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Saturday 10 December 2016

Supple: My ship has sailed with the Dubs

Cluxton 'really is that good' says St Brigid's and Bohemians goalie

Dundalk’s Brian Gartland and Dane Massey (r) battle with Bohs’ Shane Supple during their SSE Airtricity League Premier Division game at Oriel Park in Dundalk last month.
Dundalk’s Brian Gartland and Dane Massey (r) battle with Bohs’ Shane Supple during their SSE Airtricity League Premier Division game at Oriel Park in Dundalk last month.

"When I came back from England," says Shane Supple, recalling for the umpteen thousandth time the decision that still induces both head scratching and head shaking amongst Irish wannabe professional footballers, "I had no intention of ever playing soccer ever again".

That was August 2009.

Supple's contract with Ipswich was terminated by then manager, Roy Keane at Supple's own request.

He returned with a bad taste for the sport, the industry that had consumed it and the dream of lining out for the Dubs.

"Realistically, it looks like my time is gone," he told the Herald, having put down half a season at Bohemians, where he will begin the next one as their first-choice keeper, having also given up his inter-county aspirations.

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"It would have been something I'd have loved to have done at some stage," he admits, "but I think now it's probably somebody else's thing to take on," added Supple who recently launched a new online store for goalkeepers, www.4thepitch.ie

"So I think yeah, that ship has sailed for me."

At 28, Supple is still in prime goalkeeping age but his return to the pro ranks with Bohemians has put an occupational stumbling block in front of the gigantic one placed by Stephen Cluxton's longevity and enduring class.

In 2013, he accepted an invitation from Jim Gavin to be part of the squad to "see what it was all about with Dublin".

"I knew obviously Stephen was the main man," he recalls now.

"But the reason I left was that I wanted to play games.

"And for the training and commitment you give, it's a lot to ask lads to sacrifice without playing games.

"So for me, I had to step back."

It's a fair indicator of Cluxton's importance that the non-selection of a goalkeeper of the quality of Supple was never an issue.

The Dublin captain, according to Supple, "really is that good," and all the commentary about him changing the position is accurate in his estimation.

The weighting of goalkeeping responsibilities has shifted entirely, as illustrated by the example of Mayo management's ultimately disastrous decision to pick Rob Hennelly over David Clarke in the All-Ireland SFC final replay.

"Obviously it looks like a horrendous call now," Supple says.

"But I can see why it was made. Rob and Clarke would be different 'keepers. Rob is obviously a better striker of the ball but it didn't work out for him on the day.

"But it just shows how important that is now.

"The other stuff is secondary now for a 'keeper. Shot-stopping, aerial balls - that's all less important than if your 'keeper can find his man off the tee.

"And tactically, you have to be aware of the game and what's going on and there's not too many out there that are," he explains.

"Obviously Stephen is the best. But coaching-wise, there's not a lot being done on it because they don't know. There's no one who has been there and done it that has finished and started coaching.

"Maybe when Stephen finishes .... I don't know if he would get into coaching. But he would nearly be the first one."

His return to soccer was unexpected, even by Supple himself. Last October, he started playing for Crumlin United when their manager, Martin Loughran, asked him "to give a dig out".

"His keeper effectively left him in the s**t," Supple remembers now and as Loughran had granted him use of Crumlin's facilities for coaching purposes, he felt an obligation.

So having spent the previous six years rejecting almost every club in the Airtricity League, the offers gushed in once more.

Keith Long, Bohs' manager, offered both a contract and his word that Supple could continue playing Gaelic football with St Brigid's.

Everything since has gone swimmingly to the point where he is again being bombarded with the same question he got pelted with back in 2009.

Any regrets?

"Naturally, that's what people would think and assume and I can understand that. But I have absolutely no regrets," Supple insists.

"It's funny how things have worked out. I never thought I would be back playing the game again. But I'm really enjoying it.

"I'm still young enough for a keeper. And it's something now that I want to do and continue to do for as long as I can because I've got a bit of hunger back. But no. No regrets. Everything happens for a reason," Supple concludes.

"I believe that this was meant to be my path. It has just come full circle now."

* 4ThePitch.ie is Ireland's newest online goalkeeper store stocking some of Europe's top brands at affordable prices. They offer a wide range of goalkeeper gloves and clothing all with the added option of personalising your order with your name and number.

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