Daly’s drive and desire inspired a generation

Gerry Daly made a significant contribution with Galway United

On an immaculate blue sky afternoon in Menlo, a mile or so from Eamonn Deacy Park, Gerry Daly sits down to talk about football and life.

The memories matter because matches and conversations from years ago remain etched in Daly’s mind.

For a generation of Galwegians Daly and others represented them in the League of Ireland. Values were shared and respected. Decades later Daly recalls some of his colleagues, who helped him to flourish on the national stage.

“Miko Nolan - he was a character, he was tough,” Daly recalls. “You would look up to him. You had Chopper Murphy - Tommy - there was a great inspiration.

“Down in the Swamp training with these guys was phenomenal. If I lacked anything - believe or not as I can talk now - is that I was very quiet. The man that got that out of me was John Herrick. He always said to me expression is part of the game.”

Herrick’s sterling contribution imbued Daly with confidence and belief that carries such relevance in elite sport. Different lessons were learned under every manager according to Daly.

“Tommy Lally, Amby Fogarty, Tommy Callaghan, and Tony Mannion each and every one of them had fantastic attributes,” Daly reflects.

“They would each teach you something else, but John to me had a passion that was unheard of in my years in football. He had a love for football. I can recall some nights after training being in his car outside my house until half 12 at night, just talking football - nothing else.

“That is the love he had for the game. Each and every one of them deserve an awful lot of credit for what they put into the club. On a scale of 10 I would have to say John was 10 - definitely for his love of the game.

“Tommy Lally was fantastic for his professionalism - clean boots, a shirt on a Sunday, not a T-shirt, that type of stuff. Every one of them had something, but John had, I don't know if you'd call it foresight, he could see something in you that you couldn't see yourself and he brought it out of you.

“That was the gift that John had. When we trained with John down in the Swamp you would never be asked to do something John couldn't do - ever. If John came down limping - training would be cancelled sometimes. That is just the way he was.”

Daly’s drive and desire was evident from a young age. Junior football had attained a high standard in the west, developing players suddenly could aspire to playing in the League of Ireland. “When I go back to the old days, the 70s and early 80s when the League of Ireland came first you had Tommy Murphy - 'Chopper', you had Merbles Murphy, and Lord rest Peter Mernagh,” Daly says.

“You had some talented players. The Miko Nolans - there was fantastic talent in the city. Junior football at that time the standard was so high with Hibs, Mervue, West - again it was all people had and knew that time. Everything was geared to the weekend for the match - you didn't have great conditions.

“In a lot of the cases you had no dressing rooms - I remember togging out at the Swamp at the wall. A bucket of water at half-time to wash, it was just the love for football. The talent going back even with the Mervue teams - one particular guy that sticks out for me was Eamonn Ryan. To this day I don't think I have seen a guy as talented, but didn't know it. He just had it in abundance.”

When did Daly realise that football could offer possibilities? “The funny thing is and I would say most people that played League of Ireland or went further I don't think they knew the talent they had,” he replies.

“When I was a young child one thing you never got was praise, you were never told 'that is brilliant or that is fantastic'. I would say going back over the years Mike O'Connor with West United, Frankie Connell with the old Galway Rovers - those guys had passion, they used to collect us to bring us down to the Swamp for matches and training. It just kicked on from there.”

Galway United embarked on cup runs and launched a title bid. Daly was a renowned figure throughout the League of Ireland. In October 1985 Daly featured for United at the Sportsground against Lyngby.

“At the time I was working in Donnelly's coal yard carrying coal,” Daly vividly remembers. “This is just to give an idea of the time and effort I put into it. That morning I worked in Donnellys, we loaded 13 tonne of coal, delivered it, came back loaded another 13 tonne of coal, delivered that.

“I had to cycle at one o clock to the Sportsground, have a shower before the match I was so dirty and then play the match. That was the effort you put into it.”

For Daly, though, it was never a chore. Even when tough days had to be dealt with, including a serious leg break that disturbed a career brimful of promise. To this day many United supporters believe it was the chief reason the club finished second rather than first in the 1985-86 campaign.

“The funny thing was at the time I was just coming back to myself again, I had one year prior to that where I had flopped completely, I had a terrible season,” is Daly’s honest assessment.

“I was getting back into the rhythm of things, it was after the Cup final against Shamrock Rovers, they had beaten us 1-0. Not painting myself to be a hero, I can walk. From the age of 12 up until that injury my whole life was soccer, soccer, soccer.

“I remember in Merlin Park being in the bed, Dr Gorzack at the time coming into me, I will never forget what he said to me. He said did I ever play snooker. I said no why. He said take it up. Those are the knocks and kicks of life.

“Of course you would feel down and sad, but life goes on. That is just the nature of the beast.”

Being empathetic and assisting others is what Daly tries to do. His mother carried a significant influence. “The era I grew up in Shantalla - there were 14 of us in the family,” Daly says. “My mother absolutely was a great teacher, a great listener, but more importantly she would tell you things about life in general. Acceptance back then was always part of your role in life.

“I left school at 12, not through choice, but having to go to work. I was working at the age of 12 in the Wimpy in Salthill. It wasn't the fact of me wanting to do that, it was a case of me having to do that.

“You learn to adapt to a situation as it is thrown at you. It is 10 or 11 years ago I just decided out of the blue at random - I'm going to go back to school to do my Junior Cert and Leaving Cert. I did that unknown to anybody except my wife and family. I did it purely to say to myself that I'm going to do something I wanted to do when I was younger. I went back and I did fairly well.”

Doors were opened, an interest in writing was forged. “As you get older what you are full of is memories,” Daly responds. “We all have memories. For me they are all happy memories, obviously you have one or two bad ones thrown in there. It is about giving the memories I have of areas. I love talking about the Claddagh, for instance, I love talking about the Swamp, Terryland, I wrote a poem recently about my old mentor John Herrick.

“It is not just about John Herrick, it is about Terryland, lads that played in Terryland, the galvanised dressing rooms. The gift and value of memories is something to be cherished.”

So who influenced Daly in this field? “One particular guy would be Seamus Heaney, his imagery, it took me back to my own childhood, in his kitchen with his mother peeling spuds,” Daly says. “I know some people would say to you 'what do you know about poetry?' It is not about poetry, it is about what is in your mind - your thoughts, expressing them thoughts. Sometimes today, particularly with Covid, expression is a lost gift.

“I still love in my job, I work in the Westside most days, I love meeting people. Thankfully we are getting back slowly to the hug and handshake. People need that. People missed that.”

During the last two years nearly everybody in the world has, at some stage, paused for reflection. Daly is content with how it has all unfolded for him.

“People asked me lately did you ever get a chance to go to England? I did, once or twice. They said 'why didn't you take it?' At the time my mother wasn't well, I was working, I was bringing home a few pound to her. That then was the priority. Thankfully I'm glad I did that - as most young fellas who love their mothers all do. I did that, then sadly I got injured, that was it.”

Fortunately for the people of Galway, Daly stayed at home, and is still offering words and nuggets of encouragement.


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