Brett remains passionate about the domestic game

Former Athlone Town and Galway United player Gordon Brett is looking forward to the 2022 campaign

“Players have always gone up and down that road between Athlone and Galway,” Gordon Brett says on an icy night in the midlands.

The SSE Airtricity League first division is commencing with Brett, a former Athlone Town and Galway United footballer, speaking passionately about the respect that exists between people involved in both clubs.

“There has always been a rivalry, but it has never been a bitter one,” he adds. “Longford is the one with a bit more edge, when I played with Galway it was Sligo - there was that Connacht derby thing.”

A rare, but fondly regarded United victory over Sligo Rovers – the first game played at the refurbished Terryland Park with Ricky O’Flaherty prominent - is etched in Brett’s mind.

“I played against a Lawrie Sanchez team in the re-opening of Terryland, Ricky scored twice,” Brett recalls. “That was a huge win for us, that is one of my best football memories, Ricky scoring twice, coming back, we were one nil down, the re-opening of Terryland as it was at that time - a big crowd. Athlone and Galway a lot of players moving between the town here in Athlone and the city in Galway - a healthy rivalry, a healthy respect.”

Brett thoroughly enjoyed his brief spell with United. “You had some great players there,” Brett says. “When I think back Ricky was flying at the time - you had experienced players like Ronan Killeen, Buck Rogers, Stephen Lally.

“Stephen was brilliant to me when I was with Galway United, Ollie Neary, I'm still great pals with Ollie. To me they are Galway United legends, they gave such great service to Galway United. Some of them will be delighted that they played in that re-opening, the fact it is now Deacy Park says it all about Galway United. They don't forget their own down there.”

It promises to be a demanding campaign in the first division. Several clubs believe that promotion is attainable, but Brett expects John Caulfield’s side to be heavily involved in the race.

“Standing back from it Galway United, I think might have found it a little harder to sign players this year,” is Brett’s assessment.

“I know they are full-time, but again it is his second full season. So this is where you might want to see his experience coming through. I would say they'd have liked to sign a slightly stronger squad, but they are full-time, that is going to give them a big leg up.

“Waterford are going to be full-time, Cork are going to be full-time, I heard Pat Devlin talking about the training they are doing with Bray, they are five or six days a week as part-times. They are the standards being set.

“I always like to see Galway doing well, in an ideal world Athlone will get promoted and Galway will go up as well. That would be ideal for this season.”

The training structure established by Caulfield is critical for the long term development of Galway United according to Brett. “It is massive nowadays for players' preparations, even as the full-time team it is not so much about the preparation, it is about the recovery from training,” he responds.

“When you are full-time you might not be going to college or going to work, you have certain guys in the squad like Alex Murphy coming out of school to go training. It is the recovery element that is the difference between the elite and the sub elite.

“For Galway it is a brilliant thing to do, they have dipped their toe in the water with it before. I think Johnny is the man to deliver on it. Again like Athlone they are working very hard, Johnny Glynn with the academy structure - U14 national league success last year, they are trying to build on that.

“I think it is what we should all aspire for - looking at the Norwegian model where players are pretty much full-time, but still working or in college.”

Athlone, now under the stewardship of Martin Russell, endured a heavy loss against a fancied Waterford.

“We are hoping, some of the pre-season stuff wasn't bad, I think it is going to take a couple of weeks,” Brett says.

“We hit the ground running last year really well with Cabsy [Adrian Carberry] in the first eight games or so. I think this year it might be a little more of a slow burn.

“It is a new squad, it is going to take a while to gel. We are quietly optimistic that we can do OK. Nine teams in the division, one team going up, four teams in the play-offs so there is a lot to play for in the first division.”

As a player, coach, supporter, and follower of the domestic game Brett’s passion remains undiminished. “It is brilliant, football is back,” he says. “Every League of Ireland fan is chomping at the bit for this. We are really looking forward to it.” The 2022 journey is underway.

**Listen to the full interview with former Galway United and Athlone Town player Gordon Brett on this week's 'Cian on Sport' podcast available on Soundcloud, Spotify, and Apple Podcasts.

 

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