GOALKEEPER, Michael Dougherty has brought his playing career to a close following yesterday’s 5-0 win against Ballinamallard United.
Dougherty joined the Inver Reds last summer in a dual player/goalkeeping coach role, and will now focus solely on his coaching responsibilities, ending a glittering playing career stretching back over 20 years.
The East Belfast man had the privilege of playing for his boyhood club, Glentoran and he also represented H&W Welders with distinction; a club with which he has close family ties.
His career will also be remember for a successful stint with Lisburn Distillery and their qualification for Europe in the early 2000s. Towards the end of his playing career, he played a part in Crusaders recent successes.
Michael is well respected in the local game and he can add Portadown and Ards to the list of clubs he has represented.
In his final season as a player, he played for the Inver Reds in 7 competitive matches, keeping four clean sheets and appearing in the County Antrim Shield Semi Final against Crusaders. One of those four clean sheets came at Tillysburn Park against H&W Welders, in an emotional return for the former Welders custodian.
He was no stranger to a glamour game either, playing for Glentoran against Manchester United at The Oval and for Larne at Inver Park against Glasgow Rangers.
Throughout his career, Michael has always shown an understanding of the importance of the Irish League to those who participate in it and he has made a huge contribution at Inver Park in such a short space of time.
Michael’s future is in coaching, and the passion and dedicated he shows to his trade is unquestionable. Indeed, he will once again travel to North America this summer to coach young goalkeepers, which shows the respect he commands as a goalkeeping coach.
The final word, however, is Michael’s as he posted the following message on social media, “Time waits for no man. Today, I pulled on the gloves for the final time. Thank you to every single player who I played with or against over the past two decades. It’s been a pleasure.
“Football in this country means to much to so many people. It brings communities together and brings so much pleasure to the people who pay their entrance fee week in, week out.
“For me, football has been everything. From a young boy, all I wanted to do was play for Glentoran. I’m so proud to have fulfilled that dream.
“Like many, I’ve experienced the highs and lows. I’ve made my fair share of saves and I’ve thrown a few in along the way. I wouldn’t have changed a thing; the life of a goalkeeper!
“What means the most to me is the people I’ve met along the way. From picking one out of the top bin from Nani, to hitting a backpass off Rory Hamill’s backside.
“From sharing a beer in St Davitt’s GAA club with Sean O’Neill, to having a fist fight with Stuart King over the physio bench at the Welders.
“From waking up hungover in a single bed beside Brian Jensen, to sharing a beer in Andorra with Conor Devlin.
“From playing at Ashfield Boys with my best mates, to collecting my last winners medal at Inver Park with my kids.
“Northern Irish football is a special institution. It has moulded me as a person and I am proud to say I played a very small part in what we have always said was the realist league in the world.
“Thank you to everyone. Glentoran, Distillery, H&W Welders, Ards, Crusaders and Larne.
“Sharon Dougherty, Chris Holt, Paul Kirk, Gary Bownes, Brian Lillie, Charlie and Lillie Grace Dougherty.
“It has been a pleasure.”