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Spurs trials with Ardiles, football with Donegal and managing Tipp's All-Ireland minor side

Charlie McGeever has had a colourful sporting career that takes him to Croke Park next Sunday.

Tipperary minor football manager Charlie McGeever.
Tipperary minor football manager Charlie McGeever.
Image: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

CHARLIE MCGEEVER’S PRESENT is Tipperary, a resident of Clonmel and the man plotting to take Kerry down in next Sunday’s All-Ireland minor final.

But before he helped pen the latest Tipperary football success story, McGeever’s sporting days saw him wander from his native Donegal to Thomond College to Tottenham Hotspur.

If Tipperary’s current minor hurling and football stars need advice on juggling dual demands then McGeever is well versed after a life mixing Gaelic football and soccer.

He starts by sketching the outline of his sojourn with Spurs in the summer of ’82.

“It was a long time ago now, (Keith) Burkinshaw was the manager.

“I went over for the summer after they won the FA CUP in 1982, World Cup Year, the two Argentinian boys (Ossie) Ardiles and (Ricky) Villa were late back as people would tend to be for pre-season.

“Hoddle and some of them were a bit late. I remember going out on the Monday morning doing the training session and (Keith) Burkinshaw set up that it would be a running sessions, seriously hard running session.

Ossie Ardiles Argentinian World Cup winner Ossie Ardiles Source: Cathal Noonan

“All based on 100, 200, 400 metres, and Villa just blew everybody away. For a fella who was a very laid back character, he came back in unbelievable shape.

“Everybody thought they wouldn’t be back in any shape and the talk was they are coming back Monday and they are going to get some dogging. I think he won every run that day.

“It was a privilege, a great Spurs team. It was nice to see World Cup winners in action. I spent the summer there and came back and did the cruciate in a Gaelic match I wasn’t suppose to play in and that was that.

“End of story. I was 20 at the time. I played until I was 33 or 34 with one and a half legs.”

His soccer interest never dulled. In 1999 – two decades after winning an FAI Youth Cup medal with Fanad United – he managed Finn Harps to an FAI Senior Cup final. They lost a gripping three-game saga against Bray Wanderers.

Charlie McGeever/Pat Devlin 20/5/1999 Charlie McGeever congratulates Bray manager Pat Devlin after the 1999 FAI Cup final second replay Source: Andrew Paton/INPHO

“If you are in Donegal everybody is a dual player. This talk of dual ship is a huge phenomenon down here, but every player in Donegal worth his salt would have played soccer and Gaelic.

“It’s what they do and it’s easy to manage because the two season are different. I played mostly soccer before I went to college to Thomond in Limerick.

“Once you went there you were immersed – it was full time training, they would have been far ahead of their time as a PE area.”

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Electric Ireland GAA Minor Championship Finals Media Day Tipperary boss Charlie McGeever and captain Danny Owens at the Electric Ireland minor football media day Source: Ramsey Cardy/SPORTSFILE

The Cloughaneely native had his flirtations with Donegal football sides as well.

“Seven of us were pulled into the (Donegal) U21 the year before we won the All-Ireland. We traveled up and down I captained the team that year and lost the Ulster Final to Monaghan.

“I did the cruciate then that summer and it was a more severe injury than it is now. They went ahead and won the All-Ireland U21 for the first time and I was watching that rather than playing.

Brian McEniff 1992 Brian McEniff celebrates Donegal's 1992 All-Ireland win Source: INPHO

“Consequently the same group won the All-Ireland in ‘92 and you are watching that as well. I managed to hold onto some performance with the knee in soccer having had two or three cruciates, whereas in Gaelic football it was a more difficult thing to do.”

In 2000 he finished up with Finn Harps and then his wife Fionnuala, a Tipperary native, suggested the family relocate.

“My wife decided after 14 years you’ve had your cut at it. Now it’s my turn. There was a brief lull between managing Harps and the next project and we took a hop and came down with the young kids and came down to Clonmel.”

Michael Quinlivan Tipperary footballer Michael Quinlivan Source: Ken Sutton/INPHO

McGeever wasted little time in immersing himself in sporting managment with Clonmel Town in soccer and Clonmel Commercials in Gaelic football. With Commercials, he fell in with an U12 team that included current Tipperary seniors like Michael Quinlivan, Ian Fahey and Seamus Kennedy.

“It’s very much a multi sport town and putting them in order is difficult, soccer and rugby are high profile, doing very well. If Clonmel isn’t providing as an area, not a club, up to half of Tipp underage teams then it’s a struggle because that’s where most of the football is.

“David (Power) left for the U21′s and I fell into it rather than wanting to do it. It’s a natural progression from the club scene.”

Electric Ireland GAA Minor Championship Finals Media Day Tipperary minor football captain Danny Owens Source: Ramsey Cardy/SPORTSFILE

Now he’s taken them to the cusp of All-Ireland glory. Their season hit a roadblock when they lost the Munster minor final in July but since then McGeever’s charges have rehabilitated with wins over Galway and Kildare. They’re now getting set to cross paths with Kerry again.

“We’re only starting to see their (performances) after the Munster Final. I would take responsibility for some of that, trying to be complicated about what I was trying to do, having not had time to put in into operation.

“I think now we’ve had a bit more time we are definitely better organised and they are more tuned in.”

Do you agree with our combined starting XV from Dublin and Kerry?

‘It’s amazing, I was 10 years before I managed to even feature in a final’ – Brogan’s Dublin wait

About the author:

Fintan O'Toole

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