Thursday, 16 May 2013

Dominic Foley

1998 - 99 : Ethnikos Piraeus (Greece)
2003 - 04 : Braga (Portugal)
2005 - 09 : Gent (Belgium)
2009 - 12 : Cercle Brugge (Belgium)

One of Irish football's most well travelled individuals; Corkman Dominic Foley has played professionally in five different countries. A six times capped Irish international, Foley began his senior career with English side Wolverhampton Wanderers. Two loan spells with Watford and Notts County came in 1998, and then in the same year, at the age of 22, Foley moved to Greece on loan with Ethnikos Piraeus.

Based in the Athens-Piraeus metropolitan area, Ethnikos are the port district's second largest club, after Olympiacos. They play home matches at the Heleniko Stadium, a 10,000 capacity ground, built for the 2004 Olympic Games. The club were founded in 1923, after a split that created Ethnikos and Olympiacos. A multi-sport club, football is just one of many games played by them along with basketball, water-polo and volleyball.

The club's last taste of success was in 1991, when they were crowned League Champions. They also have one Greek Cup to their name, winning it in 1933.

Foley's move to Greece wasn't simply out of the blue. He was signed by the club's new English manager Howard Kendall, who had knowledge of Foley's talents through contacts back in England. Kendall had previously managed the likes of Everton, Blackburn and Manchester City. Ethnikos would be his last job in football. A notable member of the squad was Cameroon international Joel Epalle.

The season was a disaster, and Kendall was sacked in March after the club's poor season so far. For his part, Foley put in 8 appearances and scored 2 goals.

Ethnikos finished the season in last place, incredibly not winning a single game and picking up just 8 points. By contrast, their rivals Olympiacos were crowned league champions. Foley returned to Wolves that summer. Ethnikos' relegation that year sparked a freefall for the club, and today they play in Greece's fifth tier, the lowest placing in their history.
Playing alongside fellow future Wild Geese Robbie Keane and David Connolly, Foley failed to establish himself at Molyneaux. He was sold by Wolves to Graham Taylor's Watford in the summer of 1999. In 2000 he would earn his first cap for the Republic of Ireland in a 2-1 friendly defeat to Scotland. Loan spells to Queens Park Rangers, Oldham, Southend and Swindon followed as the Irishman struggled to get first team football at Vicarage Road.

In the summer of 2003 he was released by Watford, and decided to move abroad. At the suggestion of his agent and former Irish international Micky Walsh, Foley signed for Portuguese side Braga.

‘My agent had connections in Portugal due to his time playing for Porto and he also had a house there. He knew that I didn’t mind moving around, so he asked me whether I would be interested,’ Foley told Sportsmail in 2011.

‘I was open to the idea of it, so I went over and trained with them for 10 days and they were happy with what they saw and offered me a two-year deal. But after one year, I knew that I had had enough.

His new coach was former Benfica tactician Jesualdo Ferreira, and the Irishman could count Brazilian goal machine Wender and Portuguese keeper Quim as his teammates. Foley was the only native English speaker in the squad.

He liked the club and the people, but the pace of life outside of football didn't suit him.

‘Braga is one of those old cities where everything is done tomorrow and it just wasn’t for me. My wife was with me at the time and we just weren’t happy there and never really settled.

‘Even though it was close to Porto, it felt like you were in the middle of nowhere. The heat wasn’t a huge factor, but the pace of life there didn’t suit and it was like living in the past sometimes with how slow it took to get things done.

‘The people are crazy about football, but it was a city that I never felt comfortable in and knew quite early that it was never going to work out. It is a place that I didn’t see myself having a future.’

Foley made just 12 appearances in Portugal and left after one season, returning to Ireland after a decade away. In all, he scored one solitary goal for Braga. Years later the club would rise, and become one of the dominant forces of Portuguese football. In 2011 while Foley was in Belgium, they would reach the Europa League Final in Dublin, but lost to Porto.

He moved to Bohemians and in the 2004-05 season made over 30 appearances and scored 7 goals. The following summer, Bohs were entered into the First Round of the 2005 UEFA Intertoto Cup against Belgian outfit K.A.A. Gent. Although the Gypsies narrowly lost 3-2 on aggregate to the Belgians, Foley impressed manager Georges Leekens enough to sign him.

The Corkman left Bohs in acrimonious circumstances to say the least. He had his contract with the club cancelled for 'failure of bonus payments', and almost immediately signed for Gent. This led to rumours about illegal tapping up by Leekens, but no investigation was held.

Gent have never won the Belgian Pro League (their best result being a 2nd place finish), but they have 3 cups to their name. Although it has existed since the 1860s as a sports club, Gent began playing football in 1900. Based in Ghent, a Flemish city, famous names such as Nicolas Lombaerts, Bryan Ruiz, Jean Beausejour and Khalilou Fadiga have all called the club 'home' at some point.

His coach Leekens was a vastly experienced tactician, having coached clubs in Belgium, Holland and Turkey, as well as the Belgium and Algeria national teams. Notable teammates included Zlatko Runje, Lombaerts and Beausejour.

In Foley's first season at the Jules Ottenstadion Gent finished in a respectable 4th place, just 9 points behind winners Anderlecht. In Europe, they made it as far as the Third Round of the Intertoto Cup, losing 0-2 on aggregate to Valencia. Meanwhile in the Belgian Cup, they lost out to Standard Liege in the Quarter Final.

For Foley the season was a good one and he notched 6 goals for the club in 22 games. His finest moment that season came on March 8th when he scored both of Gent's goals in a crucial 1-2 away win over Lokeren. He also contributed 2 assists that year. Over the next four years, the Irishman would play the best football of his career.

In 2007, Gent finished in 4th once more, and again qualified for the Intertoto Cup. Foley's stock continued to rise, and he was valued at €1.3 million. He netted 10 League goals, including crucial strikes against Charleroi and Standard Liege. They had a good cup run, reaching the Semi Final, but lost to eventual champions Club Brugge. In the Intertoto Cup, Gent fell to Grasshopper Zurich in the Third Round, with Foley scoring 1 of their 2 goals in the tie.

The next season (2007-08), Gent were managed by Trond Sollied, a former Norway international in his second spell at the club.They finished in 6th but managed to qualify for the UEFA Cup through the Fair Play rule. Personally for Foley, this was one of his best seasons. Having firmly cemented his place in the squad, he notched in 11 league goals that year, level with new teammate Bryan Ruiz.

In the Cup, Gent reached the final. On 18 May 2008 Foley lined out in front of 50000 fans at the King Baudoin Stadium in Brussels to face the mighty Anderlecht. He scored the game's openning goal with a strike on the 7th minute, but despite leading 2-1 for most of the game, Gent's defence leaked two goals in two minutes and Anderlecht won 3-2.

Foley regularly captained Gent
2008-09 was the Irishman's last season with the club. On January 22nd 2009, Foley, aged 32, agreed a summer transfer to Cercle Brugge, moving to the club in July of that year. Gent ended up in 4th place. He had scored 2 league goals.

He left the club with great mutual respect having scored a total of 29 goals in 103 matches for De Buffalos

Foley's Gent goals

Cercle Brugge K.S.V. known as Groen en Zwart (Green and Black) were formed as far back as 1899. Playing home games at the Jan Breydel Stadium which holds 30000 spectators, they have 3 Belgian League titles and 2 Belgian Cups to their name. The club's best days were in the first half of the 20th century.

At Cercle, Foley continued his fine form, being the club's top goal scorer in his first season. His new manager would be Anderlecht legend Glen De Boeck, and among his new teammates were Brazilian winger Reynaldo and Belgian international Tony Sergeant.

Although he was playing well, his new club were nonetheless a smaller force in the league than Gent. They finished that year in 9th place, a whole 19 points behind city rivals Club Brugge. In the Cup, Foley was dealt a cruel irony as Cercle lost in the final, to his previous club. Again in front of 50000 Belgians, Foley was this time unable to score as De Buffalos ran out 3-0 winners. It was yet another silver medal for the Corkman. He netted 9 goals in the league, and 16 in the season.

2010-11 began with coach De Boeck moving to a rival club, and Bob Peeters replacing him. Cercle again finished up in 9th. In the Cup they reached the Semi Final where Foley scored, but Cercle went out on away goals to Westerlo. He notched 5 goals in the season.

His final season with the club and in Belgium saw Cercle finish the league in a respectable 7th place. In the Europa League and Belgian Cup the club failed to make any ground and went out of both competitions early. Midway through the season though, the 35 year old Foley finally returned to Ireland and signed for First Division side Limerick, whom he helped to earn promotion that year.

As of 2013, Foley remains with Limerick in the League of Ireland Premier Division. A massive hit in Belgium and one of Irish football's most memorable Wild Geese, possibly his only regret is that he didn't represent Ireland more than 6 times.

1 comment:

  1. He moved to Bohemians and in the 2004-05 season made over 30 appearances and scored 7 goals.

    The League of Ireland season is played over a calendar year so Foley was at home for 2 seasons.

    Really you should know this.