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'It's a very proud bit of nostalgia for me, looking back at putting on that Irish jersey'

Former Republic of Ireland U21 international Derek Coughlan is our latest guest on The Football Family.

IT’S OVER 21 YEARS since Derek Coughlan scored the goal that became the defining moment of his career.

In a replay against Shelbourne at Dalymount Park in 1998, Coughlan headed home Kelvin Flanagan’s corner to win the FAI Cup for Cork City for the first time.

After that, not even a move to Bohemians a few years later would tarnish the towering defender’s status as a legend in the eyes of the supporters of his hometown club.

inpho_00016357 (1) Former Ireland U21 defender Derek Coughlan. Source: INPHO/Lorraine O'Sullivan

Coughlan won every major honour in the domestic game while representing Cork City. He was a league winner under Stephen Kenny too during his time at Bohemians.

Nevertheless, as he explained in Episode Five of The Football Family, the pinnacle of his career was when he partnered Richard Dunne in the centre of defence for the Republic of Ireland U21 side.

“I suppose playing that time, just standing with the Irish jersey on, the national anthem — looking back on my career, that is probably the proudest moment for me,” he recalled.

“I suppose if I could change one thing in my career, if I was asked could I have one game, that would be to represent the senior team with just one match. That would have been one thing I would love to have done.”

He added: “Fellas who get caps, you’ve got to cherish them. Putting on your jersey — and it’s only now really when I look back on my career, because my kids are into football, and it’s a very proud bit of nostalgia for me, looking back at putting on that Irish jersey.”

In the latest instalment of the podcast, which is exclusive to The42 members, Coughlan recounted how he left behind a promising GAA career in 1994 to join Brighton & Hove Albion, who were managed at the time by Liam Brady.

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Following a two-year spell in England, during which he succeeded in making a first-team breakthrough despite a constant battle with homesickness, Coughlan returned home and established himself as one of the League of Ireland’s top defenders.

In 1997, he was summoned by Brian Kerr for inclusion in the Ireland U20 squad for the World Youth Championship. Kerr’s side famously finished third at the tournament, yet Coughlan opted out in order to complete his Leaving Cert. However, he insists there are no regrets.

Having left for Brighton before completing secondary school, he gave priority to his education when he came home. That decision led to him earning employment at Cork Airport, which has provided him with a full-time career for the best part of two decades.

“I don’t have any regrets whatsoever in my career and the decisions I made,” explained the 42-year-old, who played his final competitive game at the age of 28 when Cork City defeated Derry City in a 2005 title-decider.

“They were decisions I had to make at the time. You can only make the decisions as you see them. Getting the Leaving Cert is the reason I have my job in the Airport Police and Fire service in Cork, and I’m there 19 years. I wouldn’t have been able to go for that job without my Leaving Cert.

“You make your decisions and you work with those decisions. If you change one thing it has a butterfly effect — what else changes along the way? I wouldn’t even think that way about stuff.”

Hear Derek Coughlan’s story in Episode Five of The Football Family – and receive plenty of other benefits too — by becoming a member. It’ll cost you just €5 per month (or €42 for an entire year) and you can sign up by clicking here.  

Source: The42 Podcasts/SoundCloud

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Paul Dollery

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