Drogheda United FC

Interview Conducted by Paul Holland for DUFC v Galway United Match Programme - 8th April 2011

Drogheda United talks to Mick Cooke

As a player Mick Cooke lined out with St. Pat’s, Drogheda, Shamrock Rovers, Galway Utd & Ireland’s Youths team. As a manager Mick was assistant to Damian Richardson at Rovers, took charge of Ireland’s Senior Ladies team and managed Monaghan Utd for the past seven years. He sees Drogheda United as “ a sleeping giant” and is confident that the club will push on to fulfill its potential.

How did you come to sign for Drogheda as a player?
At 17 years old, I was playing with St. Pat’s in the league. Mick Meagan was managing the Irish Youths team and included me in his squad. When he was manager of Drogheda he asked me to sign in 1970.

You played in four finals with Drogheda in the one season!
In the 1970-71 season we were Runners-Up in four different finals! First we were beaten in the President’s Cup final after a replay. Then the League Cup, the FAI Cup (v Limerick after a replay) and the Blaxnit Cup v Linfield on penalties. I really enjoyed my four years (1970-1974) at the club and that is a big factor in me returning as manager.

You went on to Shamrock Rovers after Drogheda?
I spent four years with Shamrock Rovers and followed Mick Meagan who became manager. After that Johnny Giles came in as manager. He had just come back from West Brom. He brought in players such as Ray Treacy, Steve Lynex, a certain Eamon Dunphy and my brother Ray Cooke (ex-West Brom) when he introduced the full-time set-up to Rovers. I had been playing in midfield but lost my place to Johnny as he was the boss! He was the one that played not me! I then went back to St. Pat’s for two seasons and on to Galway United for three years.

How would you compare the game when you were playing 40 years ago to today?
The big difference would be the crowds that used to pack the grounds in my time. It’s a pity really because the game is generally a good standard overall nowadays. But then again when I was playing, there was no distractions like there are now. Another big difference was that we always played during the winter. We often played in mud-baths! Even the Cup finals would be played on a rock hard pitch in Dalymount.

Which season would you prefer yourself?
I’d prefer the winter football. I think in summer there are too many activities or events that clash with football. There is also the possibility that the GAA could switch to Friday nights in the summer which would cause the league a serious problem.

We’ve had a tough two games in the last two weeks v Sligo and Rovers
Well you could say that we have played possibly the top four teams in our first five games. Bohs, Derry, Sligo and Rovers. We had been so far behind with fitness and have had to train hard to catch up. No disrespect to Bobby Browne as he only realised a week before the season started that we would be playing in the Premier.

Of course all our players were signed with the First Division in mind!
It’s something similar to the situation when I arrived at Monaghan first. I really do believe that Drogheda is a sleeping giant that has so much potential to get back to the top. The club needs to maintain its stability after so many managers in the past season. Already I feel I have a great rapport with the Board. I know the way they want to go and they know the way I want to go!

Bobby Browne put this squad together for the original plan of playing in the First Division. Apart from the fitness levels, many people are quite surprised at how well the team has competed in the opening two games.
Yes Bobby put the squad together on a small budget. Mick has us well organised and we can be a difficult team to beat. We’re still a bit behind with the fitness but we are getting there. Robbie has been putting on some good coaching sessions but it will take time.

It was great to see that you brought in two U-18 players for the League Cup win over Bray.
I was at the U-18 Cup game v Bonagee Utd (Donegal) and had no problem in bringing in two lads. I have been talking to Rory Kerr and intend meeting with Drogheda Boys very shortly. I want to see far more interaction between both clubs. That was my ethos in Monaghan - that we involve all the local clubs. Just recently there were five U-15 Monaghan players away on trial at English clubs. Then we had Aaron McCarey (keeper) signing for Wolves and all that in a staunchly GAA county! Drogheda is a great soccer town and we want young local players to fulfill their potential.

You had a good mix of experienced players along with the youths at Monaghan
I brought in well-known players like Fabio O’Brien, Dave Rogers & Shane Barrett to
add to the huge amount of young players coming through from the local schoolboy clubs. Players like Paul Whelan, Niall Flynn, Dean McMahon and Darren Coleman all came through to the first team from our youths set-up.

It would be great to see more players from Drogheda and surrounding areas progressing through to the first team. I mean Drogheda’s population is five times that of Monaghan town and Louth has double the county’s population! Not to mention the massive number of underage clubs in Navan, East Meath & North Co. Dublin.
If I’m given the opportunity that I was given at Monaghan to turn this club around, I have every faith in my own ability to make a success of doing so. The days of paying players big money are gone. We have to live in the real world nowadays! I think it’s very important for the club to make good links with local clubs. At Monaghan, the players used to meet the underage players on match days or one of our players out-injured would conduct a short coaching session on our Astro pitch before the game.

How did our Hungarian player Robert Kovacsevics come to sign for us?
Robert’s wife is a doctor and was based in Cork at first but was later transferred to Dublin. He has played at the highest level in Hungary but hasn’t much practice at speaking English!

I notice that Robbie Horgan is very involved with you in managing the team
It’s not a one-man show with me! We might speak 10 times on the phone during the day. But with Robbie and Brendan Kennedy you are talking about people with huge experience. I’d be very foolish to ignore them. At the end of the day I make the decisions and will stand by them!

Considering you had so little input into signing players, I presume you would be hoping to strengthen the squad in the transfer window.
Every manager should be looking to improve his squad. However that said it’s up to the squad of 21 players we have to try and please me between now and July! I’m not here to please them! The ball is in their court.

You’re enjoying your retirement. How do you spend your time away from football?
I am indeed. I have more time to spend with my family and football nowadays. I’m married to Cherry for the past 35 years. We have two sons, Eoghan and Rory (both Gaelic players!). I love to walk our dog Holly and play a bit of golf at Newlands Golf Club in Clondalkin.

Your wife must understand your commitment to football at this stage!
Well we are together since we were 16! She knows what’s involved and lets me get on with it. She’s the woman behind the man and helps me make all my big decisions. She hasn’t let me down as of yet! She’s actually a manager herself! She’s in charge in her job with Macra na Feirme!

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