Magic McCaffrey

Dermot McCaffrey. (DMC1208AQ01)
Dermot McCaffrey. (DMC1208AQ01)
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One car takes up a space in the car park beside the Brandywell club house. It’s a black Renault Megane and in the driver’s seat is Derry City left-back Dermot McCaffrey.

It’s a sunny day and Dermot has just finished an early morning training session at William Street swimming pool.

Derry City FC manager Declan Devine with new club signing Dermot McCaffrey. (2102PG40)

Derry City FC manager Declan Devine with new club signing Dermot McCaffrey. (2102PG40)

“God, it was tough this morning,” says Dermot.

“We have another session this afternoon - I’ll have sore muscles later on,” he laughs.

Dermot was born on March 29, 1986 and reared in the County Tyrone village of Clogher.

His mother, Brigid, works in a local shop and his father, Eamon is a mushroom farmer. Dermot has one older sister, Marion and one younger brother, Sean, who now lives in Australia.

“It was a pretty normal childhood,” begins Dermot.

“We didn’t have too many fancy holidays or anything like that but I remember one time we visited St. James’s Park in Newcastle one summer. My brother and sister are Manchester United fans so we had to go to Old Trafford too. We then visited family in Birmingham and went to see Birmingham City take on Aston Villa in a friendly - they are really good memories.”

Dermot, a self-confessed Newcastle United fan, attended St. Macartan’s Primary School, Clogher before moving on to St. Ciaran’s College, Ballygawley.

“I wasn’t really that interested in school to be honest - all I wanted to do was either play soccer or Gaelic football.”

Dermot played for his local G.A.C., Clogher Éire Óg where he played as both a centre-half-forward and as a wing-half-forward.

If kicking between the posts wasn’t enough to keep him fit and healthy, Dermot also played soccer for Fivemiletown United F.C.

“I started playing soccer when I was 14 or 15. I was only with Fivemiletown for about a year and then I moved to Dunbreen Rovers where I played for the U15 and U16 teams.

“I stayed with Dunbreen for about a year and then I started playing for Dungannon United Youth and soon after that I played a few games for the Dungannon Swifts reserves.”

During his time playing football in the Fermanagh & Western league, Dermot represented County Tyrone in the Milk Cup twice and Northern Ireland U18s once.

“When you’re that age playing in the Milk Cup was like playing in the World Cup - it was all that mattered.

“I really enjoyed playing for Tyrone in the Milk Cup and lining out for the Northern Ireland elite squad was special too.”

It wasn’t all plain sailing for Dermot. He failed to make the County Tyrone Milk Cup team when he was in his early teens and as a result said that he thought of walking away from football.

“I couldn’t believe that I didn’t get in. I remember the trials were on a Friday and I’d made my mind up that I was just going to concentrate on playing Gaelic football but we had a match a few days later. I played in the match and looking back now it was good that the game cam so soon after the Milk Cup disappointment because I was definitely for walking away.”

Dermot also had trials for the Tyrone minor G.A.A. team. The young Clogher gael reached the final cut off point but got his days mixed up and as a result didn’t make the team.

“I’d done well to get as far as I did and I thought the final selection day was on a Sunday. There was Milk Cup training on the Saturday so I was able to do both.

“I arrived at the ground for the minor selection on the Sunday and there was no-one there. It happened the day before and I got my days all wrong but even if I’d known it was on the Saturday, I still wouldn’t have gone because I wanted to play in the Milk Cup.”

After making a few appearances for Dungannon Swifts Reserves, 17 year-old Dermot started to attract the attention of clubs in Scotland.

“I signed for Hibs [Hibernian F.C.] when I was 17,” said Dermot.

“My first contract was a two year youth deal but after that the then manager Tony Mowbray offered me a two year deal.”

Dermot has been a familiar figure at left-back for Derry City this season but when playing for Hibernian F.C. he did so as a centre-back.

“I enjoyed my time at Hibs,” said Dermot.

“I learned a lot working under people like Tony Mowbray, Mark Venus and Mark Proctor but I never really managed to break into the first team - at the age of 19 or 20 I was always on the fringes.”

In a bid to experience first team football Dermot went out on loan to Queen of the South for four months before returning to Easter Road at the end of the season.

A second loan spell beckoned, only this time it was with Livingston F.C.

Dermot played almost 30 games for the West Lothian team and played alongside Northern Ireland international James McPake and Scotland international and Norwich City player Robert Snodgrass.

“I was in great condition when I was at Livingston,” he said.

“I really enjoyed playing for the club. I played most of my games as a centre-back and did alright.

“I went back to Hibs but just as I arrived, the manager John Collins left and he was replaced by Mixu Paatelainen. I didn’t really hear anything from him so I took it from that I wasn’t going to get a new deal so I had to find a new club.”

Livingston F.C. offered Dermot a contract but due to uncertainties at the club he signed a three year deal with Falkirk instead.

“There was a lot going on at Livingston at the time. Mark Proctor was manager at the time and he wanted me to sign but there were rumours that a group of Italians were going to buy the club. I was afraid that Mark would leave if they took over and I was right, he did leave.

“However, my time at Falkirk wasn’t great. I was offered a three year deal yet I was kept on the bench and only made a handful of appearances. Looking back now, I wish I had joined Livingston.”

After a season and a half at Falkirk Dermot was given the green light to find a new club. He played six games for Arbroath F.C. before moving back home to Tyrone where he joined Dungannon Swifts until the end of the 2010 season.

“I wanted to come back and get my head together but I should have gone back to Scotland sooner. Instead, I game to an agreement with Falkirk and left.”

At the end of the 2010 season Dermot attempted to find a club in England but a trial with Accrington Stanley proved unsuccessful; soon after he returned to Dungannon Swifts where he played almost 70 games before joining Derry City in February this year.

“When I heard Derry City were interested in signing me I was delighted. The club rang me and told me I could talk to Derry so I met with Paul Hegarty and Declan Devine and the rest is history as they say.

“If I am honest, the way I feel right now is the best I have felt for years. I feel as fit as I did when I was playing in Scotland. We train five, six times a week for Derry - it’s such a professional club.

“I’ve loved every moment playing at the Brandywell. The fans are amazing. I am contracted to the end of next season so whatever happens, happens but at the minute I am focused and concentrating on helping Derry City win matches and hopefully a few trophies,” smiles Dermot.