He may well have been gearing up to play for the Limerick senior footballers in their high stakes All-Ireland football qualifier with Offaly this Saturday, had Denis Behan’s sporting career not taken him down a different path at the end of his teenage years.
A talented Gaelic footballer, Abbeyfeale native Behan represented his county at minor level in a side which also included several of the county’s marquee senior names of today, including Shane Gallagher, Johnny McCarthy and his Fr Casey’s clubmates Padraig Browne and Thomas Cahill.
When around this time, an 18-month stint cross-channel with Brentford didn’t work out for Behan, he was called into the Limerick senior football squad for a couple of challenge games. However, the lure of playing soccer full-time proved irresistible for the talented striker and the now 27-year-old chose to go down that route instead of Gaelic football.
Behan’s chance of representing Limerick at senior level in Gaelic football may have past, but on Friday week he is set to represent his local senior soccer club, Limerick FC for the first time.
Former Irish U-21 international, Behan is one of three big-name signings Limerick FC have made during the transfer window to help propel their promotion drive over the coming months.
And Limerick FC striker Behan is adamant that any pressure he is feeling ahead of his much anticipated debut for Pat Scully’s promotion-chasing side is only positive.
Behan’s former Cork City and Hartlepool United team mate Joe Gamble and former Hearts and Galway United full-back Shaun Kelly have also committed their futures to the ‘Super Blues’ in recent weeks.
All three are in line to make their Limerick FC debuts in the club’s Airtricity League First Division clash with Athlone Town at Lissywoolen on Saturday, July 16 at 7.30pm. Limerick currently lie fourth in the First Division table, seven points adrift of pace-setters Shelbourne, but level on points with Cork City and Monaghan United.
Denis Behan said: “The pressure we are feeling as new signings is good pressure. Everyone is excited around the club at the moment. It is exciting pressure. I am experiencing the same buzz now as I did when I was with Cork during the season we won the Premier League title. There is a great sense of belief. The only pressure I am feeling is excitement. Our aim is to win promotion at the end of the season. If we finish top of the First Division and win the League, great. But securing our place in the Premier Division for next season is our main goal.”
Abbeyfeale man Behan admits that he is itching to make his debut for Pat Scully’s side. Limerick claimed three wins, two in the League and one in the EA Sports Cup, in a hectic seven-day period recently to continue their excellent run of form.
“It is a pity it will take so long before we get a chance to make our debuts because Limerick FC don’t have a League fixture this weekend,” Behan pointed out.
Denis Behan spent a decade, from the age of eight, playing schoolboy playing schoolboy and later youths soccer with Desmond League side, Abbeyfeale United.
The talented striker was also capped for Ireland at U-15, U-16, U-17, U-18 and U-23 level. Behan won a Premier Division League medal with Cork City in 2005, turning in a Man of the Match performance in his side’s decisive victory over Derry City in the final game of the season. Two years later he netted City’s match winner in their FAI Cup final success over Longford Town. In July 2009 it was confirmed that Cork City had accepted a bid from Hartlepool United to take Behan to Victoria Park. In May of this year, Behan was one of 10 Hartlepool players not offered a new contract by the club. Hartlepool’s loss is Limerick’s gain and Behan is itching to show the Jackman Park faithful what he can bring to the table.
While table-toppers Shelbourne currently look a good bet to claim a promotion spot to the Premier Division as the Dublin side enjoy a seven-point advantage at the top of the table, Behan is not prepared to concede the First Division title to the Tolka Park side yet.
“I remember at one stage while I was with Cork City we were seven or eight points clear on Derry City and we lost that advantage very quickly,” Denis Behan said.
“The League is not won in July. Shels’ have to play all the sides above them in the League, including ourselves in September. We will be giving it a right go over the remainder of the season.”