After 35 years of continuous service as a player and manager, former Shelbourne FC boss Dermot Keely, one of the most successful coaches in the Irish game, has said he is finished with senior football.
"Now, as Frank Sinatra would say, I think the time has come – Shelbourne was my last job in the League of Ireland," Keely announced in his newspaper column. However, he is not leaving the game completely.
One of the most-decorated managers in Ireland, having won a league and cup double with two clubs and landed Premier Division titles with three, the 56-year-old kicked off a second spell in charge of Dublin side Shelbourne this season, but following some disappointing results in Ireland's second tier, he opted to resign as manager.
"In any other job, I wouldn't care if fans were giving me abuse but at Shelbourne I did," Keely admitted. "
I've had a good budget this year and we were fourth or fifth in the table and it is the first time in my life when I felt I was underperforming. At the same time, the job of youth and community development officer with the club became available."
A move from the top job to such a position might seem like a comedown, but not for Keely, who picked up his first medal as a player while a teenager with Home Farm FC when the amateur side won the FAI Cup in 1975 and later played for Saint Patrick's Athletic FC, Dundalk FC and Glentoran FC.
"Normally, when I leave a job, I feel depressed and get that energy back when I want to be out there again but not this time," he said. "I'm relishing the new job with the schoolboys. I really feel fulfilled by what we are trying to do. When I was a player, I was always managing schoolboy teams so I've really gone full circle now."
Having held down a day job as a maths teacher throughout his managerial career, Keely is certainly well suited to working with youngsters, but having won 15 league and cup medals as a player and coach, it remains to be seen whether he will miss the cut and thrust of competitive football.
Even if he does, he will always have his memories, having once said his career highlight was "seeing the look on Dick Advocaat's face when we were 3-0 up" in a famous UEFA Cup tie in 1998. Keely's Shelbourne side famously raced into a three-goal lead against the Dutchman's Rangers FC side, only to lose 5-3, and 7-3 on aggregate.
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