BRAY WANDERERS supremo Pat Devlin was honoured for his incredible services to Irish soccer on Friday evening as the Soccer Writer's Association of Ireland awarded him the SWAI Special Merit Award.
Devlin is best known for his unwavering dedication to the Seagulls in a football career spanning over 40 years, and in that time he has chalked up an incredible C.V. Devo has shared his expertise with Drogheda United and Athlone United as a manager and also enjoyed a stint as Technical Director at Shamrock Rovers but it goes without saying that it his achievements at the Carlisle Grounds that have earned him the most recognition. With Devlin at the helm for the Wicklow club, they have lifted the FAI Cup twice (1990 and 1999) as well as the First Division on three occasions (1986, 1996, 2000).
Devlin joined Bray Wanderers as manager in the 1985/86 season; Wanderers' debut year in the League of Ireland. Despite admitting some hesitation at first, Devlin began to work his magic immediately and the Seasiders lifted the Division 1 trophy at the first time of asking.
Devlin's next highlight came four years later at Lansdowne Road. 30,000 spectators flocked to the home of Irish soccer to watch Devlin's side get the better of St. Francis to claim the FAI Cup for the first time in the club's history.
That would not be Wanderers' last taste of cup joy under Devlin though. He led them to another successful run in 1999 when the Seagulls eventually ousted Finn Harps after an enthralling replay.
In-between those successes Devlin enjoyed a change of dugouts at Drogheda, Athlone and Shamrock Rovers but Devlin returned and the year after guiding them to their second cup triumph, Bray were enjoying their third successful assault on the First Division.
Devlin's flawless reputation saw him elected as manager of the short-lived Republic of Ireland 'B' team and during all this time he was constantly in contact with his good friend Kenny Dalglish for footballing reasons; which eventually resulted in a club partnership being formed between Liverpool FC and Bray Wanderers.
Devlin walked away from the Carlisle Grounds with his heart set on an easy retirement but the calling of the Carlisle Grounds proved too strong and before long he had returned to the club as Director of Football.
During 2010, Devlin truly engraved his name in the annals of Irish soccer history when he took up the reins following the resignation of then-manager Eddie Gormley in August. At the time, Wanderers were cut adrift at the foot of the table and looked dead and buried but Devlin conjured up a miraculous escape and Bray lived to tell the tale.
Devlin continues to work closely with linking English clubs to young Irish players and just last year he helped Republic of Ireland Schools international Pierce Sweeney to secure a deal to sign for Reading from Bray Wanderers.
The word legend may be tossed around all too casually nowadays but in the form of Pat Devlin, Irish soccer has been blessed with a true legend.