a final shot AT GLORy
Foley hoping journey for first medal ends in Belgium
THIRTEEN CLUBS in five different counties over 16 seasons -- but no medals.
Yet former Ireland striker Dominic Foley hopes that his luck, and his barren spell in terms of silverware, will end this week. This season has already been something of a success for the Belgian-based Corkman as his club, Cercle Bruges, are already guaranteed Europa League football for next season but the club -- and Foley -- can win a rare trophy if they can lift the Belgian Cup on Saturday night, when Cercle take on Foley's former club Gent in the final.
"It's a long time to be playing football without winning anything, and I want to get some sort of medal before my career finishes, so Saturday's game is a big one for me," Foley told the Herald.
"I'm not planning on quitting just yet. I have two more years left on my contract here with Bruges and I intend to at least see that out as I am playing well, maybe the best football of my career as I've scored 16 goals in all competitions so far this season, which equals my previous best record.
"But to get that medal in the final on Saturday night would mean a lot to me. I've had a good career. I played for some big clubs and played in the Premier League in England and Portugal. I played for my country. But to win a medal and have something to show for my career would mean a great deal," added the 33-year-old.
"The closest I came to a medal was in the Belgian Cup with Gent two years ago. We got to the final but lost to Anderlecht, so hopefully I can go one better this season. The whole town is buzzing about the game as Cercle haven't had much success. It's 25 years since they won a trophy and that was the Belgian Cup, so everyone is excited about it."
The cup final is a big deal in Belgium, especially as neither of the big clubs, Anderlecht or Standard Liege are there, and a crowd of 45,000 is expected at the final, with a 20-strong contingent coming from Cork to support Foley.
Foley's club have already qualified for Europe, even if they lose, as their opponents in the final, Gent, have secured a place in the Champions League thanks to the extremely complicated play-off system which finishes off the Belgian league championship.
"We were up and down this season," says Foley of his team's performance. "We were very average in the first half of the season, very good in the second half, but we dropped too many points early on to make a real impact in the league, and then our form in the play-offs was poor as well.
"The league overall was messy here as one club, Mouscron, went bust midway through the season so the league now has an uneven number of clubs. It's not just in Ireland that clubs go out of business. It was a surprise that happened. Clubs have been in financial trouble since I came here four years ago but they were always bailed out by someone, but this time the club was let go to the wall."
Cercle are underdogs for the final as Gent have been impressive in the league, and Foley knows it will be hard for his side to lift the trophy. "They are stronger than us so it's going to be a battle," he says. "We have injuries to three of our key players now. If they're fit for the final then we have a 50/50 chance, but if they don't make it I think we'll struggle."
No matter what happens in the final, Foley has enjoyed one of the best seasons in his long career, which started in the League of Ireland and St James' Gate back in 1995.
"I scored 16 goals, 14 in the league, which is good going for me," says Foley, never the most prolific of goalscorers, who managed just one goal in 13 games in his first season with Bohs.
"I have really adapted well to the style of play here and my game has got better as time goes on. I have another two years left on my contract here and I hope to keep playing, and being in Europe next year is a big attraction for me, though playing in Europe means an early start next season. The season only finishes here on Saturday but we're back in for pre-season training on June 18 ."
Foley, his Irish-born wife and two children have settled well in Bruges and although he plans to start building a house in his native Cork later this year, his next step after his contract runs out is unclear.
"I think I'd like go into coaching and maybe that could happen here in Belgium," he says. "We like it here and the long-term plan is probably to move back to Ireland, but you never know what happens.
"Bruges is a great place to live. My daughter is going to school now and she's picking up Flemish. I am learning more Flemish now than I did at my last club, Gent. We had a lot of foreign players at Gent so it was easier for everyone to speak English but it's nearly all Belgians in the squad here and I've had to get up to speed.
"So we'll see what happens, but I'm not quitting yet. I'll be 36 when my contract here is up and I might even play on for a while after that -- but hopefully I'll have a medal to show for it by the end of the week."