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CHARLIE McGEEVER (Former Finn Harps and Sligo Rovers player)

CHARLIE McGEEVER thinks that this is the North-West's year, so he expects Derry City to add the FAI Cup to the League title won by Sligo Rovers and the All-Ireland triumph of Donegal. However, it isn't the cup final which will occupy his time this afternoon but the Tipperary SFC final as he has an interest in Clonmel Commercials.

Back in 1981, Charlie was a busy man, lining out for Sligo Rovers in the FAI Cup final, which they lost to Dundalk, and the Ulster under 21 final for Donegal.

"I was captain and we lost by two points to Monaghan," he recalls. "People said we lost it because we had a soccer midfield: myself and Denis Bonner, Packie's twin."

In 1979, he had won the FAI Youth Cup with Fanad United and, as a result, he was signed for Sligo Rovers by Patsy McGowan. So well did he do that Tottenham expressed an interest.

"At that time I was in Thomond College, which was a very good set-up and a big help at a time when people weren't training to the degree they are nowadays. I was over in Spurs for a couple of weeks, and only back when my cruciate went. I started pre-season thinking I'd be all right, and lasted three minutes of our first game against Bohemians. I won the first header, came down and the knee buckled under me. I went over to Professor Dandy in England for the operation."

A fine defender, he was out of the game for a year, missing out on Sligo's FAI Cup breakthrough in 1983. "I came back to coach at Finn Harps, and decided to have another go at it, playing on one leg basically for about 10 years. I played for Fanad and won the FAI Intermediate Cup, and then Patsy (McGowan) brought me back to Finn Harps."

He eventually took over as manager at Harps and led them to the FAI Cup final in 1999.

"It was like groundhog day," he recalls. "It was up to Dublin, play Bray, back home, up to Dublin again. Three times we came up to Dublin, and we left it behind us, especially the second day, when we were a goal up and 30 seconds left. Then we conceded a penalty, our 'keeper saved it, but they got to the rebound first."

The following year he left Harps, having spent 20 years in football, and his wife Fionnuala said "How about moving to Clonmel (her native town)?"

"We moved within three months, we had a young family at the time, and it's been a great move," says Charlie, who spent six years in charge of Clonmel Town. "My aim was to win the FAI Junior Cup but the best we got was to the semi-final last year."

A school principal, he has now taken on the Tipperary minor footballers from his involvement with Clonmel Commercials, who supplied seven of the Tipp minors who won the All-Ireland last year. The minors are in the county final this year, and they supply four to the senior team who play in the final today.

His son Cathal is on the Commercials minor team, another son is a keen golfer and his daughter is a talented camogie player and on the Tipp under 16s.

Expect to see the McGeever name on the sports pages for a while yet.

Sunday Indo Sport