By Paul Holland
Striker Gareth McCaffrey scored the winning goal in Drogheda’s return to the Premier Division against Galway United last week. The 21-year-old started out with his local team Swords Celtic and also played with Shelbourne and Stella Maris at underage level.
The 5’ 11” Dubliner lined out for Ireland at Under 15, 16, 17 & 19 levels and at 17 signed for Pat Fenlon’s Hibernian in Scotland. In January 2015 Gareth moved to Shamrock Rovers, where he made 15 league appearances for the club. In July 2016 Gareth moved to Drogheda on loan and made an immediate impact, scoring six goals in 12 appearances.
To say you were delighted to come on and score the winner against Galway last week must be an understatement!
“Yes we were thrilled to come away with the three points. Heading down to Galway on the bus beforehand, if someone had offered us a draw, I think we would have taken it. It was a great squad performance with the first 11 and the three subs who came on, all making a great contribution. That said, it was very disappointing to lose Killian Brennan through a broken collarbone, as he is such an influential player and a leader on the pitch.”
You came on as a sub in the 72nd minute to replace Stephen Elliott up front.
“Yes Stephen had a fantastic game and he was telling me afterwards that he hadn’t played for that long (apart from pre-season) in a very long time.”
Last week’s goal was your seventh goal for us in 13 appearances. Can you describe the build-up and how you scored such an important goal?
“My instructions were to try and run in behind and get on the end of some balls, as the game was very tight. Thomas Byrne picked up the ball in the middle of the pitch. I wanted to try and time my run and not get offside. Thomas put in an inch perfect pass for me, to get round the keeper. It was at a very tight angle and could have gone either way, but thankfully it went in!”
What would be your best goal that you scored with us?
“In terms of quality I suppose the recent one at home in a friendly against Cabinteely, when I scored from long distance and it went into the top corner. In terms of importance, the goal at home against Cobh in the second leg, would have been the most crucial I scored.”
How did you find pre-season, your first with Drogheda?
“Overall it’s gone really well and we have been prepared very professionally by the backroom team. We use the latest GPS Player tracking and analysis system, which is used by the top Premier League teams in England and by the IRFU etc.
“Basically we wear special tracking vests in training and during matches, which gather data on each player’s performance, which is then downloaded and analysed afterwards. The training and pre-season games were excellent, but we were obviously very disappointed to lose to UCD in the Leinster Senior Cup.”
When you came to us on loan last July from Shamrock Rovers, you settled in very quickly and made a huge impact for the club in achieving promotion to the Premier Division.
“Yes but as I had only been a sub for Rovers in previous games, I was lacking in match fitness for my first game against Shelbourne. I think I found my feet shortly afterwards. I am grateful to the club, the management and the fans for bearing with me as I was struggling with my fitness levels. Pat Fenlon was very good to me, bringing me over to Hibernian when he was manager there, and then signing me again for Rovers.”
You scored crucial goals away and home to Cobh in the play-off and played a huge role in securing promotion.
“I will never forget the second leg win over Wexford Youths at United Park. The group showed such fantastic character to come back from 2-0 down in Wexford and then to win 3-0 at home showed how strong the bond we have between players, fans and management. Kevin Farragher played the game of his life on the night and is often an unsung hero, first scoring with a header and then coming from nowhere to clear off the line!”
You played at almost every level for Ireland 15s, 16s, 17s & 19s!
“Yes I really enjoyed playing for my country. Singing the National Anthem, facing the Irish flag and playing for Ireland, always meant a huge amount to me. I played under some excellent managers, Niall Harrison, John Morling, Tom Mohan and Paul Doolin. Don’t forget we have two other recent internationals at the club nowadays, Colm Deasy and Richie Purdy at Under 21 level and of course Stephen Elliott, who played 9 times for Ireland’s senior team.”
Your family are very supportive of your career, going to lots of our games etc.
“Yes I am very proud of them, my dad Declan, my mam Miriam and my two younger sisters, Amy and Cara, who encourage and support me all the way.”
Do you work or are you at College?
“I have a full-time job with FITDIST SPORTS LTD at The Airside Retail Park in Swords. We are the official distributors for TRX in the UK and Ireland. I often bump into a Drogs legend from Swords, Gavin Whelan, who is heavily involved with our company.”
Away from football how do you spend your free time?
“I try to spend as much time with my family and my girlfriend Emma.”