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Gareth Farrelly: 'I had quite strong values about how things should be done, and Bohemians presented an opportunity at a given time that I thought was a really good one'

Thu, Nov 07 2019

Gareth Farrelly has seen plenty in his interactions with football to date. A player/manager at 28 and recovering from a serious illness with a 90% mortality rate, Farrelly has experienced more than most.

Another talented product off the Home Farm conveyor belt, Gareth moved to Aston Villa in 1992. After five years in Birmingham, the young midfielder soon moved to his boyhood club, Everton

Securing a transfer to his boyhood idols, the Irish international scored a goal on the last day of his maiden season against Coventry City, which maintained the club's lengthy stay in the top flight. However, despite this priceless contribution, Gareth experienced virtually no first-team action for the following 18 months, under new manager Walter Smith.

"During the first year's pre-season, Walter said that I would leave and wasn't part of his plans. I only played in a League Cup game against Oxford at home and around eight minutes of Premier League football that year.

“People tend to focus on a nice thing like that goal, but that's what happened after that. There was a group of us they wanted out, told to report back for pre-season in June, while others in the first team didn't have to come back until 14th of July and that was another way of putting pressure on and to get rid of us.”

That precious Everton goal condemned Bolton Wanderers to relegation instead and when Farrelly arrived at the Trotters under Sam Allardyce in 1999, the home fans weren't shy with reminders … Though he did eventually make amends by netting the opener in the 2001 3-0 play-off final win over Preston North End.

"They surely did, even though I scored within eight minutes of my debut against Sheffield United. I wanted to play, so stepped down into the Championship, but didn't feature a lot that year.

“Bolton got beaten by Ipswich in a play-off semi-final. It took us another year to come back up through the play-offs, which was a really positive outcome."

For Gareth's last couple of years at Bolton, he went on loan to Rotherham United, Burnley, Bradford City and Wigan before finally parting ways in 2004. Then, to most observers, the 28-year old's appointment on becoming Bohemians player/manager was unexpected to say the least.

"I made a lot of bad decisions … I still make them now (laughs). I'd fallen out with Sam Allardyce and at 28 had fallen out of love with the game.

“I had quite strong values about how things should be done and Bohemians presented an opportunity at a given time that I thought was a really good one. I was extremely naive and see that a lot in people now, who take their first job after they finish playing.

“Your desire to succeed and your enthusiasm is sometimes not in correlation to the realities of the situation that you're going into.

“It's very hard to develop strategies, build a club and compete when the foundations are built on sand, but I would never regret that. It was two of the greatest years of learning that I've ever had, but probably the wrong time."

Following a short stint at Blackpool, the now solicitor and Colin Healy signed for Cork City in early 2007, but both were ineligible to take the field until that July due to then FIFA regulations not allowing footballers play for more than two clubs in a 12-month fixed period: "As soon as we signed the deal, we were unable to play and it was a huge shock to us.

“We travelled up the country for a Setanta Cup game and we both anticipated to be playing. It was only later that were told that there was an issue with our registration, but it was going to be resolved in the next couple of days.

“We didn't even know what the three-club rule was at that point and ended up having that period of inactivity from March to July … It was a horrible time. I had no understanding of that law, the regulations, what we needed to do and how to go about it.

“It's one of the things I always go back to - taking the case all the way to the Arbitration of Sport. For me now, only recently been appointed as an arbitrator, it's come full-circle."

In May 2008, the Dubliner underwent a serious operation to remove a tumour from his pancreas, which around 18 months later led to a settlement with Cork City over an unfair dismissal case: "I was gutted because after my illness, the one thing I wanted to do was return to Cork and play football, but the club didn't want me at the time.

“The last thing I wanted to do was take a case, but we ended up with a settlement agreed, but then the club went into administration and I didn't receive any money.”