Here’s one to store away for a pub quiz. Who was the first American-born soccer manager to win a top-tier league in Europe? John Caulfield is the answer. Surprised? Well, the League of Ireland is full of surprises!
When the summaries are written of the 2020 season here the headlines and large tracts of text will be given over to COVID-19, the empty stadiums, the streamed games and the truncated fixture list. The impact John Caulfield has had at Galway United won’t get the column inches it deserves.
Although the five-game winning run came to an end on Friday last at home to play-off-chasing rivals Cobh Ramblers, Caulfield had already written himself into Tribesmen history by making the best-ever managerial start at the club.
Caulfield’s appointment at Eamonn Deacy Park – and indeed, his return to the League of Ireland fold – were welcome news this term. His departure from Cork after a slow decline in fortunes in the wake of the 2017 double was sad for all concerned, but the upside was that Caulfield would be ready for the next challenge after some time out. That next challenge turned out to be Galway.
Caulfield was born in The Bronx in New York, but moved to Ireland as a small boy [his mother was from Cork and his father from Mayo].The family settled in Roscommon, not a county that had a League of Ireland club but this didn’t stop Caulfield from immersing himself in the League as a boy – he attended Athlone Town games with his dad, including the AC Milan European tie in 1975-76. When boarding at Summerhill College to study for his Leaving Certificate he attended Sligo Rovers games.
Caulfield has always fascinated me. I first came across his name when he was part of the League of Ireland ‘B’ title-winning Athlone Town side in 1983-84, where his team-mates included Fran Hitchcock and Turlough O’Connor. A subsequent spell at Wembley in the Munster Senior League preceded his lengthy run as a goal machine at Cork City that stretched through three separate decades [1986 to 2001, 129 goals in 455 games].
Winding down his playing career at Avondale United was the bridge into full-time management for Caulfield, who transformed the club into one of Ireland’s leading intermediate set-ups during his time there [2002 to 2010]. He arrived at Cork City in 2013 via UCC.
Decorated at League of Ireland level as a player – a 1992-93 Premier Division medal; top-scorer in 1991-92 and 1994-95 – and as a manager [the 2016 FAI Cup and the 2017 ‘double’], Caulfield is no stranger to success. Will he bring success to Galway? Time will tell. It would be great to see.