Maher faces big challenge with the Under-19s
NEW Drogheda United Under-19s boss Shaun Maher faces a race against time to have his squad ready for their league opener at home to Shelbourne on Saturday.
The 35-year-old former centre-half, who recently retired from playing, won a League and Cup double with Bohemians in 2000/01 and subsequently spent six years in England with Bournemouth, before Paul Doolin enticed him back to Ireland to play for the Boynesiders in their Champions League season.
Maher played in the European games against Dynamo Kiev and Levadia Tallinn, but months later the whole squad was let go as the club went into examinership. He subsequently played for Sporting Fingal, Galway United and Monaghan United - all of whom went out of business - but hasn't tired of the League of Ireland and is now ready to give it a go in management.
'It was a full-time set-up and the training facilities up in Mosney were kept impeccably well,' Maher recalled, looking back at his playing days with Drogheda.
'It was unfortunate I could not make more of a contribution because of injuries, and we all know what way the club went, which was disappointing for everybody.
'I finished playing this year. I was up with Ballymena United for a while and enjoyed it, but realised my body wasn't coping too well after training and matches and knew then that was it.'
After last year's Under-19s boss Rory Kerr decided to become director of football at Drogheda Boys, United swooped for Maher and - having completed his A Licence at Dundalk last year, where he helped out Darius Kierans - he was only too happy to take up the role.
Having only been appointed recently, though, most other clubs in the Elite Division of the Airtricity Under-19 League have had a head start.
'It's very late in the day that I got the job and a lot of players we would like to have had have gone elsewhere,' he explained following a 1-1 friendly draw against Ratoath Harps on Sunday.
'We're only back three weeks and some teams are back since early June, but we have a lot of local lads and we'll work with what we have and try and get them organised.
'The Elite Division is going to be fairly competitive and we've had to fast-track a lot of the training, but we're looking at a half-decent team.'
Five or six of last year's Under-19 squad have been retained, and Maher has been grateful for the help he's received from Mark Clohessy and Gerard Kelly of Mick Cooke's management team, together with Derek Boyle and Trevor Molloy.
Saturday's opening game against Shelbourne has a noon kick-off at Hunky Dorys Park.