Feely enjoys another prosperous season with Waterford
AIRTRICITY LEAGUE SOCCER: RORY FEELY INTERVIEW
By Daire Walsh
ATHY’S Rory Feely received his just reward for a fine season with Waterford FC when he was named Player of the Year at the Blues Supporters Club (BSC) Awards Night last Monday week.
Having received the Young Player prize for 2018, this is superb recognition for the progress he has made under Alan Reynolds for the Munster side. Given the winners are selected by the faithful fans of Waterford, Feely was understandably chuffed to claim the award.
“I was absolutely delighted to get that. It just shows how grateful the fans have been through the season. The work we’ve been doing the two years I spent there. Any hard work in the games, to get myself a starting position,” Feely acknowledged.
“It brought it all together nicely, to finish off as player of the year. I got young player of the year last year and kind of became a senior player, I guess, this year.”
This individual award wasn’t the only milestone Feely achieved in 2019. Following the mid-season departure of experienced duo Damien Delaney and Bastien Héry, he was handed the captaincy for the second half of their campaign by Reynolds.
While he admits it was initially quite a daunting challenge, it was one he eventually came to terms with.
“I don’t know if Alan had much choice really. In the squad we have, I was nearly one of the most experienced players. The first few games would have been a bit daunting, then you kind of get used to it.
“You have to change your style of play, to be a bit more vocal. Commanding on the pitch. Other than that, it’s not too daunting. It’s just a challenge you have to take.”
During the six months Delaney spent at the club, he was a regular alongside Feely in the Waterford back-four. Prior to his second coming at Cork City in July 2018, he had spent 18 years playing for a variety of clubs in England – and also secured nine senior caps for the Republic of Ireland in that time.
All of his experience in the game made Delaney an ideal role model for Waterford’s younger players – both on and off the field.
“He’s always going to benefit the team. Both with his experience playing and his experience off the pitch. Lads are going to be able to learn to be a bit more composed on the ball. He’s going to be a huge influence on the younger players and they’re going to be looking up to him coming into the team. It was a really good experience to play with him.”
Having finished fourth on their return to the top-flight last year, Waterford were granted a spot in this season’s Europa League qualifiers. Unfortunately, the Blues were ultimately denied a licence to play in the competition – their place instead going to Feely’s former club, St Patrick’s Athletic.
Feely acknowledges this had an adverse effect on the first-team squad.
“It definitely had an effect on the morale of the team inside the camp. Then obviously it had an effect on the lads having to leave to find European football or to find themselves a better challenge.
“Whereas had we had the European football, we would have been able to keep them. Maybe bring in some more experienced players who could help us and maybe even try and get Europe again this year. It just didn’t work out.”
There was light at the end of the tunnel, however. An impressive end to their campaign – which culminated in a 4-2 victory against UCD last Friday – saw them finishing sixth in the Premier Division table.
After the threat of relegation had loomed large midway through 2019, a return to form now leaves Waterford in good spirits as Reynolds looks to re-assemble his squad for next year’s league.
“To replicate last year would have been very tough. It shows how the lads worked hard, how well the season ended up for us. If you can maintain the same core group of players. Add a bit more experience or add a bit more quality, it can really help you move on for the next season,” Feely added.