He’s deep into the twilight of his career by now but 35-year-old Gary Deegan can foresee a full-time Premier Division becoming the norm after he’s finished.
The midfielder returned from a decade in the UK to a hybrid model, one that necessitated him seeking alternative employment to supplement his part-time wage.
Shelbourne, his schoolboy school, was the first destination before Drogheda United came calling at the start of last season.
One of only two 10 top-flight clubs not to operate a full-time system, Drogs still approach Friday night’s Louth derby against Dundalk 12 points clear of the relegation playoff but, similar to club owner Conor Hoey, Deegan feels they could eventually get left behind.
“I think full-time benefits everyone,” asserted the holding midfielder, who took in Coventry City, Hibernian and Shrewsbury Town during his spell abroad.
“If every club is full-time, it makes it a stronger league. I was used to being full-time for long periods of my career and I’d love to do it with Drogheda.
“It also takes away the part-time question. Three weeks ago, when we brought Shamrock Rovers to extra-time in the FAI Cup, nobody would question which team was semi-pro.
“There will always be certain expectations on semi-pro clubs until you become full-time. That does us a disservice sometimes.” Deegan and manager Kevin Doherty have lots in common, stemming back to their days as teammates at Longford Town, but they also share the profession as postmen.
The early routine is to the player’s liking and, while it does pose a physical strain competing against those rested and readied, mentality can compensate.
“Come into training, you can’t say that you’re tired,” he asserts.
“Fans judge you on Friday, not caring what you’ve done before the game. They pay their money to see players and you can give yourself a lot of outs but as a football club we won’t do that.
“I talk a lot about responsibilities so, if I’m able to play and have a job at 35, it’s a model for not having an excuse.
“I don’t know whether that’s a good or bad thing but I certainly don’t use it as an excuse and I don’t think young lad should either. When players come in the door here at Drogheda, they know what’s expected of them.” Doherty was promoted from assistant to manager when Tim Clancy quit for St Patrick’s Athletic in the off-season, bringing with him to Inchicore a glut of players including Joe Redmond, Mark Doyle and David Odumosu.
That exodus of quality and experience has pushed extra duties on the likes of Deegan and Dane Massey, with the pair’s presence aiding the manager’s first campaign.
“It’s mad that, 15 years down the line from Longford, Kevin is my manager,” noted Deegan.
“The good thing about knowing someone is not letting them down. Kev is one of those people you don’t take the foot off the gas for. He’s been brilliant.” Compounding the recent woes of a Dundalk side dumped out of the FAI Cup at Waterford and drifting 10 points of leaders Rovers is their latest collective aim tonight.
“This is the pick of games to get us motivated after the break,” Deegan added. “Dundalk will have Oriel Park rocking and these games are sometimes decided by a mistake. We’ll be ready because we want to finish the season on a high.” Friday’s LOI fixtures (7.45pm unless stated):
Premier Division: Bohemians v UCD, Dundalk v Drogheda United, St Patrick’s Athletic v Derry City, Finn Harps v Shelbourne (8pm).
First Division: Athlone Town v Longford Town, Treaty United v Galway United, Waterford v Cobh Ramblers, Wexford v Bray Wanderers.