Catch up with Former Irish International Gary Doherty as he tells us about his connection to Donegal and his new venture Stateside

Gary Doherty celebrates in the Irish Jersey at Landsdowne Road
Gary Doherty celebrates in the Irish Jersey at Landsdowne Road

Former Irish International Gary Doherty is now living in Boston, and using his 20 year playing career to promote, market and raise publicity for The Boston Spurs Soccer School. As soon as Covid allows, Gary will be using his extensive contacts in soccer to bring some of the biggest names in the Premier League to coach at the Massachusetts club. We caught up with him for this month’s ezine:

You were born in Donegal, but grew up in London. Tell us about that.

My mum and dad met in London – like so many people of their generation, they had moved over in search of work and met each other there. My dad is from Donegal and my mum in from Kerry, so when they got married, they moved home to Donegal to start a family and I was born in Carndonagh. I lived there until I was six years old and have so many fond memories of my early childhood there, before my family moved back to Luton. I grew up with that wonderful diaspora childhood experience of summers spent between Donegal and Kerry with my extended family. And when my football career started and I began playing Ireland Under 18’s, it was always so exciting because my family would descend on Dublin from the north and south – Donegal and Kerry – so it was a bit like a family reunion every time I played in Lansdowne Road. Although I grew up in London, I was always so aware of my Irish roots and it’s one of the reasons I love living in Boston, because the Irish diaspora is so strong over here.

Tell us about starting out in your professional football career with Tottenham Hotspurs.

I started playing with Luton when I was six – I hadn’t actually kicked a ball before that when I was living in Ireland, but I started playing soccer over in London. I got picked up by Luton Town, which was my local team, when I was nine and I stayed with them until Tottenham signed me and I turned professional. It was a dream come true.

What was your stand-out moment in the green jersey?

Definitely my debut and standing for the national anthem. I feel very lucky that I had my debut in Lansdowne Road in front of the home crowd and it’s a day that I’ll never forget. That same week, I had just signed for Tottenham, so I had gone to Tottenham for my medical and then flew over to Ireland for my first session with the senior team. I was still only 19, but there was always a friendly face because we had a great youth set up at Ireland Under 18’s so I already knew some of the lads like Robbie Keane, Stephen McPhail, Richard Dunne and Damien Duff. Everyone made me feel very welcome and it really was the best of times!

And then every time we played, particularly abroad, the traveling fans would come from all over Ireland and across the world to support us. I always remember the drive into Lansdowne Road, when the fans would come out to greet the players and the bus en-route from Dublin airport  – it was a phenomenal feeling.

What do you think Covid-19 has taught us about the importance of sport?

I’m always one for looking at the positive, so I’m hoping it’s going to be a good thing because it’s made us all realise how important fans are. A bit like the diaspora, so much of sport is about feeling a connection, and football just isn’t as exciting without the fans. I think we’re all missing the collective energy that they bring to the stadium; singing, chanting and willing their team to succeed. I actually feel sorry for the players, because the reaction of the fans is such a big part of your game and when you a score a goal to an empty stadium, so much of the magic is lost.   

How important do you think sport is in shaping young people?

I can only speak for myself, but for me it was key and I have learned so much from sport that I’ve taken into my personal and professional life. I suppose, the piece of advice that stayed with me came from one of my youth team coaches, when he was telling me how to manage being a professional footballer. He said: “If you want to succeed in football, you’ve got to be like a cork floating in the water; keep bobbling along the top, and don’t have too many highs or too many lows.” I took that advice on board at a young age, and its stood to me for life!

Of course there are disappointments, especially when you’re injured or you make a mistake; it can be a very lonely place for a footballer, but overall I’ve been very lucky to have had a brilliant support network around me with my family, the youth set up and throughout my professional career.

You’re now living in Boston. How have you settled in Stateside?

Well, we moved over here just before the pandemic, so it’s been a bit of a baptism of fire, but thankfully we are all well and things are a bit more under control with the virus.

After I retired, I was coaching in the UK, but I always really wanted to move to America. I had a few opportunities to play football here and I always regret not taking the opportunity to come out and play Major League Soccer (MLS). I knew once I retired, I would come to America and set up my own coaching business. At the minute, because of Covid restrictions, I’m mostly doing personal sessions and small group sessions, but I‘m working towards the long term goal, which is to set up my own soccer club over here – that’s the next stage of my soccer dream!

Keep up to date with developments with Gary and The Boston Spurs Soccer School here: