Iarfhlaith Davoren Interview

Wed, May 01 2019

The Showgrounds Credit: Clare McCahill (ETPhotos)

Having represented Irish universities, won many trophies onfield with Sligo Rovers and experienced playing/coaching stateside, Iarfhlaith Davoren now juggles studying for a Sports Performance Masters at UL with being a Galway United player/coach.

Beginning his League of Ireland career at Athlone Town, Davoren then joined Galway United in 2006, playing regularly initially, only to feature sparingly over the next 18 months, including a loan spell at Institute.

"I played heaps with Athlone, but at Galway I was playing U-21s. Tony Cousins then took me into the first team quickly. When pressure came for results, he went back to the tried and trusted. It was frustrating because there were several young players who went on to do great. Opportunities were limited because Galway were spending big money, so players on bigger contracts were getting games ahead of us."

While on the Tribesmen's books during that maiden spell, Davoren studied at NUI Galway for the first time and performed for Ireland at university level.

"I got selected on the Irish Universities team. We played a tournament in Dublin against the Institute of Technology and the Army, which we won. I got selected for the World University Games, but Tony asked me to give it a miss, as I was needed for the next few games. I stayed, but now regret I didn't go to Thailand. Tony was looking after himself and the team, but I wasn't used when the tournament was on."

A brief stay at Longford Town followed by Davoren re-signing for Galway, before turning up at Sligo Rovers in 2010.

That initial season at the Showgrounds resulted in FAI Cup and League of Ireland Cup victories, while the left-back amassed 53 consecutive starts the subsequent year until injury versus Bohemians curtailed this run.

"A physio got me through those 53 games, putting me on a programme, which worked wonders and I'm still on it. When I got injured, Paul Cook told me that I deserved a holiday and trusted me to continue rehab. When I returned, Conor Powell, another left-back, was there. Cookie made you feel top of the world and that he was looking after you, but was doing the team a favour (laughs)."

That aforementioned 2011 FAI Cup success witnessed Davoren score an equaliser against ten-man Shelbourne, who eventually succumbed in a penalty shoot-out.

"I told the boys that if I see one opportunity outside the box, I'm going for it. Some reckon it deflected in, but I quazzed it. I was living with Richie Ryan and super-sub Ciaran Kelly. Richie was captain, Kelly saved the penalties and I scored … A great house to live in that week."

At the end of that season Davoren almost joined Scottish outfit Hibernian, under new boss Pat Fenlon.

"Richie Ryan and I were meant to go to Dundee United ... They wanted a left-back and a centre-mid. That was almost sorted, but then Pat got the Hibs job. I was advised to wait and that he was going to sign me.

"Going over, everything was perfect and Pat said that there'd be a contract at the end. It stalled and I knew then it wasn't going to happen. He had to move players out before getting more in. In training, I sometimes played up front because there were another four left-backs."

The 2012 Premier Division title and the following year's FAI Cup were captured, ensuring Davoren and the Bit o' Red enjoyed huge success during his four seasons there.

"The 2010 League of Ireland Cup gave us belief. It allowed us to believe that something was achievable. The following year saw expectations rise and we finished second and won the FAI Cup. An element at Sligo are passionate and expect lots, which is good when you have a team capable, but unrealistic aspirations when there isn't. I only regret that we didn't go on to dominate."

Seeking a fresh challenge, Iarfhlaith teamed up with John Caulfield's high-flying Cork City in April 2014, but three months on Leeside convinced him to return to Sligo.

"I was going to sign for Shamrock Rovers and Trevor Croly, but John contacted me and needed a left-back, while at Rovers, I would have more competition. At Cork I couldn't adjust to the style of football. Nothing against John … That's the style he wanted, but I'd four years playing differently at Sligo.

"John had the right style of play for Cork and I needed to adjust rather than the other way round. John Coleman took over Sligo and I knew I wanted to return. I jumped at it, even though Cork were competing for the league. I didn't feel part of it, even though the city and the lads were great."

After obtaining a three-year US visa, Davoren spent two seasons with Tulsa Roughnecks before a playing/coaching role at Californian outfit PSC.

"The first year was unbelievable: facilities, fans, standard of football … We had a good team. The next year only two players were brought back, including myself. There was no character in the dressing room and a bad culture.

"Afterwards, I had a chance to join a team in Arizona, but living there, you realise that some clubs outside of the big cities aren't worth going to, to make it. Then I had an opportunity to coach through an assistant manager at Tulsa. I needed experience down the coaching route and still wanted to play."

Currently, Davoren continues as a player/coach, enjoying a third spell with Galway United, under former teammate Alan Murphy.

"I contacted Murph when I heard he had the job... I don't think he knew what part of the world I was in. It's a progression year and I'm interested in what he's doing. His hands are tied with most stuff, but there's no negativity, just trying to achieve the best for the club. It's a learning curve and I know my role. If Murph wants advice, I'll give it to him, but he's the man."