Gary Shaw: 'I signed straight away and going home, I checked on Teletext to see where Bray were in the league and they were bottom - I didn't care'Wed, Jan 15 2020
Highs and lows are present in every football career, but a striker's goals or lack of, can lead to contrasting confidence levels in a short space of time, as Gary Shaw knows only too well.
As an underage player, Gary was a prolific goalscorer for Newbridge Town, represented Shamrock Rovers in the SuperCupNI and lifted 2010’s Centenary Shield with the Irish Schools team.
He then played in the qualifiers for the 2011 under-19 European Championships; “It all happened so quick - particularly in 2010. I was playing Leinster Senior League football with Newbridge and then that April, won the Centenary Shield.
“I signed for Bray in July and ended up coming on in my first game after ten minutes and by the half-hour mark, I'd scored.
“Fast forward to October and I was selected for the Ireland U-19 Euro qualifiers squad, in a team with Robbie Brady, Jeff Hendrick, John Egan and Shane Duffy.”
In addition to a goalscoring debut, the young forward also contributed to a play-off win over Monaghan United, meaning Bray retained their top-flight status; “I had no knowledge of the League of Ireland then.
“One of my Newbridge coaches used to play in the league and asked me did I want to train with Bray, so I headed up the following day.
“I signed straight away and going home, checked on Teletext to see where Bray were in the league and they were bottom.
“I didn't care and was delighted to say I was playing in the league because not many people from Newbridge have.”
Momentum was interrupted in 2011, as Shaw broke the same metatarsal bone twice; “I'd never had an injury before and broke my foot in January.
“The U-19 Elite Qualifiers were on in February/March and I hoped to make it back for it. Paul Doolin said to get fit and I'll be in his squad.
“In February, in my first game back, I felt a click in my foot. No pain, but I knew that it had gone again … I was raging.
“I was due to go on trials and knew that wasn't happening, along with playing for the U-19s, which was the biggest sickener. I ended up getting surgery and didn't play again until July.”
Joining Longford Town in 2012, the Kildare man missed out on promotion via the play-offs consecutively, until the club ultimately clinched the 2014 First Division title: “We lacked experience in the final games and couldn't get over the line.
“The winning of that 2014 season was signing Pat Flynn, Pat Sullivan and Stephen Rice. You could tell how much they wanted to win, even in training and they drove a winning mentality into everyone.”
Further to collecting his first senior silverware, that campaign also witnessed Gary netting 16 goals, voted onto the PFAI First Division Team of the Year and become Longford's Players' Player of the Year.
“After some setbacks over the years, it seemed like luck was finally on my side. To top off a title-winning season with personal awards, that Christmas, confidence was sky-high.”
A respectable sixth place in 2015 with Longford preceded Shaw moving to Shamrock Rovers, where a slow maiden season, turned into a fruitful second, unfortunately leading to a disappointing 2018.
“2016 was a transitional period, going from part-time to training every day and it being your only focus. 2017, I worked my socks off in pre-season, wanting to prove why I was brought to the club.
“After a few games, I started away to Galway and scored twice, going on to be the club's top scorer in the league and Player of the Year.
“I thought 2018 was going to be my best yet, only for a freak injury in the second last game of 2017. A defender fell on my arm, snapping my humorous, requiring a six-hour surgery.
“We played Bohs first game of 2018 and I started. After that game, I was worried how far off my normal self I was and over that season, could never get it right.
“I adjusted how I played by protecting arm … A disaster and I knew exactly why it would be my last year with Rovers.”
The Newbridge native became new St Patrick's Athletic manager Harry Kenny's first signing, in late 2018, but two goals in 35 games didn't sit well with both parties; “We got off to a great start, but as the games went on, we just weren't clicking on the pitch.
“It was so frustrating for us players because we'd do great work during training and analysis on the opposition, but come match day, it all went out the window.”
Towards the end of last year, Gary re-signed for Bray, with a view to returning to the Premier Division and brighter days; "I want to enjoy football again … That's first and foremost.
“Football has been my job for the past four years and when you go through tough periods, it's hard to get away from it because that's your main focus.
“I'm working in Dublin now and train in the evenings with Bray. I feel much happier having this schedule, as training is a good release from work.
“There's a good group of lads, with a nice blend of youth and experience. I'd imagine there's one or two more to come in, but everyone knows the main aim is to win the league.
“High standards have to be set because everyone wants to be successful and I see a good season ahead. Personally, I want to get back to my 2017 form and reach the levels I know I can.”