Liam Buckley has enjoyed a remarkable career as both a player and manager, which is why he was voted the Airtricity/Soccer Writers’ Association of Ireland Personality of the Year for 2013. But by his side throughout it all has been his most trusted companion.
By Sean Creedon
You followed me to Texas,
You followed me to Utah,
We didn’t find it there,
So we moved on…
The opening lines of the old Country song My Elusive Dreams strike a cord and a similarity between the newly-crowned Airtricity/SWAI Personality of the Year winner Liam Buckley and his wife Orlaith.
There is a saying that ‘behind every great man is a great woman’. Well, in soccer parlance, you could probably change that to ‘behind every great player or manager is a loyal and patient wife or partner’.
At the end of almost every St Patrick’s Athletic game in 2013, home and away, a familiar presence could be found in the media rooms of various Airtricity League clubs, waiting patiently for her husband to complete interviews with the various journalists.
But then Orlaith Cunningham and Liam Buckley have been together a long time and she never tires of following her man on what have not really been ‘elusive dreams’, as Liam had had much success along the way. The couple grew up together on the same road in Manor Estate, in South Dublin as Orlaith explains: ‘We are married 29 years and had been seeing one another for four or five years before that.’
Liam began his career with Shelbourne and after a few seasons with Shamrock Rovers he moved to Canada to link up with the Vancouver Whitecaps. After that, it was back to Milltown with Rovers, from where he made his Republic of Ireland debut against Poland in May 1984 before moving to Waregem in Belgium. Further moves to Santander in Spain and FC Montreux in Switzerland followed before cementing his status on the home front with Rovers, St Pat’s, Sligo Rovers and Athlone Town.
And all of that was just as a player. Since moving into management, he has served Athlone, St Pat’s, Shamrock Rovers, and Sporting Fingal, where lifting trophies (two League titles and the FAI Cup) has become a common theme for the blond-haired Dubliner.
So after all that travelling, which city did Orlaith like best? ‘I loved the lifestyle in Spain, but we made some great friends in Belgium and we were well-treated by everybody at Waregem. We were very friendly with a few other couples at the club and they came to Ireland for our wedding.
‘Over the years, I tried to get to see all of Liam’s games, but I missed his debut for Santander against Barcelona in the Nou Camp back in August 1986. Gary Lineker and Mark Hughes both made their debut for Barcelona that evening, but as we had only just arrived in Spain I didn’t have anyone to travel with – the team flew to Barcelona together.
‘Last season, I got to see all of St Patrick’s home games. I missed the European game away to Zalgiris and the league game against Shelbourne at Tolka Park as it clashed with our son Marc’s graduation night.’
The Buckley’s two other sons, Graeme and Alex, are also big St Pat’s fans and Graeme helps out with the team’s warm-up before every game. So you can say that it’s definitely a family affair for the Buckley’s.
All of that travelling and support was worthwhile as on October 13, 2013, when St Pat’s beat Sligo Rovers 2-0 at Richmond Park to clinch the Airtricity League Premier Division title. The win meant that Liam’s premier dreams came to fruition for the second time in 14 years.
Afterwards Orlaith said: ‘After the win over Sligo, Liam admitted that last season’s team felt more like his own than it did in 1999 because back then he inherited the team from previous manager Pat Dolan. As he said himself, he appreciates the success a bit more because he is older and a bit wiser now.’
As Liam’s career – and quest for more glory – continues, you can be sure that Orlaith won’t be far from view. They’ve covered a lot of miles together, but there are many more on the horizon.
*Image courtesy of Sportsfile