Herrick still heading in the right direction

Mark Herrick is currently part of Galway United manager John Caulfield's backroom team

Mark Herrick’s passion for the Galway United cause endures. Part of John Caulfield’s able backroom team since the summer, Herrick is delighted to be involved in the SSE Airtricity League again,

Son of John, a distinguished figure in the domestic game, Mark Herrick inherited that respect and appreciation for sport. “There was football, we were football people, League of Ireland people,” Herrick says.

“My own father's first cousins had played for Evergreen in Cork and for Cork Athletic - John Moloney and Billy Moloney - they would be well known Cork footballers. I was just brought up with football, like many people.

“Often when your father does something it can be a natural thing for a son to follow, that is what it was. We were just football people, Dad was a great supporter of me. He used to give me a hard time too if he felt I wasn't grafting hard enough or I wasn't looking after myself as well as I should.”

Those lessons were valuable. Three generations of the Herrick family continue to watch United and it is why being being part of Caulfield’s rejuvenation project matters deeply. “It is enjoyable, I have gone back in since the end of May, early June just as another pair of eyes and a support for John Caulfield and his staff,” he says. “It is very professional and interesting, it is enjoyable, but very interesting to be observing what is happening. It is heading in the right direction, I think.”

In 2021 Caulfield restored a full-time model at the club. To progress the solid structure established has to be maintained. “I think it is very important for Ireland that we have full time football,” Herrick replies.

“It is a wonderful career, unfortunately you wouldn't reap the benefits financially here in Ireland as you would hope. If we can keep some of our talent here, playing for League of Ireland clubs as opposed to going to Cambridge United or Mansfield Town, lower league teams in England, it is wonderful that we don't have to see people emigrating to other countries.

“It is a wonderful lifestyle, you are expressing yourself with great ability. Hopefully more local people can enjoy that by seeing their family members playing for Galway United or other League of Ireland clubs, seeing them week in, week out without having to travel over to England.”

Growing up Herrick joined Peterborough United as a teenager, he made that particular journey himself. “I went over to Peterborough as a young 16 year old, spent two years on YTS from 1989-1991, I didn't make it,” he says.

“I went up to Raith Rovers soon after, turned professional and spent two years there. I was fortunate to play for my hometown club after that at 20 years of age in Galway and enjoy a League of Ireland career.”

When Herrick returned education occupied a central role alongside playing football. “I don't look back on it as being that hard,” Herrick responds. “I genuinely was only trying to delay time, to get another opportunity to go back to England. With the support of my family and others an obvious choice for me was to go to Yeats College to finish my Leaving Cert, to do my Leaving Cert as I had never done it in the first place. I stuck it out.

“There were challenges because I had been away from academia for four years so to go down that route was good for me. It was good for me to start working my mind a little bit more - educating yourself, perhaps getting some qualifications behind you in the event that football wouldn't come to fruition. Thankfully the education stood to me and I ended up getting a career outside of football.”

The daring Crowley Park campaign when United finished third in the premier division illustrated what could be achieved under Tony Mannion’s watch. “It was quite an experienced squad I joined in '93,” Herrick remembers .

“That was a year many people will remember with us going to Crowley Park. An awful lot of people around the town have fond memories of that season we had there. The players certainly do anyway. I look back on it fondly, it was a young enough squad, but you also had many of the players, who won the cup a couple of years previous. You had Peter Carpenter, Stephen Lally, Derek Rogers - these guys were experienced players who knew the League of Ireland. One of the things that made that season - and it is not to be underestimated - the signing of Alan Gough.

“We didn't have Alan for the first few games, we didn't do particularly well, we had been in the Sportsground. Alan possibly joined us, started playing for us, he was absolutely brilliant.

“He brought a whole new dynamic to that dressing room. We went on to have a memorable season with some lovely Galway players - Noel Mernagh, Donnie Farragher, Jumbo [Brennan], and Ollie Neary. It brings a smile to my face for the fondess I have for the people involved at the time and the season we had.”

With United pain is inevitable and within a couple of years relegation occurred. Still there were a couple of great days in the 1996/97 season when United triumphed in the League Cup defeating Cork City in a two legged decider. Such was Herrick’s influence in those two encounters City opted to buy the midfielder.

“The previous summer Cork had tried to sign me, but I had a year left on my contract, we were down in the first division,” Herrick says.

“For a lad who was 23 at the time and still having ambitions of going across to England, I didn't want to be playing in the First Division. We had a very good season under Dennis Clarke, we won the Shield, we were doing well, we had the League Cup success.

“Then Cork City came in for me again, there was a transfer fee involved which Galway knew because of the Bosman ruling I would have been free the following summer.

“They took the few quid that they got and I was happy to move to Cork, purely with the ambition of winning something and maybe becoming a professional footballer again.”

That remained an ambition, Herrick subsequently returned to play Corribside and was part of the promotion drive in the 2002/03 season when a number of controversial decisions thwarted Mannion’s side against Drogheda United.

Following his retirement as a player Herrick set up Headrite which is making a significant mark. “It is a business I founded about five years ago now,” Herrick says. “It evolved from a friend of mine, Damien O'Rourke, who I played with at Cork City. I had come up with a frame, an age old training methodology that has been used for previous decades where you suspend a football from above, you jump to head the ball.

“It is about trying to improve your jump and practice getting your timing right. There was nothing really on the market that would do this. I came up with this frame that was quite crude using pig iron, I got a local welder to make it for me, purely allowing players to get better.”

Herrick has relished being part of the product’s growth. “Damien said to commercialise it, that was quite interesting, I knew nothing about business and being an entrepreneur or trying to develop a product,” he adds.

“I got a bit of support from Enterprise Ireland when we pitched the idea and got bits of support that helped put things together. With a team of friends and associates I trusted we ended up bringing a product to the market which is quite difficult, challenging and laborious bringing a hardware product to the market through research, prototyping, compliance, and all of the various challenges that brings.

“We have a training system we call it - not just a crude piece of metal - it is a way of doing something.

“This way of doing something is a safer way of doing something this all coincided with much more of the revelations to do with heading footballs and its association with long term damage. We knew with lesser impacts - you don't have to use a match weight ball - you do get better with heading.”

Innovative, enthusiastic, and creative, Herrick remains aware of the possibilities that exist in sport.

**Listen to the full interview with Mark Herrick on the 'Cian On Sport' podcast available on Soundcloud, Spotify, and Apple podcasts.


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