Gavan Holohan on Sean McCaffrey: 'He always filled everyone with confidence - it was an honour to play under him'

Sun, May 13 2018

McCaffrey was involved as manager with Monaghan United, Dundalk and the Irish underage sides. Credit: Jason O'Callaghan

On the 30th of December 2017, the Irish footballing community was saddened to learn of the passing of former Momaghan United, Dundalk and Ireland underage manager Seán McCaffrey following years of service at the top level of football in this country.

Despite passing at such an early age of just 58, the Monaghan native certainly left his stamp on Irish football with distinction.

It is a great testament to McCaffrey that so many of his former players have gone on to represent the Boys in Green with such honour and pride in the years following his spell with a gifted bunch of Irish footballing talent.

In honour of his legacy, not just as a football coach, but as a man, it was no surprise to those around him to witness the high regard he was held in by everyone he had the pleasure of dealing with.

If it wasn’t the Football Association of Ireland, it was former clubs, and if it wasn’t former clubs, it was former players.

All of them had something positive to say regarding the tireless efforts and work that the late, great Seán McCaffrey had put into their storied careers and history.

Down through the years, McCaffrey has unearthed some real gems for the men’s side to benefit from as they learned the tricks of the international trade under the guise of the Monaghan man.

They include Burnley duo Robbie Brady and Jeff Hendrick, Everton star James McCarthy, current Ireland shot-stopper Darren Randolph and Sunderland’s tricky winger Aiden McGeady: a combined total of 237 International caps between them.

It wasn’t just international stars that McCaffrey had a major impact with his influence can also be seen in many a League of Ireland player, a league in which Seán had many interactions with throughout his career in coaching.

It is hardly a surprise to see the high regard that these players held McCaffrey in, none more so than current Waterford man Gavan Holohan.

Holohan kindly took the time out to speak exclusively with extratime.ie, as the Blues' creative force expressed his gratitude to McCaffrey while also reflecting on some of his favourite memories while representing his country under the stewardship of Seán.

“I think the moments that stick out were just the team meetings we used to have under Sean,” Holohan said.

“While having fantastic knowledge of the game and being very meticulous with every detail leading into a game, he also had a great sense of humour.

“Some of the things he used to come out with, you would have a pain in your side from laughing.

“Another thing that sticks out in my mind was the last game of the Under-17 European qualifiers up in the old Terryland Park where we had to beat Portugal and hope that Greece drew, I think with Germany.

“Before the game in the dressing room Sean got one of the coaches to put on the Any Given Sunday ‘inch by inch’ speech.

“Usually I would have seen this as a real cliché kind of thing for a manager to do but Sean made it seem relevant to that night.

“He just kept saying it was going to take every one of us to go that extra inch for each other to get the result we needed and if we did our job then there was no reason that we wouldn’t qualify by the skin of our teeth or even by an inch as he put it.

“And it turned out he was right: both results went how we wanted and we qualified for the European Championships in Turkey that summer.

“It was a great honour to play under him and I’ll always be thankful that he gave me my first cap for my country.”

The now 27-year-old former Hull City man revealed that the advice he received from McCaffrey in the early years of his development have stood the test of time with the Kilkenny native.

“[Make sure] that you’re working hard [and] that’s your base to start from. And if you do that your quality will come after that!

“He always filled everyone with confidence that they were good players and that made it easier to go out and perform knowing that.”

In honour of his life and achievements, the family and friends of the late Sean McCaffrey rallied around each other as they established the Seán McCaffrey Foundation in the months following his tragic passing at the tail-end of 2017.

The primary objectives of the Foundation are to firstly aid young people reach their full potential in their lives, coaching and development, an aspect that was a clear strength of Seán when he was involved in nurturing young footballing talent throughout the country.

Secondly, the ambition of the organisation is to support patients attending the Renal Dialysis Unit in Cavan Hospital, and the third is to support groups who cater for animal welfare.

Animal welfare was a serious passion for Seán and it is hoped that through the efforts and strength of the effort, Seán’s legacy and ideals will live on for years to come.

To say that the next few weeks for the organisation will be hectic will be one hell of an understatement.

A day after Seán’s work is due to be acknowledged by the FAI prior to kick off at the friendly against the United States, the launch event for the Foundation will take place on June 3rd at the Hillgrove Hotel in Monaghan Town.

Current FAI CEO John Delaney is due to make an appearance at this event in Monaghan town alongside current international star Robbie Brady who has donned the famous green jersey 38 times for the senior side since interacting with McCaffrey in the underage grades.

It was felt that due to the huge impact that Sean had on people both locally and nationally that his name and legacy should stay alive.

He inspired so many people, particularly young people The Sean McCaffrey Foundation's main focus is to make a positive impact in our community.

The intention of the foundation is to develop it towards charity status so that people can donate or fundraise for the organisation on a more frequent basis throughout the country.

For further information you can visit the website on seanmccaffreyfoundation.com and you can donate via their YouCaring Account.