Garry Haylock: 'When I think back to when I was playing I can't help but smile at some of the shenanigans'

Fri, Feb 17 2017

Placid Liam Buckley has a rarely-seen ruthless streak. Credit: Darragh Connolly (ETPhotos)

Garry Haylock is a former professional footballer whose 18-year playing career took him to Shelbourne, Linfield, Portadown, Dundalk and the quarter-finals of the European Cup Winners' Cup with Panionios. He's currently an independent scout in the UK. This is the first edition of a biweekly column Garry will contribute during 2017.


As the new season beckons, it feels only like yesterday that Dundalk claimed their third title, but already the speculation has begun about whether my former team can match the Rovers ‘four-in-a-row’ team of the mid eighties.


They coped fantastically well with the loss of Pat Hoban and Richie Towell, but can they do it again after losing Andy Boyle and Daryl Horgan? Who will they sign as replacements? Will the other teams get their act together and push the Louth team harder this season?


However, it’s been over 10 years since I kicked a ball in anger and, having spent the majority of that time on the sidelines in a variety of roles at a number of clubs at various levels, it is the men standing on the touchline that interest me. Not least because most of them would be deemed to be of my era – and indeed I played with, against or for most of them!


It’s usually the case that every generation looks back to their own time with a fondness that can distort the memory, and I am no different. I can remember Dermot Keely arguing with most opposition managers – incidents with Pat Devlin, Roddy Collins and Pat Dolan immediately spring to mind and I am sure there were others!


The managers currently in charge would seem to be more concerned with their own team than the opposition but it is always interesting to see what happens when the pressure is on. Being in charge of a team on a losing run or challenging for the title can bring out a wide range of emotions.


Should the spending spree that Shamrock Rovers are currently on reap dividends, or the improvements that Cork are making mean that Dundalk are pushed out of contention, could we see a different demeanour from Stephen Kenny that is at odds with cool, calm and serene presence that we have seen in the last 3 years?


Liam Buckley has never been one for letting his emotions show but if Pats are back challenging at the top end of the table and they lose a crucial game in injury time, will he throw things in the dressing room. I was fortunate to play for him and he certainly does have a ruthless side which is rarely seen.


When I think back to when I was playing on the pitches of both the Irish League and the League of Ireland and the men who occupied the dug outs, I can’t help but smile at some of the shenanigans.


Like Roddy Collins putting a bid in for our goalkeeper in between the first game and the replay of the 2000 FAI Cup Final just to try and upset us – it didn’t work!


Or Pat Dolan writing on the walls of our dressing room at Richmond Road and then putting the League Trophy on display as we walked out, which just served to motivate us more.


Jim McLaughlin having to be held back at the Brandywell when provoked by a supporter as we did a TV interview – and we had won the game!


And Although it was over 20 years ago not but Pat Devlin throwing the ball away into the crowd at the Carlisle Grounds to ensure that he wasted enough time for Bray to secure the draw that led to the first penalty shoot out in the FAI Cup, seems like yesterday.


They went on to win 4-1 on penalties – but I did score mine! – to win the trophy for the first time in their history. 1990 seems like a long time ago now.


It is easy to look back and smile and remember those occasions with fondness although it didn’t seem like fun at the time.


The question is: is the game experience better or worse now that there are fewer emotional managers who wear their hearts on their sleeves? And why does there seem to be fewer incidents.


Does it come down to society? Better education? More (or less) money at stake? Or was it that the period that I played in seemed to attract the kind of manager that struggled to keep their emotions in check?


There is a strange kind of pleasure in seeing a normally calm and considerate man completely lose the plot, and when I am at games I do enjoy watching the reactions of the guys on the bench when something of importance happens.


Maybe I am looking for something that just won’t happen. I know Martin Russell of Limerick very well, having played with him for three years, and I cannot believe that he would allow events get the better of him and lose control.


However, I know that Martin greatly admires the way Arsenal play and even more so, admires Arsene Wenger, and who would have thought that after almost 20 years of being the most unflappable manager in the Premier League he would then be sent off, push the fourth official and receive a four-game ban!


I’ll be watching with interest.