It’s rare for any footballer to win every available domestic honour. It’s even more uncommon for a League of Ireland player to achieve this feat with the same club and even scarcer for one in the modern era to stay with them long enough to warrant a testimonial. Gavin Peers has accomplished the aforementioned at Sligo Rovers, but this season is in the midst of a fresh challenge with St Patrick’s Athletic, as he explains here to ExtraTime.ie.
As a youth player, Gavin joined Blackburn Rovers in 2002 and it was here he learned the art of defending, which stood to him in his later career: “I’d good coaches there. They put me on the path to professional football and I had a good first year. It was unfortunate that I had to leave, but that’s football.”
After departing Ewood Park, the young defender signed for Mansfield Town in 2005, but following a solitary season, was on the move again, this time to Sligo Rovers: “I never really knew about the Irish league before I came back. I was doing well over there, when they changed managers and I got fed up. I got a few offers that year, but went to Sligo and didn’t look back.”
Initially, Peers featured at right-back for the newly-promoted westerners, but when central defenders Liam Burns and Michael McNamara departed the subsequent season, he was moved there and blossomed into one of the league’s finest in this position: “I’d played in England at centre-half and full-back. I done really well there after being put in and ended up staying in that role.”
2009 witnessed Gavin recover from injuries in time to take part in that year’s 1-2 FAI Cup Final reverse to Sporting Fingal: “To lose in the last few minutes was devastating, but it gave us hunger. It was the start of us pushing on and winning all the trophies that we did.”
Both domestic cups were captured the next season, but on a personal note, Peers also earned selection onto a League of Ireland X1 side to face Manchester United for the opening fixture at the refurbished Aviva Stadium: “They went on to win the league that season and it was a good experience to play against top-class strikers.”
A back-to-back FAI Cup victory was secured in 2011, after penalties against plucky First Division side Shelbourne, who played the majority of the match with ten men. However, this feat was overshadowed by clinching the succeeding year’s Premier Division title, which saw Gavin’s centre-half pairing with Jason McGuinness instrumental during this campaign.
“We had a good understanding, but I’ve had other worthy partnerships and we won other trophies before Jason came in.”
Peers acquired a third FAI Cup winner’s medal in 2013, but the 3-2 defeat of Drogheda United came at a cost, as he endured a cruciate knee ligament injury, which kept him out for a lengthy period afterwards: “I didn’t think about it at the time. During the celebrations that night, it was sore and I got a scan the next morning. It didn’t really affect me until after the operation and the rehabilitation started. It was a slow process and frustrating to watch the team, who could and should have done better in the league. It was hard watching it all, when I couldn’t do anything to help.”
The 2014 Setanta Sports Cup was brought back to Sligo, following a 1-0 win over Dundalk at the Tallaght Stadium, but then the trophies dried up. At the conclusion of the subsequent season, Gavin found himself training with the PFAI squad.
“They’d bring you in, league managers would come to watch and they’d put you out there on the pitch and try to get you a club.”
Peers signed yet another deal with Sligo for 2016, a year in which he commuted from Dublin and played his testimonial for the club against former manager Paul Cook’s Portsmouth at the Showgrounds. After eleven seasons and almost 350 appearances (fifth highest for a Sligo Rovers players), the Dubliner rejected the latest terms on offer and opted to join a side closer to home: St Patrick’s Athletic, for the current campaign.
“I couldn’t agree a new contract with Sligo and the family were back in Dublin, but it was a different challenge as well.”
With the Saints presently near the foot of the Premier Division table, Gavin concludes by assessing the season so far with his new teammates: “It’s been tough. Results haven’t gone our way, but we’ve played some good football in patches. I think I’ve done okay and hope I’ve helped others around me.”