Name: Niall McCabe
DOB: October 6th, 1990
Club: Louisville City FC
Hometown: Ringsend, Dublin
The car is crammed, excitement is bubbling, and Niall McCabe and his young family are skimming down a North America highway bound for the theme parks of Orlando, Florida .
Starting out from Louisville, Kentucky, it’s one serious jaunt and a half, taking the guts of 13 hours by road and that’s without considering the need for stops. But ahead of the looming purgatory of pre-season confronting the Dubliner, it’s time well spent with those closest to him.
Anyway, travelling up and down the US is a chore that McCabe has become accustomed to, and a noisy backseat only brings an element of enjoyment to these journeys. In a few short weeks the crammed car of family members will be swapped for flights with teammates. Life could be worse.
"We have a couple of teams that are within a couple of hours of us," says McCabe of life in the USL, a tier below the MLS. "Indianapolis, for example, are two hours away. But we go down as far as Miami, up as far as New York, as far over as Kansas. "
That leads to a hectic schedule on weekends when Louisville play away.
“We would usually leave on the Friday morning. We would train, shower after training, and there would be a bus to take us to the airport. We would arrive at the location on Friday afternoon, play the next day and stay the night there, and then we’d leave Sunday morning. So it’s the whole weekend.
“I know this year we’ll play Tampa and Miami. We’ll play in Miami on a Tuesday, and Tampa on the Saturday, both away. So we’ll head down to Miami on Monday, play Tuesday, probably stay in Miami on Tuesday night, leave for Tampa on Wednesday morning, train at a location throughout the week, play Tampa on the Saturday and then leave on Sunday to go back to Louisville.”
It’s tiresome even relaying the schedule, never mind putting it into practise. These kind of excursions can naturally make balancing family life with football difficult, as is the case with everyone in the profession. The sheer size of North America only adds to the demands.
The Ringsend footballer arrived in the US nine years ago after receiving a scholarship to go to college in Georgia. A third-level education was never in his plans back in Ireland, and since offers were not coming from across the Irish Sea, McCabe gleefully grasped the nettle, beginning a new life a few hours to the west.
The offer actually arrived from Young Harris College when he was working on the factory floor in Ballymount,Dublin, and so football had suddenly become his life, the activity around which his world revolved.
Now, after four years in college and five with Louisville City, McCabe has new priorities, though he insists that a young family does not rob him of ambitious targets across the whitewash.
“Football is very competitive, and you always want a challenge. If the opportunity came and it was a good challenge and maybe it was a step up or something like that, I think that with the type of person I am I’m always looking to challenge myself – to get the best out of myself.
“If ever an opportunity came, either abroad or here in the States, I think you would have to have a look.
“But the standard is quite good [at Louisville City] and the players are there. We get attendances of anywhere between 8,000 to 11,000 at our matches.
“We’ve been playing in a baseball stadium so it hasn’t been great for fans. I’m anticipating once we go to the new stadium, with a capacity of 11,500, that we would be there or thereabouts.”
So, life in the Bluegrass State is treating him well. He arrived in Louisville just as the club was established, and has been a resident in the side’s midfield ever since.
That time has spawned extraordinary success: the franchise has made the USL Championship final for the last three years running, winning the first two, becoming league heavyweights and beginning the accumulation of a storied tradition.
With another off-season now coming to an end, and ahead of a season where the club will be aiming to reclaim the title, McCabe is squeezing in a quick trip to Florida before returning again with his teammates – a long way from the shift in Ballymount.
"Right now we're getting ready to go to IMG – it's a big training complex down in Florida. A lot of the USL teams, the MLS teams, even European teams – I think Hertha Berlin were down there as well -–all head down.
“We’re down there for 10 or 11 days, then back to Louisville for four days, and then we’ll fly out to Salt Lake City in Utah for 10 days to complete pre-season. It’s a lot of travelling but it’s brilliant.
“Living the dream, still.”