After officially announcing his retirement from the professional game during the week and making official his return to boyhood club Ardee Celtic, Ross Gaynor says the time was right to walk away from full-time football and focus on his career away from the game.
While the 30-year-old is chomping at the bit to get to back on the field for Ardee Celtic – he and the club hope he has received international clearance before Friday’s visit of St Kevins Boys in the Leinster Junior Cup – Gaynor says he couldn’t justify putting off a long term life decision any more.
After a career that was taken in Millwall, Drogheda United, Cobh Ramblers, Sporting Fingal, Dundalk, Sligo Rovers, Cork City and Linfield, the Ardee-born player has swapped training sessions for a 9-to-5 desk job at Permanent TSB in Dublin. He feels it was a chance he would be foolish to turn down.
“With no qualifications or anything, it wasn’t something I thought I’d be able to get the opportunity to do. This job – this career – came along and they were impressed with me in the interview and I’m absolutely flying up there now,” Gaynor told ThisIsArdee.ie on Thursday.
“It was a great decision in the end. Being honest, at 30 years of age, I didn’t want to be having this conversation again in four years time. It was a case where this was long term decision. It was over a month and I was asking my family. I made a decision and stuck with it.”
There was an offer to stay in the game, from a club based in the west of Ireland but during his time at Linfield and since he left the club, he’s been back at home in Ardee. Packing his bags and setting off to another temporary home had no attraction for Gaynor, this time.
“I had the idea of going back to college. I had that in mind and the new club I was thinking of going to was sorting out all that. It was over in the west so it was moving up shop and going again,” he told us. Then, the banking job came up and got him thinking.
“I have missed so much at home. The last time I lived in Ardee before now was when I was with Dundalk, which was years ago. Being at home, being around family, being able to see my nephews grow up – it’s massive. Being away and living in a house with the lads, when the season finishes you pack up your bags and move home. I was done with that. I had no roots.
“I was a footballer in the League of Ireland and it’s good but at the same time, you only get paid 42 weeks a year,” he continued. “The reason why I left for Linfield was the fact they were offering 52 week contracts. It was security. There’s no security in football, you get a bad injury and you’re done,” he says, reflecting on his decision to walk away after a 13 year career in the game.
Now, his time is split between work, Ardee Celtic and Ardee St Marys. With no soccer commitments this weekend, Gaynor turned out for Ardee St Marys on Saturday evening as they booked their place in the Junior 2A Championship final, their third final in four years. They are hoping to win a third title in four years – and their newest recruit is eager to be a part of it.
He scored 0-04 on Saturday as they Blues narrowly edged out Naomh Mairtin in a at times tempered affair. That means his GAA season will extend for one more match later this month. In addition to winning a league and cup treble with Linfield back in May, there could be more silverware coming his way. A Championship win would be quite the return for Ross, who last played for his local GAA team when he was 14.
“Once the treble was won with Linfield, I had done everything there. I wasn’t chasing trophies anymore,” he says. “Now, if I was playing it would be just for the love of playing. That’s where Ardee Celtic and the Marys come into it.
“It’s a completely new experience. I love it. I was going to play football no matter what – it was just a case of whether I played professionally and uprooted again or settled down here and set up roots. It’s the right decision.” The same too could be said for his return to Townparks.
“To play for the club where I started my career, it’s amazing to be able to give back. The facilities are top notch, you wouldn’t get these facilities at some Premier Division clubs in Ireland. It was a no-brainer for me. I’m sick of waiting now – I’m buzzing to play.
“If we stay up, it’s a job well done. We’re up against some very tough teams. We’re more than capable of doing a great job. We’re got some good players, some experienced players and if we can get Darryn scoring – he can get 20 or 30 goals in the league. Once he has confidence, he can do it. I won’t let him rest.”
Playing alongside his brother Darryn is obviously a big incentive for Ross and it could have been a hat-trick of Gaynor brothers lining out for Conor Lynch’s side in 2017/18. Their brother Dean started the season in Ardee Celtic colours but moved on last month after receiving a scholarship at Trinity College, now lining out for Dublin University AC.
As ThisIsArdee.ie reported on Friday, the new signing has set his sights on a cup run to run alongside their league exploits this season. He isn’t ruling out a return to the Aviva Stadium too. That would take a sensational run, but he’s hopeful.
“Hopefully we can make a run in one of the cups. I’d love to get back to the Aviva. That would be great. I don’t see why we couldn’t do it,” Ross stated. “It’s cup football, it’s one game. I don’t think many teams like coming out to the Bog.
“If we can get home ties, we can do very well.” Last week, fellow NEFL Premier Division side Bellurgan United beat Raheny United in a cup-giantkilling, just going to show what’s possible for the Deesiders and others. They’re can’t be many – if any – junior sides around the country who’s ranks have been boosted this year with a player of Gaynor’s calibre, repute and medal haul. If they do go far, he’ll surely go a long way to helping them.