While the lockdown imposed as a result of Covid-19 meant that Ruaidhrí Higgins was unable to say goodbye to his friends and colleagues at Dundalk in the manner he might have liked, the new Republic of Ireland Chief Scout and Opposition Analyst made a point of personally contacting everyone involved with the club to thank them for their support over the years.
The Derry man is unique in many ways having won league titles in three different roles with the club – as a player in 2014, as opposition analyst in 2018 and as assistant manager last year.
As a result, he has built up many fond memories of his time at Oriel Park that he says he won’t forget in a hurry.
“I can’t speak highly enough of Dundalk Football Club,” he said.
“The players, in particular, I just thought they were an amazing bunch to work with and I’ve no doubt with the players and staff that remain there will continue to be successful.
“I’m not just talking about the likes of the backroom or medical staff either, I’m talking about the office staff – Ailish and her team, the groundsmen John and Jimmy and Martin Connolly and Colm Murphy. I can’t speak highly enough about the staff at the club but in particular the players are incredible.
“I’ll miss them a lot because first and foremost they’re fantastic people. I didn’t really know John Gill before he came to the club but he was a good man who gave me great advice at the right times when I needed it and I’ll always value that.
“We were fortunate too to have great guys like Danny Miller and David Murphy working as physios. Personally, I don’t believe we would have won the league last year without them.
“With people like that at the club, and others, I’ve no doubt Dundalk will kick on and continue the success they’ve had.”
Higgins said he would have liked to have said goodbye to the squad in a different manner.
“It was difficult for me. With some of the players there, I’d have relationships going back an awful long time. The likes of Patrick McEleney and Michael Duffy, we go back a long time to when we were at Derry and then I’ve obviously played with players who were involved in the 2014 campaign and been on the staff since 2017 so there are a lot of players who have been there a long time who I’d have long standing relationships with.
“I phoned every member of the squad and thanked them but it was just a shame that I didn’t get to do it on a personal level or in a group but I’m just delighted to have played a small part in the recent success of the club.
“Hopefully I’ll be back in Oriel sooner rather than later though.
“My family, especially my mother and father, always say to me about how welcome they’re made feel every time they came to Oriel Park. They have a real soft spot for the club and that will continue. I just wish the club every success in the future and I’m sure with all the playing staff and staff around the club, they’ll continue to go from strength to strength.”
So if it’s Derry v Dundalk in the Brandywell, who will Higgins be shouting for?
“I’ll stay in the house,” he laughed.