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Cruel start to second Irish chapter for World Cup hero Kevin Sheedy 

Sheedy’s belated entry to senior management kicks off with late heartbreak

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A disappointed Kevin Sheedy leads his Waterford players from the pitch after defeat to Drogheda

A disappointed Kevin Sheedy leads his Waterford players from the pitch after defeat to Drogheda

A disappointed Kevin Sheedy leads his Waterford players from the pitch after defeat to Drogheda

Drogheda United 1 Waterford 0

Kevin Sheedy pauses midway through his post-match reflections to grant an autograph request from a ballboy.

It’s not unfair to suggest that the young lad would need a bit of a history lesson about the impressive back story of the man who scribbled a message on a piece of paper.

After all, it’s now almost 31 years since Sheedy was responsible for a moment that lifted the nation.

His place in history is assured; only one person can say they were the first to score a goal for Ireland at a World Cup. The fact it came against England just makes it that little bit sweeter.

The football industry tends to take people on a journey and Sheedy probably never envisaged that Ireland would one day be his place of work.

Nor would he have imagined that aged 61, this would be the setting for his first full-time gig as a senior manager – although he did briefly serve as caretaker at Tranmere two decades ago and points out he has extensive experience at underage level, including at Everton where he is a club legend.

A chat minutes after the concession of a last-minute own goal in Drogheda to suffer an opening defeat isn’t the ideal time to talk about the bigger picture.

Indeed, Sheedy has kept a low profile while familiarising himself with his new surroundings, and the suggestion was that his assistant Mike Newell might do some of the post-match media.

But the ex-Premier League striker’s introduction to the League of Ireland was a red card for sideline comments. “We’re both passionate,” said Sheedy.

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His partnership with Newell goes back to their days at Everton together. Sheedy then served as assistant to Newell when he led Hartlepool to promotion in 2003.

They reunited in recent years with Sheedy relocating to Saudi Arabia to work with the U-23 side of Al Shabab. Newell had gone there as the head of football.

Al Shabab turn over staff regularly and have a few quid; they recently signed Odion Ighalo from Manchester United.

Waterford isn’t as colourful a diversion (and the lack of a shirt sponsor highlights that it remains a financial struggle for English based owner Lee Power) yet it’s a curious departure all the same with Newell now content as second in command.

He managed Luton and Grimsby after Hartlepool, his stint at Luton notable for a controversial call for a ban on female officials, criticism of his own chairman and his assertion that a culture of bungs was still rife in football. A promising career in the dugout stalled and he’s gone in another direction.

After his Saudi sojourn, he was number two at Wrexham.

The Scouser was a louder presence on the touchline, with Sheedy moreso pensive as he studied the game. Prior to kick-off, he was on the edge of the penalty area, functioning as the link man setting players up to take aim in a shooting drill.

This is a tough gig for them. Waterford fielded nine new signings in their starting XI with goalkeeper Brian Murphy and right full Tunmise Sobowale the only starters with memories of a European near miss in November following an eventful season where they had three managers – including Sheedy’s old Euro ‘88 roommate John Sheridan who provided some information in a brief chat.

Sheedy and Newell faced a race against time to cobble a squad together with quarantine complicating matters and it was no surprise that Tim Clancy’s Drogheda, with a sprinkling of top-flight experience added to the core of the side that stormed to promotion last term, were a more coherent operation. The influence of sub Dinny Corcoran was central to pressure that forced the winner.

By contrast, the guests are mostly learning about the league and the country. They are big and imposing – a threat from set-pieces – but they are young.

The average age of the outfield players Sheedy sent out here is 21. It will help when Daryl Murphy, another man who has represented Ireland as a major tournament, is fit enough to do more than come off the bench.

Sheedy brought in four players on loan from the UK (Cardiff, Swansea, Preston and Bolton) and another quartet have signed full-time deals including strapping centre-half Kyle Ferguson, the son of ex-Rangers player Barry –the 21-year-old modelled in his younger days and his last club was in Sweden. This was just his third game alongside defensive partner Cameron Evans, the Swansea player who had the misfortune of turning a James Brown cross past Murphy as the game entered injury-time.

It was tough to swallow for Sheedy, who is determined to have a proper crack at this job and is apparently conscious of not being viewed as a gimmicky appointment.

“It’s a great opportunity to test myself,” he said when asked what motivated him to accept Power’s call. “I’d been out of work. I had an ankle replacement so I wasn’t able to do anything and this came at the right time.

“We came over here on January 2. It’s been really difficult with the Covid and the quarantine, it was really testing times.

“But we’ve put together a good squad with loads of potential. We are looking for more players. They’re disappointed now. But they’ll get tougher.”

Their gaffer can tell them a story or two about bouncing back off the ropes.

Drogheda – Odumosu, Brown, O’Reilly, Massey, Kane; Deegan, Hyland; Markey (Bermingham 56), Murray (Douglas 90), Doyle; Lyons (Corcoran 69)

Waterford – B Murphy, Sobowale, Evans, Ferguson, Mascoll; O’Reilly, Brennan, Mashigo, Stafford (Martin 75) ; Waite, Mutswunguma (D Murphy 77)

Ref – G Kelly (Cork)


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