of the year award was also nice.

Any other memories as a coach?
- Winning a league and cup with Mervue and my oldest son Cian’s team. Seeing him get a player of the year award in there. Then watching my youngest Eoin win Connacht cup, Premier league and league. Coaching Eoin to cup success and watching him score (especially a brilliant chip and super strike from edge of box. Seeing improvements in Eoins team after they used to get hammered. Last season they beat a Salthill Devon team who had hammered them and won all around them the year before and the unluckily lost a Connacht cup semi final to 2 late goals after being a goal up. Coaching David Forde (Irish keeper) on a Galway squad. Coaching Aaron Connolly (Brighton) in my first year in Mervue (he is some scorer). Meeting loads of new and good people who are have become friends. Minding Ronan Ronnie Kinneen at his 21st! Also getting to go to weddings (and stags!) of players you coached when they were younger seeing them grow up and settle down. Always appreciated and some great memories and craic with Niall Tomas, Ronan Kinneen, Sean Mulroe, Alan Georgie Clarke, Eddie Fox, Aidan Archer, Terry Nolan, Philly Somers, Kevin McCarthy, David Glynn, Paul Chopper Neary and Eric Ruane.

What advice would you give to younger coaches or players that are getting into coaching?
- Don’t coach until you are finished playing. Enjoy playing as long as you can.Also coach because you want to not because your young lad is playing. Develop the players first, the main thing is to get their technique and skill level right. Then get them fit and playing in the right way and the wins will come. Trust in your own philosophy, don’t get bullied by people or let you players be bullied. Remember players need to play no point in having them part of the squad if they don’t play. You have to think about player development as well as team development something a lot of coaches don’t do.

This may be difficult but can you name a starting 11 from all the players you have ever managed at Athenry FC?
- No unfortunately not. There were too many good players that I coached at under age and senior to pick 11. They all did a great job with me and especially the league winning and under age teams. Instead I will do the same ones I did as a player with a few add ons (see below).

In all the Athenry teams you have coached with name the following:
Under Age
Tough as Nails – Shane Donohue, Fergus Farrell, Tadhg O’ Donovan, Cian Dunleavy
Funny Guy–The terrible twins Kieran Mont Corban and Aidan Holland
Fastest player – Colin O’ Grady
Most Skillful – Conor Feeney though Kevin Mac thought he was!
Most Grumpy – Shane and David Donohue when they were giving out to each other!
Worst Trainer – Kevin McCarthy and Eddie Caffrey Best Trainer –David Glynn, Paddy Quinn Best Keeper – Fergie Gus Farrell
Best Player –David and Shane Donohue, Ronan Kineen Quietest–Derek Carroll (never said a word then)! David Brady, John Caulfield
Best Touch–David Casserley and Eoin Dunleavy
Most Underrated – Kevin McCarthy though not by himself!! Paulie Thompson when fit!
Best Ginger – Eddie Caffrey and Brian Flannery
Best at free kicks – Adam Healy
Tough as Nails –Niall Tomas, Kevin Quigley, Derek McDonagh, Stephen Lawless and Joe (broke my ribs) Maloney!
Funny Guy–Andrew Umpah Aherne and Neville Hynes at least they thought the were
Best one Liner – Gaz Coffey on a player who trained with a lot of teams “He must be the most stretched player in Athenry”
Fastest player – Paul chopper Neary, Alan Lynch and Martin Gafney (RIP)
Most Skillful – Vlasta, Gary Gaz, Coffey and Brian Barney Carroll
Most Grumpy –Paul Flaherty and Ciaran Callinan Best Trainer - James Redmond
Worst Trainer – Tony O’ Shaughnessy Mark Lawless, Emmet Byrne and David Crimmins!
Best Player –Ciaran Callinan and Kevin McCarthy think they are!!!
Quietest – Conor O’ Grady Best Dancer - Neville Hynes with Ray the Raver McCarthy a close second and David Donohue a distant third!
Best Touch – Gary Gaz Coffey and Wayne Finn
Most Underrated – Derek McDonagh and Paulie McCarthy Best Impact as Sub – Eric Roo Ruane
Best Buddies – Definitely Ciaran Callinan and Wayne Finn with Barney and Fla a close second
Best at drinking fat frog – Aiden Fahy Best Keeper – Kieran George Kilkelly Most likely to form a boy band – Neil Murphy and Stevie Duane
Best at free kicks – Philip Somers thinks he was but it was me really!!
Most potential to become a good player – Conor Cannon should be really good when he grows up! Best Diver – Finian Gardner but in fairness he was also most likely to buy a round!!
Most Skilful bits of magic seen on a pitch – Gary Gaz Coffey while falling curling a 60 yard pass down the line to put one of our forwards clean through (Any other player it may have been a fluke but not Gaz you could even see him looking up). Vlasta taking the ball down on his chest then thigh while 2 foot up in the air then hitting a 35 yard volley against the crossbar while still in the air (as David Glynn said that would have been goal of the century). Lastly me scoring a header now that was a fecken miracle!! Best Player seen at Athenry – Jamie O’ Driscoll with Ronnie Kinneen a close second (both 8 to 9 out of 10 every match).

Thanks you for the memories Athenry FC Dunners Original, it’s been a privilege. Apologies if I have left out anyone and I know its to long but great memories and stories (took me a fecken week to write it and I could keep going). Some meant to be funny so don’t take it seriously! Keep up the good work Colin Bane.

Thank you ,
@athenry_afc / #athenry_afc