Greener Pastures: Seinäjoki feels most like home for Tommy Dunne
Former Cork and Galway manager is back coaching in city he previously played in
Tommy Dunne managed Cork City and Galway United in the League of Ireland before returning to Finland. Photo: Cathal Noonan/Inpho
Name: Tommy Dunne
DOB: April 27th, 1972
Hometown: Drimnagh, Dublin
Position: Academy Manager
When Tommy Dunne speaks, that croaky timbre fostered on Drimnagh’s streets is just as evident as it was in the 70s. Even though Dublin remains his place of birth and the place where so many family members still call home, Seinäjoki is home for him. And of all the obstacles he’s been forced to overcome, from Dublin to Cork to Galway and overseas, retaining that familiar accent must have been among his most challenging to date. There’s no fear of it disintegrating now, even if he’s surrounded by a different tribe.
Dunne travelled to the Finnish city in December 2018, though even then it had the feel of a return home to a familiar setting. He had previously played and managed in the city, a 35-minute drive from a small town called Kurrika where his wife was raised, and, anyway, his last spell in Ireland saw him stationed largely in Cork where neither he nor his wife had any family. From the outset, Seinäjoki felt right. It still does.
Life as a League of Ireland manager brings its own precarious set of pressures, as Dunne understands only too well having moved on from both Cork City and Galway United, and though he was happy working for the FAI on Leeside after his stint in the West, the family decided that a move back to Scandinavia was best for them. And so, in many ways, Dunne and his young family moved home at the tail-end of 2018.
“It was a family decision,” Dunne says. “Cork, probably, was never the place we were going to settle.
“In saying that, we all enjoyed Cork. We loved it. I enjoyed my period in Galway as well. They’re two fabulous places. There was potential to stay but we decided it was best to move from a family viewpoint.”
Finland offered the opportunity of stability, a rarity within the League of Ireland habitat where looking any further than a few months ahead can prove a fatal endeavour – even for a seasoned personality such as the Dubliner.
With SJK, an amalgamation of two erstwhile rivals who joined together in hope of sustainability, Dunne is well-regarded. He was their very first manager in 2007, as was the case with Cork City under the current Foras ownership and Galway FC a decade ago.
After semi-retiring from a playing career, he moved to Finland where he also got back into playing while dabbling in his new management role. That early stint as a manager soon led him back to the country of his birth where he became manager of Cork City before moving to Terryland.
But while his various stints in the League of Ireland saw him forage for funds to keep the respective shows afloat, the Finnish club has facilities and resources consisting of six full-time club coaches, heated synthetic pitches, an analyst, physio rooms, meeting rooms and more.
“You’re not wanting for anything,” he adds. “I’d be the head of the senior team in the academy, if you’d like to call it that. Our group for this season will be a number of players that will be knocking on the door of the first team and some younger ones that are coming up that have potential to be first team players and international players.”
The academy team he manages acts in a similar manner to Shamrock Rovers’ development side in Ireland’s second tier, a de-facto B team, though the Finnish outfit had to be promoted into the division last season under Dunne’s guidance.
“I’m still managing a team and the pressure to win is still there, but there’s a little bit more of an emphasis on developing players. It’s a little bit like the Galway scenario that I had where there was an element of development as well as trying to be successful, too.
“It was a small operation when I came in 2007 but now it’s a club that’s one of the biggest in Finland. There’s a lot of staff; there’s international players in the club.
“There’s a lot of businesses within the club structure as well which are feeding into the football club and then the boss, Raimo Sarajärvi [the club chairman], would be putting in quite a bit of money with other benefactors. So the club is very well run.”
When all is said and done, it’s unlikely he’ll be upping sticks again any time soon. His current habitat feels like a natural fit. For home is where the heart is and the heart, quite clearly, is with family in Seinäjoki.