By Aaron Cawley (@TheMoanyOne)
theleagueofireland.com recently caught up with Bray Wanderers goalkeeper Lee Steacy to speak about his career to date, his frustrations at not getting a lot of playing time, and his hopes for the future.
Lee Steacy is a 24 year-old goalkeeper at Bray Wanderers in the League of Ireland Premier Division and has been in the league on and off for over five years. In that time he’s featured only once, ironically against Bray, for Bohemians under their manager Keith Long.
Lee began his League of Ireland career at Shamrock Rovers, in their U-19 team, having joined them from Dublin side Cherry Orchard. Speaking about joining Rovers Streacy said;
“It was the first year of the U-19’s Airtricity League so it was really exciting. I missed the first couple of games as I was playing Gaelic Football for Dublin minors. Deko Hevey brought me in from Cherry Orchard, and to be fair we had a great group of lads.”
“Personally for me I felt I had a great season, I had the most clean sheets and the least goals conceded, so I was delighted. Unfortunately though we finished second to Cork City and we just missed out.”
“I loved Rovers. I got a first team contract, and had a stint on the bench for 2-3 months while Conor Winn, now at Galway United, was recovering from injury.
“But I really took a lot from that year. It was my first year to receive actual goalkeeping coaching, and Tony Hession the coach was immense. He really worked hard with me and always believed in me. We still meet up regularly enough. It was a great confidence boosting season for me.”
Steacy’s contract with Shamrock Rovers wasn’t renewed once the U-19 League finished, and when no club showed interest he returned to the GAA.
Talking about this time in his career, Steacy said;
“After no clubs came in for me it was a bit gutting. I felt I had done well enough for someone to take a chance on me. So I decided to try and make the Dublin U-21 panel. I worked really hard, I was in the gym every day and I got in great shape.”
“Dublin manager Dessie Farrell, who’s actually a good friend of mine, was very impressed so I made that panel and we won the All Ireland title in 2014 so that was brilliant.”
Steacy, while training with the Dublin team managed to find time to continue his football career with Firhouse Clover.
“Outside of that I had been playing for Firhouse Clover. I was second choice there for a bit, but became first choice and after a couple of games I really started finding my feet”.
“We went from relegation up to the top half again having the least goals conceded. I knew at this stage certain players were stepping up from the Leinster Senior League to the League of Ireland and I knew I was good enough if I kept working hard something would come of it.”
Like a lot of players who aren’t signed up to contracts in the League of Ireland, they head off to the PFAI out of contract players camp, to try and prove that they were good enough to be picked up by a league of Ireland team and Lee was no different.
“I had been attending the PFAI out of contract players camp and it’s through that I met Keith Long. He wanted to have a look at me with a view to signing, and to be fair everything went my way. I remember making one of the strangest saves ever in the game before I signed, I saved a shot with my left hand and somehow it bounced off the upright on the right side and I kept a clean sheet.”
“I went 10 games with Bohs before I conceded, it was surreal. I was signed as back up and competition, and Deano (Dean Delaney) and Fred were brilliant. We built a great relationship. I learned an awful lot and really improved. I only played 1 league game, against Bray actually. I did well, kept a clean sheet but Deano had a superb season and I was delighted for him because he’s a great lad.”
“Bohs was brilliant as a whole. I met two lads pico and Bucko who are my best mates still and really enjoyed it there ! But I wasn’t prepared to be third choice and I just couldn’t do enough for Keith to give me a real chance”
“So I decided to move on. Keith asked me to stay. Maybe he knew Dean would move on and was content enough with me as second choice. But enough was enough and I did get a great send off. It was a great sense of achievement for Keith to round up the lads at training and personally thank me and wish me luck. At this stage I knew I was signing for Harry at Bray.”
Lee headed off to the seaside to join an ambitious Bray Wanderers team, who were looking to qualify for Europe or at least win a trophy.
“I had never met Harry or spoke to him, but I knew who he was, and had been watching the results with Bray. He was aware of my situation and vice versa, so we met up and had a chat, and if you’ve ever met Harry you’ll know he’s a very likeable bloke.”
“So thankfully we were both happy, Harry signed me as a second choice keeper and really wanted me to challenge, but unfortunately no games came my way. It took me a couple of weeks to settle in because I was so used to Bohs. However I really enjoyed the half a season, we won nearly all of our games beating Dundalk and Cork. It was great.”
“I played a couple of friendlies and did really well, but Harry later revealed he wasn’t sure about playing me in the remaining league games. I didn’t know why as I had done well in the friendlies. So this is what I’m up against ! But I signed back and was delighted too. Bray as a club are brilliant, they make it as professional as possible.”
For a goalkeeper, it can be frustrating sitting on the bench week in week out. It’s not one of those positions a manger usually changes in a game to try and influence a result.
Speaking candidly about it, Steacy said;
“Three years as a back up goalkeeper, if I could sum it up in one word I’d use ‘frustrating’. Ireland as a country are really suffering football wise because there is no reserve league where players like myself could definitely develop and get up to the speed of League of Ireland.”
“For example I played a game for Bray against Ireland U- 21s and I did okay. We were beaten 3-1, and the goalkeeper I am I’d like to think I can prevent every goal, but certainly had my last game not been in January I might have had a better chance to prevent these goals. It’s so frustrating because ultimately I’m suffering due to that lack of games. It took me 40 mins to get my bearings that day.”
Speaking about his relationship with current Bray Wanderers number one, Peter Cherrie, Lee had the following to say;
“Peter Cherrie and I have a great working relationship. We push each other really hard along with Ian Fowler, the GK coach giving us pre season sessions every Tuesday, but no I love training. I’m not really too concerned what anyone else does, I know if I keep working hard and trying to improve I’ll get the results and I’m sure Ian is happy with the work we both put in.”
“It helps when you all get on really well and Pete and Ian deserve a shout out at least for bringing on my two touch, Peter is a legend, and a brilliant goalkeeper. He’s won a league so that’s huge to learn from. In terms of focus, I stay ready. If I I’m called upon I’ll take my chance.”
Talking about what the future holds for him, Steacy said;
“I’d call myself optimistic but if I saved 10 penos and 20 double saves in 1 game it still wouldn’t warrant a first choice position at Bray.”
“Pete is number 1 and it would take an awful run of form or an injury for me to establish myself. At the moment anyway but football is a strange game so who knows what lies ahead. I’d love to be number one tho playing games is when I’m happiest and bray is a club I have a lot of love for.”
Speaking about re-signing for Bray for this current season Steacy was optimistic about going forward and said;
“Yeah I have to be honest, after last seasons form towards the end of the year and going from bottom to 6th I was really happy to have signed back. I knew what Harry was looking for in terms of lads to bring in, and when I saw the signings I was thinking quietly to myself we could have a really good squad here.”
“And the new boys that came in they’ve been really exceptional. You look at Gary McCabe, he’s the leagues top scorer, he hasn’t been red carded (shock, said Lee laughing). He’s really flourishing at the moment, and he’s entitled to, he’s a player of real quality. I remember him standing out when I was at Rovers. He used to always score on me in training and still does. Then you have Greener (Aaron Greene) who’s playing out of his skin. He’s a really great bloke, he looks after the young lads, I’m delighted it’s going well for him.”
“And then we have my mate Bucko who’s moved out to right back and he’s been a breath of fresh air out there. But it’s not only the new lads, Mark Salmon who found himself out of the team at the start of the season which was maybe harsh considering how well he’d done last season.”
“He’s been immense since going back in. Big shout out to him for giving me lifts to training and matches when I wasn’t driving. So yeah a real exciting time at the moment, we’re currently sitting in third spot in the table. Hopefully Cork drop a few more points to keep it interesting. We’re just taking it game by game and if we end up in that European spot it will be a great success.”
Like every player, Lee wants to be playing, no matter if it’s a friendly or a cup game.
“Yeah not playing in the cups is the worst. I helped guide Bohs to a Leinster Senior Cup final last year with some key performances, which I know I can influence, so not getting the nod in the cups is demoralising. I think it was us and Cork who were the only two teams not to use their second choice keepers. Yeah it’s tough to take when your name isn’t called out on cup days.”
Not getting called out for cup games or non important games can be mentally challenging for a player and for Lee, it’s no different.
As with all his answers he candidly speaks about his frustrations;
“Yeah I’m not gonna lie, mentally it can be really challenging at times. It makes it a little bit easier the fact we’re doing well and Peter is playing well. But when it comes to match day you can’t wait to get out and warm up, coz you know its really the only involvement you’ll get. But I am a big team player, so i get involved on the line. I try to encourage the lads as much as I can.”
At 24, Lee is still young in terms of goalkeeping age, while he has ambitions to be the best he can be he knows he has to keep on learning;
“I’ve learned a hell of a lot from Dean Delany and Fred Davis along with Pete and Ian, I didn’t really work with supps (Shane Supple) long enough to learn a whole lot.”
“I think myself as a goalkeeper if certain people look at me they may be unsure as my style. I’d be considered small for goalkeepers but it’s never effected me. My strengths are shot stopping, crosses and kicking. And from everyone I’ve worked with they try and influence certain things.”
“Fred worked on getting me up to the speed of the game and physicality of the League of Ireland, where as straight away Ian concentrated on my shape, which I don’t think bothered me but he’s the coach and I’m not going to challenge that. I feel he has improved me hugely. Along with Peter I’ve came on leaps and bounds. All I need is a round of games and I’m sure I’ll have done more than enough to impress, but yes I have learned and learn every day so much from my goalkeeping colleagues.”
Speaking about the future Lee says,”I think the fact I’m a goalkeeper and I’m slightly older than a lot of fringe players I’d still be considered young. Honestly it gives me hope. I could still have 15 very good years in League of Ireland which would be great.”
“But yeah thankfully it’s still considered young, but the clock is ticking and I’m getting a bit fed up not playing, so we will see how it goes over the next few months and I’ll look at where I’m at.”
“Time is on my side at the moment thankfully. I think Leinster Senior League is decent but I don’t want to go back there, for the simple fact that professionalism is key for myself and I just find there are certain elements of Leinster Senior League that lack that. So I really want to give it a go to try carve a career for myself in the League of Ireland because I know should I be given the chance I can definitely impress.”