Popular Nugent embarking on London adventure

The Clare native was a key player for Galway United

On January 10 Galway United’s players and coaching staff reported for pre-season training in Drom. There was one notable absentee with Maurice Nugent embarking on a new journey to work in London.

“It is different, it is weird seeing the photos of the boys out training,” laughs Clareman Nugent, who established himself as a highly regarded Galway United player in recent seasons. “I'm definitely missing it alright, but I said I would come over here for a different kind of adventure. I always wanted to move to a big city, I always had it in my head.”

Combining his studies in NUI Galway alongside playing with United proved to be a balancing act for Nugent. “It was, I enjoyed it,” Nugent responds.

“I liked the release between the two. If you find yourself stressed in the studies I found football as a great release from that. Even the other way around if you're stressed with the football, thinking about that all of the time, you go in to do a bit of work, that takes your mind off it.

“I like that busy lifestyle, I found it hard enough with the full-time training at the start of last year. You had so much free time after training I didn't really know what to do with it so I actually ended up getting a job in with Peter Mernagh in Midwest Fire & Security, it was nice to keep busy there. They were very good to me.”

Nugent craved the opportunity to give football significant attention. That chance to train in a professional set-up had to be embraced. “I loved it, to be able to focus on the football, to have it as your main thing,” he replies.

“Obviously the quality in training went up. The full time training brings in better players, you are training in the morning so it is easier to focus on that. If you come in for the evening after being at work the quality can be dipped some weeks compared to others.

“We had great coaches so it was a great year. It is a pity it ended the way it did, I would have loved to have got through the play-offs. If we got promoted it would have been unbelievable, it would have been awful hard to leave then.”

The play-off second leg semi-final defeat in front of a sold out Eamonn Deacy Park hurt. The occasion illustrated a word that perhaps is too often associated with United: potential. “It was unreal, that play-off game against Bray was unbelievable, to see the crowd back into Terryland,” Nugent reflects.

“I had played there for three years and had only seen that maybe once or twice. To see people have such an interest in the club and the club growing in the city. John has done a great job promoting the club, people are getting more involved with the club, they feel affiliated towards it.

“Hopefully it will go onwards and upwards that way, it is only good for the club that people are coming down to watch the games, you are getting a bigger following.”

During his teenage years Nugent took the decision to join Mervue United. “I came up to Mervue when I was 16, I played U19s with Mervue and I had a great year there,” he recalls.

“Galway entered the U19 league, they didn't have a team that time, it was only Mervue and Salthill. Johnny Glynn was over that, he brought me in, it went really well for me. I was playing week in, week out at 16 or 17. I got involved with the first team and I got a chance to play in a game against Liverpool, I got the last 15 minutes in that friendly.

"That was unreal for a young lad like me at 16, it influenced me where I went to college. I chose my college for the football. I was always going to come up to NUIG so I could keep up the football. That was the way it fell for me.”

Nugent progressed through the system becoming a key figure for United. At the outset of the 2019 campaign Nugent’s leadership qualities were evident in a young team. United led Shelbourne in the opening fixture of the campaign, a night when the Dyke Road was reclaimed with thousands marching back into Eamonn Deacy Park.

“We did have a few great times along with the tough games,” Nugent says. “That Shelbourne game was an unbelievable feeling for me, we had a very young squad. Seeing everyone coming in during the warm up it really gave you a buzz.”

United led two nil before losing a thriller. “Even the Shels fans to be fair really added to it, an unbelievable atmosphere that day,” he adds. “It was a pity the way it ended, we were flying, scored two unbelievable goals, it was a pity it ended so badly for us.

“The cup run under Alan Murphy was something I will never forget. To score against Rovers in the quarter-final was a big one for me, obviously beating Cork City in the one before that.”

The manner in which Murphy tried to assist emerging talent was crucial according to Nugent. “Alan was brilliant for me personally and for a lot of the younger players,” Nugent says.

“He gave us loads of experience, we played plenty of games under him. He gave us a freedom, he played me in midfield. I really enjoyed it in there, I had the freedom to get about the park, to make tackles or whatever, get the ball forward, and I scored a few goals under him which was nice. Wilson had a great year last year, it was his first year of football when Murph took over.

“Alan always had a soft spot for Wilson, he was always trying to coach him, he saw the potential in him which came to fruition last year. He was one of our main players, he was very, very good, hopefully he can have another great year for United.”

Now living in Battersea, Nugent will monitor United’s fortunes. Sport will still be a central part in his life. “I am looking into getting into part-time football in non league circles,” Nugent says.

“You can still play at a good standard part-time over here so I will try to play to the highest standard that I can. I am not the type of character to just go back into work and laze about in the evenings.

“I am still 23, I am still young and I want to keep playing to the highest level that I can for as long as I can with an eye on maybe coming back to play in the league.”

**Listen to the full interview with Maurice Nugent on this week's 'Cian on Sport' podcast available on Soundcloud, Spotify, and Apple Podcasts.


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