Tommy Barrett Interview by Dylan O’Connell

The UEFA Pro-License holder, who was recently the Head Coach of Limerick FC, played for the Shannonsiders for two spells in the mid-2000s. While he did venture to Dublin to play for Shamrock Rovers for a season, Barrett was always a home bird.

After meandering into the Limerick District League briefly with Fairview Rangers and a two-year spell at Athlone Town in the League of Ireland First Division, he returned to his boyhood club in 2012 to work as a coach.

“I’m from Moyross originally and my Dad was involved in local clubs coaching. I got started with him by giving him a hand at sessions,” Barrett said.

Tommy: “I was always interested in coaching. I did my Youth Cert in 2007 with the likes of Jim Crawford and Pat Scully. There was a great group there. After that, I got a job with the FAI as a Development Officer for Limerick. I was there for four years. Through that period I did my UEFA B License.”

Tommy: “I semi-retired in 2010 with a dodgy knee. I went from there to Fairview and won another FAI Junior Cup. I couldn’t really run so I played centre back. After that, I went to Athlone as a player/coach. I went back to Limerick midway through 2012 as their Youth Development officer. I was signed as a player, but I was just cover.”

Tommy: “I did my A License in 2013 and through that, I was working as the assistant to the u19s at Limerick. After that, I started as an assistant coach with the Limerick first team. I received my UEFA Pro-License in 2018 after starting the course in 2016.”

Tommy: “The pathway of working my way up was very beneficial to me as a coach. Saying that I would have preferred to go straight into the First Division as an assistant. A year at the deep end would have suited me better.”

Tommy took over Limerick FC’s first team in 2018. In a season fraught with financial issues, the Shannonsiders batted through the season to finish in ninth place. This earned them a chance of survival in the promotion/relegation play-offs, which was seen as a huge success for the struggling club.

Tommy: “I got the Limerick Head Coach job when there was no budget there. We thought we would have a better budget than we did, but anything we had was cut halfway through the season. After that, we lost all the professional players. We did very good to finish in a play-off position.”

Tommy: “Looking back, it was probably good that the club had been relegated. The previous times the club had been in the First Division they spent stupid money on budgets that eventually broke the club. The club couldn’t sustain the budget in the Premier Division and that is why Limerick always went back down. As soon as we went down to the First Division, there was no budget and I thought that gave us time to rebuild the club as a whole.”

Tommy: “Last year we had a very low budget, possibly one of the lowest in the division. Most of our players were amateur. We couldn’t pay our expenses after three months. We were doing well up until that happened and that just killed the momentum. After that, we fell apart.”

Tommy: “Saying that, if there were no budget cuts and if I had proper supports around me I would have done better last season. I probably should have walked away when the same financial problems came up in the First Division, but that is not my character. I never want to give up.”

Barrett also opened up about his footballing philosophy which has over underpinned his coaching career.

Tommy: “Philosophy is overused these days. If I had to pick one it would be to get the best out of the players that I have. I didn’t have the luxury of going out to buy players at Limerick. Like, I like playing quick attacking football, but if I don’t have the players I have to adapt.”

Tommy: “For example, if a team is pressing you high and you can’t get out of your own half and you have a good keeper and a good centre back, there needs to be one long pass up the pitch to beat the press.”

Tommy: “There are too many young modern coaches looking at social media and all they want to do is play a certain way. While that is good, they still need to be taught to adapt in games. They need to be taught the nasty side of what it takes to be a professional. They need to be taught game intelligence.”