Dundalk’s Gary Rogers has no regrets over choosing soccer

Goalkeeper who considered Gaelic football looks forward to Champions League clash

Dundalk goalkeeper Gary Rogers during training at the Aviva Stadium ahead of the Champions League qualifier first leg against Legia Warsaw.  Photograph:  Gary Carr/Inpho

Dundalk goalkeeper Gary Rogers during training at the Aviva Stadium ahead of the Champions League qualifier first leg against Legia Warsaw. Photograph: Gary Carr/Inpho

 

Having twice been tempted to give up the game in order to play inter-county football for his native Meath, Gary Rogers’s persistence at his chosen code is paying off on an unexpected scale these days – with European football at a level he had only previously dreamed of about to follow on fast from his first international call-up.

That had all been a long time coming but the 34 -year-old is hoping there might somehow be even better to come if only Dundalk can spring one more surprise. Rogers has been around the league a long time and experienced the rougher side of the game here more than once, as clubs he was contracted to went under or out of senior football.

But, over the second half of his career, he has established himself as about the best there is still based at home. And, after getting a guest spot with the Ireland squad – initially just to train with them in March but then as a substitute for the Netherlands friendly international in May – the former St Patrick’s Athletic and Sligo Rovers goalkeeper is hoping that group stage European football might just give him the platform to establish if he really is international class.

“You never know,” he says with a shrug, “it’s certainly something that you aspire to but you never take anything for granted. I don’t think you can in football because it has a way of kicking you in the teeth when you think you’ve done well; the Galway result will show you that.

“We had a terrific result against Bate, we didn’t play badly against Galway but we got beat so, from the highs and lows of football . . . you never know what’s going to happen. But if it was something that happened, obviously, I’d be delighted.”

It would be a remarkable achievement for a player who came close to concentrating on Gaelic football as a 17-year-old and almost returned to it when his then League of Ireland club, Dublin City went to the wall a few years later.

The first time, a three- month ban after an altercation with a referee while playing for his local club, St Ultan’s, sort of made his mind up for him; the second time, he played two league games for the county and had plans for more before Tony Cousins called with the offer of a contract at Galway United.

“You look at the amount of football I have played, as a soccer player, whereas if I had played Gaelic with Meath... Even if I had played every Championship game between 2006 and now, I might have only played 50 games whereas I play football every week and you can make a living. It’s a lifestyle choice really. “There is an opportunity to earn a living from playing soccer, too. I love both, coming from Meath, your first love is Gaelic but playing soccer has been really good to me; I’ve had a good career out of it and it’s something I still enjoy doing. I’m not sorry I took the road I did to be honest.”

There have been league and cup honours at a few different clubs in the past few years but nothing quite like what now lies around the corner and Rogers reckons the those days with the senior international squad will stand him in good stead against Legia and beyond.

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