Free Gaffers by Trevor Keane

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Authors: Trevor Keane
then saw Steve Heighway become Ireland’s youngest-ever international when Heighway played against Poland at Dalymount Park, and less than a year later the record was broken again when Meagan handed the then seventeen-year-old Jimmy Holmes a cap as a substitute in a game against Austria.
    So, while his results might not have been top mark, the changes that Ireland craved were slowly coming to the fore, and Meagan was the catalyst for that change. A quiet and laid-back man, he was popular with the players and seemed to be an excellent choice for manager.
    Born in Dublin, Mick started his career in football as a left-winger, signing for Everton in 1952; once on Merseyside he was soon converted to left-back, but he had to wait until the 1957– 58 season to make his League debut. Although not guaranteed a first-team place, he stayed with the club until 1964 when he was transferred to Huddersfield Town in a part exchange deal for Ray Wilson.
    One of his longest runs in the team coincided with the return to Everton’s trophy-winning ways. The 1962–63 season saw Meagan play thirty-two times at left-back as the club won the League title for the first time since the Second World War. This was to be his last season with Everton, and after his spell with Huddersfield Town he joined Halifax Town, whom he helped to promotion from the Fourth Division.
    Meagan’s international debut came in May 1961 when he was chosen to play at left-back during a World Cup qualifier against Scotland at Hampden Park. Although Ireland lost 4–1, Meagan impressed enough to be selected to play in the return game the following week at Dalymount Park. By the end of his international career, Meagan had played for Ireland seventeen times.
    After leaving Halifax Town in 1969, Mick returned to Ireland to become player-manager for Drogheda United, whom he led to their first FAI Cup final and he stayed there until 1974, when he moved to Shamrock Rovers. As well as playing for the Milltown-based team, he was also player-manager from 1974 to 1976, along with Theo Dunne. Although his return to the club was not the success many had hoped for, there are two games that stand out. The first one was when Rovers defeated Japan 3–2 in front of 60,000 spectators when touring that country, while the second saw history being made when Meagan played on the same team as his son Mark in the FAI Cup.
    Mark Meagan grew up with a League winner for a father and always knew he wanted to follow in his dad’s footsteps. He played League of Ireland football for Shamrock Rovers, Waterford United, Athlone Town and Kilkenny City, winning a League title with Athlone under Turlough O’Connor. But it was the club his father was managing at the time, Shamrock Rovers, that he signed for as a sixteen-year-old, making his way in the game for the first time: ‘I remember it well, actually. Mick and the team were over in Japan with Rovers, and Dinny Lowry was in charge of the second team. They invited me down to train with them. It was difficult and wonderful at the same time. Mick was a perfectionist on the pitch and a huge influence on me and my career. I think as a manager he still wanted to be one of the boys and found it hard to distance himself from the players. Mick just wanted to play football and leave the team selection to other people.
    ‘The game before we played together and made FAI history, I had played a stinker and was quite rightly substituted. Mick had not played in that game, and I was not expecting to be picked for the replay, but, luckily enough, I got in. We had drawn with St Patrick’s Athletic 1–1 in Richmond, but we lost the replay 4–1. I played midfield that day. It was a great feeling to share the pitch with Mick, although it would have been nicer to have won.’
    In 1969 Mick Meagan became the first manager of the Republic of Ireland to be able to pick his own team. The top players, including Johnny Giles, had become frustrated

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