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Ex-Ireland striker who thrived in Belgium urges players to look beyond the UK

Dominic Foley recounted his fascinating career on the latest instalment of The Football Family podcast.

FOR FORMER REPUBLIC of Ireland international Dominic Foley, the only regret about his move to Belgium is that he didn’t seek the opportunity out sooner.

In 2005, Foley left Bohemians in somewhat acrimonious circumstances to join Gent, who had just eliminated the Dalymount Park outfit from the Intertoto Cup.

dominic-foley Dominic Foley earned the last of his six Ireland senior caps in a friendly against Finland in 2000. Source: Lorraine O'Sullivan/INPHO

Impressed by the performances of the Bohs striker during the two-legged tie, the Belgians profited when unpaid bonuses allowed Foley to walk away from the League of Ireland club.

The Charleville native — who also played for clubs like Wolves and Watford — went on to spend seven years in Belgium, which he described as the most enjoyable spell of his career while appearing as the guest on the latest instalment of The Football Family podcast.

Foley captained Gent and opened the scoring in their 3-2 defeat to Anderlecht in the 2008 Belgian Cup final. He ultimately made over 200 appearances in Belgian football, with a four-year stint at Gent followed by three years on the books at Cercle Brugge.

As the growing spending power of clubs in England allows them to cast the net far and wide when it comes to recruitment, Irish players are finding it increasingly difficult to carve out professional careers there at the highest level.

Foley subsequently believes that they should look to other leagues, such as the one in Belgium, where he also reckons the approach to the game would aid their development.

“When I started in England back in 1996, I had to compete against [players from] Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales, and a few token Scandinavians thrown in,” said Foley. “A young guy now leaving Ireland to go to the UK is competing against the world.”


Source: The42 Podcasts/SoundCloud

Foley, who retired after helping Limerick to win the League of Ireland First Division in 2012, also had a loan spell at Greek club Ethnikos Piraeus earlier in his career, as well as spending a season with Braga in Portugal.

“Going to Belgium, I did it later on in my career but I kind of wish I had done it earlier,” he said. “The chance didn’t arise but maybe it could be a pathway going forward. Now, young fellas going to England, it’s a world stage you’re competing against.

“I loved it in Belgium. It suited my style of football. In the UK, you’re competing at the very elite level. You have to be a machine, [with] lungs the size of gallon drums. Your footballing ability is kind of secondary. First of all you have to be a machine.

“I went to Belgium, they like to get the ball down and play it, and it suited me. What I’d like to pass on to anyone listening is that it’s definitely a viable option.

“They have big clubs like every country; you have Standard Liege, Anderlecht, Club Brugge, Gent, where I went; some great stadiums, great facilities and great coaching.” 

Source: buffalojan/YouTube

Foley’s goalscoring exploits in Belgium weren’t enough for him to add to the tally of six senior Ireland caps he accumulated under Mick McCarthy in 2000. 

After scoring in US Cup fixtures against Mexico and USA that summer, he made his competitive debut against Estonia in the early stages of Ireland’s successful bid to qualify for the 2002 World Cup. Foley was unable to regain his place in the squad after an injury sustained in a friendly against Finland condemned him to a lengthy lay-off.

Being on the winning side at Anfield in his Premier League debut, as well as playing against Jose Mourinho’s Porto during the season when they won the Champions League, are among the other career highlights that Foley detailed to Paul Dollery on Episode 10 of The Football Family.

He also shared some interesting views on coaching methods and their importance in shaping the future of Irish football.

Access to The Football Family — including Episode 10 with Dominic Foley — is one of the many exclusive benefits available to our membership. Details of how you can become a member for just €5 per month — or €42 for an entire year — are available here.

To get in touch with the show, e-mail thefootballfamily@the42.ie  

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Paul Dollery

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