12 January 2018 No Comments by The Northern Standard

Tipping Point: Our late coach showed us the world was out there. We just had to go get it

[The influence which Monaghan soccer coach the late Sean McCaffrey cast over a generation of aspiring young players from the locality is vividly and movingly captured in the following piece by one of those whose future path in life he significantly influenced: Monaghan-born sports journalist Malachy Clerkin. Mr Clerkin’s reflection was previously published in The Irish Times.] Storm Eleanor was clearing her throat last Tuesday as we stamped our feet in the guard of honour for Sean McCaffrey and laughed at the fact that he still had us standing in the cold. We were already swimming in memories since the news came through that he’d died, the previ

ous Saturday, but this took the biscuit. Straight away we were 14 again, shucking on our gear on rain-skittered sidelines in Cavan and Ratoath and Carrick and looking across to see did the other crowd have many big lads. Sean’s death brought a press release from the FAI in honour of his time as Ireland underage soccer coach and tributes from around the League of Ireland for his various involvements over the years. But to us, proud as we were of what he went on to achieve, Sean McCaffrey meant Oriel Celtic, the youth club he ran in Monaghan town between 1989 and 1998.

You only had to walk inside the door of the cathedral to see it. Dotted throughout the huge congregation were faces of lads aged between 37 and 46. You looked around and all you saw were nicknames: Ginley, Badger, Bunty, Cheesy, Monkey. Everyone older, greyer, balder, doughier, and all of us standing there silently thinking of a time when those words didn’t mean a thing. And of the man up the top in the coffin, who for a while in the mid- 1990s meant the world.

I used to think that everyone had a Sean McCaffrey in their life at some stage. It’s nearly a cliche: the Mr Miyagi who gets under your skin at a crucial time and changes you in…

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