BACK IN THE FOLD
The wanderer returns
THE MIDFIELD maestro is back. Bray Wanderers recently confirmed the re-signing of Gary Dempsey after the Wexford man had spent a year away from the Carlisle Grounds at Waterford United. But now he's back.
Dempey's return to the Seaside should come as no great surprise to followers of Pat Devlin's army. For one reason, Dempsey admits that his stay at the RSC was always going to be a short-lived one, and for the second reason, Dempsey goes through football clubs like Judge Judy goes through court cases.
As a teenager, his dazzling displays at the heart of North End United, Cherry Orchard and Republic of Ireland underage sides were catching the eye over the water. Dempsey weighed up all his admirers and in the end decided that Goodison Park was the place for him.
A 16-year-old Dempsey put pen to paper on a four-year deal to sign for Everton. He was then offered a contract extension as his deal neared to an end but he made the brace decision to leave the Merseyside giants.
'I sort of knew that I was going to have to move on from Everton. The only decision that I had to make really was whether I was going to try stay in England or go back home and play. I knew it was always going to be a step back to take two forward so I decided to come back; I came back to Bray and I didn't get as much game time as I wanted so I moved onto Waterford on loan and that was really the makings of me. I did really, really well in the First Division, I got an U-21 call up and it just went from there really. I wasn't too disappointed, I knew I still had the ability to go on and have a good career in the game.'
Ability he certainly had, in abundance in fact. And his self-confidence proved not to be misplaced when, at the age of 21, Dunfermline Athletic came calling. A debut goal against Celtic at a packed Parkhead was the debut dreams are made of. Dempsey then followed manager Jimmy Calderwood to Aberdeen. But, after a few seasons at Pittodrie, Dempsey had his quota of SPL and decided to embark on his English dream by signing for Yeovil Town.
'It was always my intention to go and try and play in England and that was the reason that I left Aberdeen. I was offered a good contract at Aberdeen - a two-year extension - I didn't take it. I felt that after six years in the SPL, I just fancied a wee crack at England. Yeovil Town came along and I was quite excited about it and really looking forward to it but then I broke my foot at pre-season and it didn't go to plan from there on really.'
Such a setback could break lesser men, but did Dempsey ever tire of football?
'No. My whole life has always been about football. Even now, I don't know how many years I have of playing left and I'm already looking beyond that but I just don't know anything else. All my life has been football. I didn't really bother at school because of the football, in hindsight it wasn't a good idea but I never really got frustrated with the game. Sometimes you can get frustrated. Some parts of last year (with Waterford United) were hugely frustrating; the pitches you're playing on, the players you're playing against and the crowds and stuff like that but you just have to get on with it really.'
From Yeovil, Dempsey was left in something of a lingo as the transfer window had just shut so he was forced to re-sign for Aberdeen on amateur terms; with the Scottish side paying all Dempsey's living expenses in return for his football services. With his son Jack only recently born though, the lure of returning home proved too tempting and Dempsey landed in Richmond Park.
The nomadic midfielder wasn't settled just yet though. Former Republic of Ireland manager Steve Staunton sent out an SOS to Dempsey to try and save Darlington from the League 2 drop-zone. This time wife Louise didn't accompany Gary on his latest venture as just six months later he was back in Ireland and back at the Carlisle Grounds for a second time in his career. A quick stint at the RSC later and once again he has returned to the Field of Dreams. But looking ahead to the future, Dempsey sees the glass as half full for both him and Bray Wanderers.
'Looking at the names that are there, I don't think we need to worrying about the bottom end of the table this year; I think we'll be fine. Whether or not we can maybe sneak into the top six or thereabout, I don't know. Only time will tell but I think we'll be much better and much stronger than the lads were last year.
'In that position in the 4-3-3 that a lot of sides now where they play the deep-lying midfielder to kind of protect the back four and try and get on the ball and start things off, it suits me. Getting box-to-box was never really my thing, pace was never a strength of mine. I think I've got a good football brain and I like to get right in the thick of things in matches and nine times out of ten you have a big impact on the match.'
Dempsey turned 32 earlier this month. His own analysis of his role in the team suggests he could go on for many more years. Sandwiched inbetween running the show every Friday night for the 2013 season, Dempsey also has to run his Matchfit Soccer Academy which has enjoyed a snowball-like success since its formation 18 months ago. He also has ambitions to achieve his UEFA 'A' coaching badge, and maybe even making his way over to the USA to take his studies to the next level when he does eventually hang up his boots.
There's still plenty of magic in those boots though. And the Seagulls fans can't wait to see it.
Gary Dempsey who has resigned for Bray Wanderers after a stint at Waterford United.