Former Cork City star George O’Callaghan says Pat Dolan changed the culture of Cork City, but admits his old boss let him “get away with murder”.
“I probably should have been sacked five or six times. I don’t know how they persevered with me.
“Pat was a bit of a genius in his own way. He changed the culture at Cork City. He was very good to me the whole way. but I broke his heart.
“I never really stuck to the rules with Pat. I used get away with it, the other lads didn’t.”
Speaking with Graham Cummins on an entertaining episode of the A Footballer’s Life podcast, O’Callaghan describes the lengths to which Dolan would go to keep him on the straight and narrow.
“He sent me out one night to give a signed Cork City jersey to Ronan Keating for his mum’s cancer charity. Pat said on the Saturday, go out and have a good night.
“So we were at the top table in the Silver Springs (now Clayton Hotel) and I was drinking away, and a Cork City fan said, ‘Pat Dolan’s behind you’.
“This was 12 o’clock. And Pat caught the waiter and said ‘four pints of water for George’.
“And he pulled me out and threw me into the car, brought me to my house and sent me into my mum and dad around quarter to one.
“And I was thinking, he’ll be gone in 10 minutes, I'll take a taxi into town. But Pat sat in my drive until 5 o'clock in the morning. So I just gave up in the end and went to bed.”
Having left City to join Ipswich, O’Callaghan briefly returned in 2008 and describes the incredible wages being paid when the club was run by investment firm Arkaga.
“I was offered massive massive money to come back to Cork. I couldn't have turned it down if I tried. There were some weeks when I’d be coming out with seven or eight grand.
“I actually used keep the wage slips because I’d say to (wife) Emma, ‘how is this going to last’?
“We played Limerick and there was about 500 at the match at Turner’s Cross because everyone was watching a Champions League semi-final.
“And I was on €750 appearance fee and €500 a goal. And I think I scored two that night. And we were on a clean sheet bonus. It was crazy.”
O'Callaghan admits the bonus culture once sparked a fight with City teammate Dave Mooney over who should take a penalty.
“Because I was on €500 a goal, of course we were. I scored 11 goals when we won the league in 2005 and everyone thought I was great. I came back for three or four months and scored 11 goals and was top goalscorer and everyone thought I was shite.
“Nobody ever got paid what I got paid in the League of Ireland, without a doubt. It would be impossible. But it only lasted four months.”
During his early spell at Port Vale, O’Callaghan almost joined Arsenal and was heavily linked with a move to Tottenham. He considers not making that switch a “massive massive mistake” in his career.
Things went sour at Port Vale and he admits turning to drink as a promising career stalled.
“You’re responsible for your own actions so it’s ultimately your own fault. But nobody looked out for me or had my back at the club. Nobody caught me and said, ‘George, what’s going on, you’re not yourself’.
“Those days, the clubs didn’t care, it was old school, you were put out to do the job and if you didn’t you were replaced
“You never asked anyone for help in those days. I kind of went into meltdown. Everything unraveled, I didn’t know what I was doing, It was just reckless. Ultimately they got rid of me and I was back home.
“I was in that culture, that drinking culture. If you’re dropped you go drinking, if you’re playing and you win you go drinking.
“A lot of players ring me about it now, but there's a lot more support now. The PFA in England are brilliant. But back then nobody cared.”
A much-travelled career also took in a spell as a player in Brunei, where he got into trouble for failing to bow to the Crown Prince. And a stint as a general manager in Malaysia, where he struggled to deal with El Hadji Diouf.
Now 40, he was speaking before the coronavirus outbreak as he prepared to launch a new Anytime Fitness gym in Ballincollig.
“It’s been entertaining, There’s never a dull moment and that’s the way I like it. I’ve had to do a lot of growing up. Because I’ve two kids now. It was grand when i was in my early twenties. You can’t hang a man for being a bit wild in his twenties.
“But these days, everything is settled, it’s a very different life. Everyone has an opinion on me from 15 years ago. They don't see the difference in me as I got older. Nobody has seen that.
“Everyone is interested in all the madness that went on but life’s good. It’s good to be home, my little boy’s playing football, my daughter’s flying. I go watch City on a Friday night. It’s great to meet all the lads again.”