A thirty-four year old Irish striker from Cork. Not really anything interesting to be found there. It’s only when you look at Dominic Foley’s list of clubs that the Irishman’s broad range of exotic past haunts becomes apparent.
Ethnikos Piraeus, Sporting Braga, K.A.A Gent and Cercle Brugge make up the illustrious list of Foley’s foreign experiences, proving the former Wolves’ striker’s credentials as a serious cultural indulger. The tale of Foley’s career abroad is an interesting one, including a few sumptuous goals and a bit of transfer controversy along the way.
Foley signed his first professional contract with Wolverhampton Wanderers after spells in his home country of Ireland, first with the youth team of Charleville AFC before progressing onto the senior side with St James’ Gate. Hardly illustrious, but Foley’s performances for the two Irish clubs did enough to persuade Wolves to secure his signature in 1995, thus signaling the beginning of Foley’s mainstream career.
The record of twenty games in four years for the midlands club speaks for itself. The spell was less than successful and saw Wolves seek to loan Foley out to a number of teams during his stay there. But this is where it gets interesting.
In 1998 Foley was loaned out to Greek side Ethnikos Piraeus, the fierce rivals of their more glamorous neighbours Olympiakos. Based in Piraeus, the third largest municpality in Greece, Foley was able to gain a decent grounding in the world of football outside of the British Isles and, with Piraeus boasting a beautifully constructed harbour and better weather than middle England, Foley was able to indulge in some exotic leisure time all with the added bonus of a golden tan.
The 1998/99 season saw the Irishman appear seven times for the Athens club, scoring three goals, as Ethnikos finished 18th in the Alpha Ethnkiki (Greece’s top football division) before being snapped up by the former England manager Graham Taylor and Watford.
Foley’s first season with Watford saw the rangy striker granted his first opportunity to play top-flight football in the English leagues. The Irishman, however, only managed to net one goal during that Premier League season and he soon found himself out of the Watford side and bundled into a suitcase and carted off to a number of lower league clubs.
At the end of 2003 and Foley’s 8th loan spell as a professional player he was pulled from the mire of obscurity to sign for Sporting Braga in Portugal. The city of Braga is thought to be the oldest city in Portugal but despite the fact that Harry Potter author J.K Rowling gave the city a professional quidditch team, Dominic Foley only stayed with Sporting Braga for a single season. A season that brough twelve appearances, just one goal and a 5th place finish.
The, by then, nomadic striker then returned home to the relative comfort of Bohemians in the Irish league. It would appear that this jet setting striker had given up on securing a life outside of the British Isles. That until an impressive performance by Foley in an intertoto cup game against the Belgian side Gent.
The controversy begins with the financial plight of Bohemians who were unable to pay a number of “bonuses” within Foley’s contract. The failure to pay these bonuses allowed the striker to terminate his contract with the Irish side. With the contract duly terminated Foley hopped across the channel to Belgium and signed along the dotted line for Bohemians recent opponents Gent. This coincidence was not lost on the Irish press as the move sparked rumours of secret meetings with the player and the Gent management after the aforementioned intertoto cup tie. It appeared you could not hold down the traveling Irishman.
Gent proved to be the right move for Foley as he quickly established himself as a key member of the first team squad, playing twenty-five times in his first season with the Belgian club. Jupiler beer must have tasted good as Foley stayed for a second season with the Belgian side, leading Gent to a cup semi-final with thirty appearances and ten goals. The beginning of Foley’s third season (third season!) with Gent saw the Cork born striker appointed club captain, a sign that he had finally given up the promiscuity of the journeyman lifestyle and settled down to a long term relationship? That third season saw cup final heartbreak as Gent succumbed to defeat to Belgian football’s biggest team, Anderlecht.
Foley’s displays showed a love for life in Belgium and a genuine love for Gent and the fans. This love affair was ended in 2009 as the newly appointed Michel Preud’homme dismissed the captain as a squad player before hastily selling him to rivals Cercle Brugge amidst yet more controversy.
Gent state that, with Foley’s contract due to run out at the end of the 2008/09 season, the striker could speak to clubs from the 1st of January. The general manager of Gent, Michel Louwagie, claimed the contact between Cercle Brugge and Foley was made before January 1st and, therefore, “against the rules.” Nevertheless the two clubs came to an agreement by January 27th and Foley completed his move north to Bruges.
Foley’s, who was top scorer at the Jan Breydel Stadium last season, remains an important player illustrated by the fact that he started this seasons Belgian league opener against Charleroi. A game that I *ahem* attended. His tall figure remains a key asset in aerial battles with defenders and the experience gained from playing in a number of leagues with different football cultures seems to have served the Irishman well. His career continues under the stewardship of Cercle manager Bob Peeters, the host of the Belgian version of Total Wipeout. Think Richard Hammond managing Aston Villa!