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'He's helped me through the toughest times. I don't think he even realises how much he means to me'

Cabinteely’s Kieran ‘Marty’ Waters on the influence of Pat Devlin among others

Manager Pat Devlin celebrates with Kieran 'Marty' Waters after the 2013 play-off between Bray and Longford.
Manager Pat Devlin celebrates with Kieran 'Marty' Waters after the 2013 play-off between Bray and Longford.
Image: James Crombie/INPHO

FOR EVERY SUCCESSFUL footballer, there are invariably countless figures behind the scenes who have played a major role in their development.

Kieran ‘Marty’ Waters is no exception, and it was for nights like this evening that so many people ultimately put in that hard work.

At 7.45pm in Stradbrook, Cabinteely will host Longford in a First Division play-off first leg.

It is expected to be a tight encounter. Cabinteely have had the upperhand so far this season, winning twice and drawing one of their three league matches, though Longford pipped them to third in the table by a point.

Meanwhile, second-place Drogheda, who the winners of the tie will meet, only finished above Longford on goal difference, which emphasises how tight it has been in the league this year.

It is the third time Waters has been involved in the play-offs. In 2010, as a youngster, he was part of the Bray squad that beat Monaghan on penalties to retain their Premier Division status, though he didn’t figure in the game itself.

Three years later, having established himself in the side, Waters helped Bray again survive, as they narrowly overcame Longford 5-4 on aggregate.

Now, the 29-year-old is hoping to enjoy similar success with Cabinteely.

“[Winning promotion] would be one of the highlights of my career,” he tells The42. “For a club only five years old, it would be a massive achievement.”

It has been a challenging season at times. With Cabinteely a part-time club, over the course of the campaign, they have had to cope with the absence of players who were sitting exams among other issues.

We’ve had players gone looking for gameplay, some players have went and came back. It’s not frustrating, but when the young lads had the Leaving Cert, that was three or four players that were actually starting for us.

“There was a lot of pressure put on them lads with the Leaving Cert. I think their only relief was being able to play. So it’s been an up-and-down year. It would have been nice to be higher in the table, but play-offs was the aim.

“I think everyone puts it in the category of Cabinteely FC, because they’re only new on the scene that they’re punching. It’s not the case, some of our performances this season were very good. There have been a lot of opportunities for the younger players as well and those players are only going to get better. What Cabinteely is trying to do, it’s trying to create pathways for the younger players and if it gets the backing, it would be huge for the area.”

kieran-marty-waters-celebrates-scoring-his-first-goal Kieran 'Marty' Waters pictured as a youngster at Bray. Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

Having made his League of Ireland debut with Bray as far back as 2011, Waters is one of the more experienced members of the squad. He learned his trade at Ballybrack, playing there from the age of five to around 15. He also had stints at Bellevue, Shankill and St Joseph’s Boys, before linking up with Bray in his late teens and subsequently spending several years there.

“My mum and dad have followed me everywhere,” he explains. “They’ve went to nearly every game, they’re supporters in that way. My mam and my girlfriend will go to most games that they can. My older brother played football and my younger brother didn’t. My older brother was helping me along.

“But street football — that’s where you get the attributes from, that’s where you learn it. You get your hardiness from the street, because some of your mates are older than you and they kick lumps out of you.  

“I was a fit and wiry player at the time [after joining Bray]. I was just itching and itching and itching to be involved and I wanted to be there in the first team, but I paid my dues. I sat on the bench when I had to sit on the bench, I sat in the stands when I had to sit in the stands. I went to every training session — I wasn’t late. Even with the first play-off, when Bray played Monaghan. I was in the squad, but I didn’t get to play.”

One important influence on Waters was prolific former Shelbourne and Bohs striker Jason Byrne, who he shared a dressing room with at Bray, Cabinteely and UCD.

“When you went into the first team at Bray and you came in, it was like he knew and had seen it all before. He knew ‘this young lad is hungry and wants to play, wants to score, wants to do what he can’.

“I owe him a lot of gratitude. He’s helped me more than he’ll ever know.

I’d be full blooded. I’d be very aggressive when I was younger and he would be the voice of reason — him and Pat [Devlin] would calm me down. So then I would show some quality.

“One person when I was on the rise that I’d like to give a shout-out to is Colm Tresson. Amazing professional. When I was in the reserves, he used to play at full-back and I’d play right wing or up top. But my God, he would never give out. He’d just encourage. Like that, it was just the person I needed in the team to help you along. He’s one of the unsung heroes that you wouldn’t hear of all the time, but he’s one of the best players that I got to play with.

“People I’ve got to play with at previous clubs — Stephen McPhail, Gary McCabe, I’ve played with him at Rovers and Bray. I got to play with Keith Fahey, an Ireland international. And when you’re on the pitch, they do nothing but help you. When you’re a younger player and you’re trying your best, you look to these guys and are like: ‘Jesus, these lads are as cool as ice.’ You’re trying to get to that level as quick as possible, but it doesn’t happen that way.”

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jason-byrne-acknowledges-the-crowd-after-the-game Former Bohs striker Jason Byrne had a big influence on Waters' development. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

After a successful few years at Bray, ahead of the 2014 campaign, Waters secured a dream move to Shamrock Rovers — the club he supported growing up. That factor, coupled with the prospect of full-time football, ensured the opportunity proved impossible to turn down. He would spend two seasons with the Dublin club, enjoying his time there, before leaving due to “complications”.

He says: “I wanted to stay and be at Shamrock Rovers until the very end, but football doesn’t happen that way.

“I felt very much part of it. I loved the management staff. I still do. I still love the people that were involved in the club at the time.

“It came down to contract negotiation — it was there and it was gone before I knew it. I probably should have taken the contract. It was over petrol money. Well, not petrol money, but just about petrol money. It was more of a budget-based thing. It was out of my hands — by the sounds of, it was out of everyone else’s hands, but that’s football.”

In March 2016, Waters joined UCD and linked up with Pat Devlin, who previously worked with him at Bray. He then followed the experienced coach to Cabinteely the next season, with the attacker subsequently named First Division Player of the Year in his debut campaign with the club after registering 15 goals.

Pat helped me along through that period. I was fierce upset about what happened at Rovers, but what can you do? You just have to move on.

“He probably has had the biggest influence on me. Pat has been my go-to person for guidance and advice. He’s helped me through some of the toughest times. I don’t think he even realises how much he means to me. I owe Pat a lot of gratitude. He’s brought me on.

“He’d come in and he’d be able to tell if there was something wrong. He’d look at me and say: ‘What’s wrong with you?’ I’d be like: ‘No boss, it’s grand.’ And he’d be like, ‘right,’ and he’d take me into the office, or he’d take me outside for a walk and be like: ‘What’s wrong?’ Something would always be up. And like that, once he gets the chance to talk to you, he’ll encourage you. He’ll encourage you to bring out the best in you, not just in a football fashion to play, but to better yourself as a person. He’s a gentleman and I love him to bits — you can quote me on that.”

kieran-marty-waters Waters' spell at Rovers ended in frustrating fashion. Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

Now 29, and having learned from the likes of Byrne, Tresson, Devlin and Cabinteely coach Eddie Gormley, Waters these days has become something of a dressing room influence himself, while coaching youngsters when he is not playing football.

“I’ve went for numerous jobs [outside of football], but I’ve been turned down, because football is my preference. With some places, they will accommodate you, but I’ve just took it on myself — I do an awful lot of coaching, I’ve been coaching some of the underage teams.

“If a manager messages me on Facebook, I’ll coach [his team]. I could be down in Cabinteely from six o’clock until nine o’clock doing three or four different sessions. I like the fact that it’s trying to give back, but these kids come down to watch the [Cabinteely] games, so we should bring it on as a club and try and give back to them, and before we know it, we’ll be watching them in the first team.

I’ve seen what the lads go through management-wise, dealing with stuff — it kind of puts me off, but if you have the right guidance, coaching could be a thing [that I might pursue in future]. I love the fact that you’re trying to help players progress — not so much going out every Friday for a League of Ireland match to win. I love seeing a player developing as a player and a person rather than them just being ready-made.

“Giving out isn’t my thing. But you can give out in a constructive way. And you can give out to a player where you say ‘you need to show your quality there rather than just giving the ball away,’ or whatever. You can just let him know and that’s it. Once he knows, he puts up his hand to say ‘I shouldn’t have done that,’ then it’s gone.

“I’d like to think I’ve helped a lot of the younger players come along. When they come into the dressing room and they’re fresh off a training session, if they’re brought in and it’s their first day, I’ll always make an effort to try to say ‘hello’ and make them feel comfortable. If they want to come down and sit beside me, I’ll make them try to feel a part of it.

“I’ve done it with numerous players as well. You can see when they walk in, they’re kind of nervous. Then you see the relief in someone’s face — they’re there to prove themselves. But when an older player like that comes across and shakes your hand, invites you over to sit down, it kind of just makes them feel better about themselves. I think that’s a huge part of their development.”

Premier Division fixtures:

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First Division fixtures:

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Paul Fennessy

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