Garbhan Coughlan in action for Limerick FC against Cabinteely
FORMER Limerick FC striker Garbhan Coughlan has begun life with a bang at his New Zealand National Football Championship club Southern United in Dunedin.
Twenty four-year-old Coughlan left Limerick FC by mutual consent in August to make the switch to playing in New Zealand soccer's top league. The Raheen man, who started out playing with Mungret Regional, netted the winner for Southern in their dramatic 2-1 victory over Hawke's Bay Utd last weekend.
How do you look back on last season at Limerick?
GC: “It had its ups and downs. I scored my first ever League of Ireland Premier Division goals which was great, but also felt that I wasn’t played as often as I should.
“These things happen in football too, managers might not always like you as a player and that’s the way it goes, I guess.
“Of course having three managers during the season doesn’t help with continuity, but I think Neil (McDonald) has now steadied the ship and I think he’s going to do a good job there so long as people buy into his philosophy.”
How did the move to New Zealand come about?
GC: “I met (Southern Utd's Dublin-born manager) Paul O'Reilly when he was the coach of the Irish Universities Team that I played in at the World University Games in Gwangju, South Korea.
“I enjoyed working with him at the time and now I’m delighted I made the decision to come here. There was a lot of, 'will I, won’t I', going on but my mother encouraged me to take the opportunity and mothers are rarely wrong.
“I had to wait until my visa came through so it was probably mid-August before I had to finally confirm I was going.
“Of course it was tough leaving my hometown club where I have spent seven seasons all combined, but I think back now that it was a good decision and the right one.
“Going into a new dressing room can be a difficult experience if you don’t know anyone, but thankfully the Irish lads have made me very welcome in the squad.”
What is the standard like in the New Zealand League?
GC: “It is very high, which surprised me a little bit because when you think of New Zealand you think of rugby, but I think that the best teams like Auckland City and Team Wellington would be up there with the likes of Dundalk and Cork City, but I do think the League of Ireland is probably more physical.
“We fly to every away game, which is a new experience but one that I’m very much enjoying. The teams are dotted around both islands so getting to see a bit of the country is brilliant.”
What was pre-season like?
GC: “I actually missed the first two weeks of pre-season which was great but I was coming over in peak fitness so the manager didn’t mind too much. We travelled up to Christchurch for a preseason tour and played a couple of games up there which was great for me as I got to know the players a bit more after that. I live with two of the lads that went to Korea with me and we live in Dunedin. They had a three bed house organised before I got over which was great for me.”
How much of an issue is it for League of Ireland players that so few contracts are for 52 weeks?
GC: “I think it definitely does play on the minds of some players because the League of Ireland contracts are so insecure. One year you could be on a good wage, but the next you can’t get a club, its madness really.
“I know the PFAI are doing a great job at the moment trying to change the contract situation and it’s great to see some clubs offering two and three year contracts to players. Unfortunately loyalty doesn’t pay bills, money does so you can see why players sign to other clubs in different countries.”
Are you a full-time pro or part-time at Southern Utd?
GC: “I’m neither professional nor semi pro. The league here is an amateur league, so none of the players get paid to play football.
“I work for an organisation called Football South who own the football club Southern United, and I work as a Schools Development Officer and Media Officer for Football South.
“Every week is different, sometimes two or three of us will travel around the region going to different schools teaching kids all about football. Rugby is very dominant, so many children don’t know the rules of football at all. It’s quite a relaxed environment to work in so long as the work gets done.”
How have the opening weeks of the season been?
GC: “It has been good and bad, obviously getting the winner at the weekend was a highlight but I also missed two games because of concussion which was a bit of a setback.
“I got an elbow to the back of the head which knocked me out and because of protocol I had to sit out the next two games even though I felt fine.”
How many seasons have you signed for with Southern?
GC: “I have a permanent contract with Football South at the moment, so I guess I’m here until whenever I decide I want to leave.
“The plan at the moment is to stay this side of the world for as long as I can and maybe see a bit of the world if I do end up going home. I’m enjoying my time here at the moment so I have no reason to leave right now.”
Can you see yourself back at Limerick as some stage?
GC: “Who knows? If I do decide to come home I’ll have to weigh up my options, but before I left I told Neil McDonald I’d contact him first at Limerick if I came back to Ireland, so I guess I’ll have to stick to my word as regards that. I’m enjoying myself so I don’t really have a plan to come back home just yet.”