FORMER Cork City FC manager John Caulfield and coach Lisa Fallon will renew their successful partnership at Galway United for the 2021 SSE Airtricity League First Division season.
Caulfield and Fallon were central to City’s 2017 Premier Division and FAI Cup double towards the end of a profitable spell on Leeside.
Now, the duo has been tasked with returning Galway United to the top tier of Irish football which will include tantalising home and away fixtures against their former club.
“I honestly haven’t had time to think that much about facing Cork City,” Caulfield said.
“As a manager, player and supporter, I was desperately disappointed to see Cork City go down. I am now employed by Galway United. I’m a football man and my only focus is on bringing Galway back to the Premier Division.
"We will deal with those games when they come around. Hopefully, we will have fans back in the grounds at that stage and cracking atmospheres as well.”
Having parted ways with Cork at the conclusion of the 2019 campaign, Caulfield bided his time before a phone call, in his own words that came completely out of the blue, saw the 55-year-old meet with Galway United representatives.
Leaving his Diaego job, Caulfield headed west and put pen to paper. Taking over a club with huge potential but languishing in no-man’s-land just off the bottom of the First Division table represented a tough challenge but one Caulfield instantly relished.
“Alan Murphy, the former Galway United manager, was let go on a Tuesday and I got a phone call the following day. I was announced on the Friday and I watched Galway play Bray Wanderers in the league that same evening,” Caulfield stated.
“Was I excited? Of course I was! I love managing and I love coaching. There were other opportunities over the previous seven or eight months but nothing that felt right for me. I immediately thought that Galway represented a real opportunity. One club in one city and with a great fan base if you are doing well. They were a club I felt were underachieving but with enormous potential. I jumped at the chance.”
Caulfield was asked to take over a struggling Galway side until the end of the 2020 season but with a remit to start putting new structures in place for the following year.
Caulfield’s arrival heralded the unlikeliest of turnarounds as a re-energised Galway went on an astonishing run.
Athlone Town, UCD, Shamrock Rovers II, Wexford Youths and Cabinteely were all defeated before Cobh Ramblers halted Galway’s undefeated record. Four points from a possible nine in Galway’s last three league games represented a dip in form but coincided with bouts of Covid-19 that affected United’s first-team squad.
Nevertheless, John Caulfield’s arrival steered United to the unlikeliest of Premier Division play-offs, albeit after Cabinteely United’s points deduction saw Galway leapfrog the Dublin side into fifth place. Longford Town edged the Tribesmen 2-1 in the play-off decider but Caulfield’s enthusiasm remained undiminished as the former Cork City manager set about restructuring his squad for the 2021 season.
“Anything was possible but a fifth-place finish and play-off place was only going to happen if Galway won eight out of our ten remaining games,” said Caulfield.
“We won five in a row and people began to believe. Then we lost one of our best players, Kevin Farragher, who moved to England and lost our next game. We were hit with two cases of Covid within the squad which meant isolation for some of the lads.
"There was adversity in all of that but the lads bounced back and we got over the line and into the play-offs on goal difference. A rollercoaster of a journey if ever there was one!”
John Caulfield has been busy during the off-season by signing a host of new players as well as re-signing some of Galway’s standout performers from the previous campaign. Yet, his most important signing occurred last week when his former coach Lisa Fallon agreed to join United’s management team.
It is a significant moment for Uefa Pro License holder Fallon as she becomes the first female head coach in Galway United’s history.
“Galway United is a big club with huge potential. There are fantastic people here and I’m really excited about the plans, ambition and possibilities at this club,” Fallon told the Galway United official club website.
“I’ve worked with John before and I know the high standards he demands. We’ve an exciting squad and a brilliant backroom team and although the club came very close to promotion last season, we know that absolutely everything has to go up a gear for the 2021 campaign.
“I understand there is significance to my appointment in that respect, and it’s a very proud moment for my family and I, but really, my focus is totally on the players and working with everyone here to make sure we are ready for pre-season and for a strong league campaign.”
As for John Caulfield, recruiting someone with Lisa Fallon’s credentials, respect and experience was too good an opportunity to turn down.
“Since the last occasion we worked together I have seen significant developments in Lisa’s coaching ability,” Caulfield concluded.
Her time in England has transformed her into a top coach and has given her the understanding and belief to coach at this level.
"Over there she was operating in the highest learning environment and it is clear to me that now is the right time for her to show her qualities which I believe in. I am delighted to have her on board.”