LEAVING Cork City wasn’t an easy decision, but one Garry Buckley felt was right, to prove he could play at the top level in Ireland.
Two years on, the Dublin Hill man is settled in Sligo with his fiancée, Ciara, loving life and looking forward to playing in Europe.
“Life is great, even though it’s pre-season,” laughs Buckley. “Pre-season is going well, not my favourite time of the year, but this is my 10th as a pro, so I’m well used to it by now.
“I am really looking forward to the season ahead now and Europe also to look forward to, so it’s just about getting as fit as you can to be well prepared for kick off.”
The 28-year-old signed for the Bit O’Red for the 2021 season, transitioning from being an attacking midfielder to centre-half and has impressed there ever since. Making the switch to Sligo with his girlfriend was daunting, but has proved to be fruitful.
“I felt it was the right time for me to leave Cork City. It wasn’t an easy decision, absolutely not; it’s been the club I’ve supported since I was seven or eight.
“I won a league, two cups, President Cups, Munster Senior Cups, and I’ve played in Europe around 20 times. I achieved more than many players before me and more than I ever thought I would when I first joined, so I felt I gave everything during my time at the club.
“If I’m being honest, I also felt I had a point to prove to show people I could still perform even outside of Cork, so that motivation helps. I have been living up here now with my fiancée for the last two years and I’ve recently signed a new contract, so we’re well settled here now.
“I have a good connection with the area and the people, so I have no complaints. It’s a really nice part of the country too.”
Last season was hugely enjoyable for Buckley. His main aim at the start of every campaign is to be better than the previous one. That’s something he most definitely achieved.
“Last season personally was really good for me. We had a successful enough season, finishing third in a very competitive Premier division.
It was probably my best season personally in about three or four years, so I’m pleased, but I’m working hard to kick on more.
“I had the most appearances in the squad for the whole season, so consistency was good and my injury record has been good too, which is important.
“A lot of our young players are fearless and have huge potential. I suppose I’m one of the more experienced players, so I have a different role to play on and off the pitch to my early City days, but I’m enjoying it.
“I like to think I have a lot of League of Ireland experience to pass on, because of the success I’ve had to date with City.”
Cork City will always hold a place in Buckley’s heart and he hopes they can do better this season in their quest to be playing back in the top tier of football again.
“I’m always looking out for City’s results. I was a supporter before I joined and I still am now, even though I’m gone.
“Obviously, it was disappointing to see where they finished up last season, but there will be nobody more disappointed than the management and players.
“It’s a tough league. However, I think they started to show good signs from the break last year and knowing the way Healers is, he won’t settle for mediocrity, so they will be well up there competing this year, I hope.”
Could Buckley could ever see himself return to the club?
“I’m more than happy where I am at the moment. It’s gone better than I thought which is the most satisfying thing and probably why I’m enjoying it more.
“I don’t think I can see myself going back to City to be honest. I was at the club for 10 years in total and gave everything during my time. It was all I ever wanted to do was to win the league with City and I’ve done that and more, so I’m happy to just park it and look back with great memories.
I will definitely be going to the Cross for many years supporting, when I do retire.”
Retiring isn’t on Buckley’s radar. And staying involved in the game after he hangs up his boots will definitely be an option.
“I haven’t really given much thought to what I will do after my playing days. I haven’t started my coaching badges, because I’m not convinced of job security in this country, if I’m honest.
“However, I would definitely love to stay involved in the game at some capacity. I wouldn’t know what to do without football.
“I suppose I’ll worry about that when I come closer to finishing up. I’m an all-or-nothing kind of person.
“Probably another reason I never went to college after school as I jumped straight into it and had no distractions. I gave football my 100% concentration and dedication and still do today.”