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05 Jul 2022

The Commentary Box: The ups and downs from the roller coaster career of Peter Cherrie

The Commentary Box: The ups and downs from the roller coaster career of Peter Cherrie

Peter Cherrie during a final day of the season clash with Cork City in Oriel Park back in 2014. Their victory brought the league title back to Dundalk for the first time since 1995

Peter Cherrie has been one of the better goalkeepers I have seen at Oriel Park over the decades. Signed by then manager Sean Connor, Peter was an ever-present player in the Dundalk team over six years.

A time that saw them almost relegated in 2012 up until to the rise of the club under Stephen Kenny, which culminated in winning the league in 2014.

Peter played a key role in that title win as it took a top class save from the Scotsman in the second last game of the season away to Bray that allowed Dundalk grab a vital point and keep their League hopes alive going into the final game against Cork City.

They had to win that game in Oriel and that they did. It gave Dundalk their first league title since 1995 and was the launch pad for the most successful run a Dundalk team ever saw, going on to win three FAI cups and four league titles along with great runs in Europe.

Peter’s link with Dundalk was surprisingly cut by Stephen Kenny at the end of 2014 when Gary Rogers was brought in as keeper. Rogers was to prove to be one of the best-ever keepers to play for Dundalk and contributed so much to the Kenny and Vinny Perth successes.

Peter Cherrie returned to the Dundalk team in January 2021. He was the back up for much of the season to Alessio Abibi. The decision to leave Peter on the bench for much of that season was made by managers Shane Keegan and later Caretaker manager Jim Magilton.

When Vinny returned as manager he persisted with Alessio Abibi and also brought in another keeper Cameron Yates. Cameron got very little time in goals. It was Peter who was finally handed the mantle of his old position as first team keeper as Dundalk hovered towards the relegation play off.

But Cherrie’s return saw a sudden, considerable strengthening of the defence. It was to prove to be a master stroke by Vinny Perth as Dundalk, with the return of Cherrie, made Oriel a fortress. It saw a stability and strengthening of the defence that allowed Dundalk to play as a team again.

Early Career

Peter Cherrie was born in Bellshill Scotland. Growing up he had only one thing on his mind and that was football. Peter is now aged 38 and no doubt coming to the end of an illustrious career.

Peter began his playing career in his native country of Scotland when he signed for Airdrie and was there for two seasons, from 2002 to 2004. He was with Ayr United for one season from 2004 to 2005.

His career continued at Clyde where the highlight was a massive giant killing act against Celtic in the Scottish Cup in August 2006. Clyde signed Peter after doing well in a trial game against Manchester United where he came up against Wayne Rooney and Ruud Van Nistelrooy in July 2005.

The Bully Wees, as Clyde are fondly nicknamed, caused such an upset against Celtic that it will go down in history and be remembered for decades. Peter was bowled over coming up against his hero club Celtic, let alone beating them.

Peter made 35 first team appearances for Clyde between 2005 to 2009. Then Dundalk assistant manager Joe Millar contacted him in May 2009 and asked him if he would like to sign.  The Scotsman came over in July 2009 when his contract with Clyde ended.

Chris Bennon was the first team keeper at the time. Sean Connor gave Peter his debut almost immediately against Galway United. Dundalk won the game 3-0. That was the start of his long connection with the club.

2009-2011

Peter says the 2009 team was a very good team, whose aim was certainly not just to consolidate Dundalk’s league position having just been promoted the previous season. Peter felt there was some very good players on the 2009 team.

Michael McGowan a highly talented player was amongst a group of Scottish players who Peter knew on the 2009 team. At the end of that season Ian Foster came in as manager. Peter was an ever present in the Ian Foster teams of 2009 and 2010.

The highlight for that team was Dundalk qualifying for the Setanta Sports Cup final. However, they were beaten by Shamrock Rovers in Tallaght in 2009. That game also saw striker Jason Byrne picking up a serious injury. He never really recovered from that.

Ian Foster was a talented manager. But he had a very small squad. Perhaps he invested too much of his budget in top class players like Mark Quigley and Jason Byrne who were sadly plagued with injury.

Ian was in my mind a young manager who had great potential. That the club turning their back on him was a serious mistake. On 24th December 2011 Sean McCaffrey, a highly successful youth international team manager, was appointed as boss at Oriel.

Sadly for the late Monaghan man, League of Ireland football was entirely different to managing underage international teams. Cherrie was kept on by Sean for the 2012 season. The new boss also showed great foresight bringing Chris Shields and John Mountney to the club.

But pressure on the manager quickly grew as Dundalk slumped towards the bottom end of the table. Sean McCaffrey departed the club in July 2011 with Darius Kieran’s coming in as manager and Martin Connolly as his assistant.

Monaghan United went out of football mid-season. Dundalk finished bottom but as one team had left the Premier Division, they went to the play offs. They had a player sent off in the first leg at Oriel against Waterford and were narrowly beaten.

Peter Cherrie pulled off a string of fine saves that kept Dundalk in the tie. Darius Kieran’s team went to the RSC ground in Waterford and won comprehensively enough to allow Dundalk victory on aggregate.

The Kenny Years

Just before the end of the season Dundalk were taken over by Paul Brown and Andy Connolly. The club had nearly gone into extinction. In November 2012, Stephen Kenny was appointed manager. Kenny wanted Peter Cherrie to stay on as keeper and that he did for two seasons.

Now with good funding and the best manager in the country, Dundalk finished second in 2013. Kenny’s players all played their part, none more so than Peter Cherrie.

In 2014 Kenny won his first league title with Dundalk. Peter Cherrie was magnificent that season. As mentioned, he was directly involved in Dundalk winning the league. Coming into the second last game Dundalk had hit a blip in form.

Bray led 1-0. On a terrible surface, Stephen Kenny’s hopes of a first title with Dundalk were slipping away. Out of nowhere a Bray effort looked bound for the net. Cherrie made a magnificent save.

Within minutes Dundalk found inspiration. A dramatic Pat Hoban goal lit up the dark night as Dundalk grabbed the point they needed to see the league go down to the last match against Cork City.

The Rebels went into the game two points clear of Dundalk. The Oriel Park men needed to win, which they did. Again, a succession of fine saves from Peter Cherrie played its part in bringing the title to Oriel. Dundalk also won the League Cup that season.

Peter said he was very excited when he heard Stephen Kenny was taking over at Dundalk for season 2013. He says he knew about how good he was at Dunfermline and also about how good he was with teams in the League of Ireland previously.

Peter noted how he knew Stephen was going to do good things. Kenny let players play with freedom on the pitch and to express their own individuality. This he says was one of the reasons he was such a success.

Stephen, in his eyes, enshrined pride in the team. The players he says played for the badge on their chests. He says they all knew what it meant to play for the club.

That pride was what made Dundalk go one better and win the league in 2014. The crowds coming back added to the confidence in the team. Peter says the highlight his time at Oriel was Dundalk winning the league on the last day of the season.

He exclaimed how the team had some big characters like Andy Boyle, Dane Massey, Richie Towell, Brian Gartland and Stephen O’Donnell. Peter says Stephen knew he had these characters and that the dressing room would always look after itself.

He felt that was the way it was and that anything that had to be sorted out would be sorted out in the dressing room. Peter says the crowds returning in droves played a massive part in the team doing so well.

They certainly helped get the adrenalin going. Peter says he personally took great pride in winning the league in 2014. He never forgot the save he made in the Carlisle Grounds the week before they beat Cork to win the league.

His Departure

Many Dundalk supporters got a shock late in 2014 when news filtered out that Peter would not be returning to the club. Peter says he and his wife Justine returned home to Scotland for the holidays and that they spent Christmas there.

He thought he was pretty much guaranteed a contract for the following season given how well he had done the previous season. He says that while in Scotland he was out for a meal with his family when he got a phone call from Stephen.

Peter says Stephen told him that he was going to sign another goalkeeper for Dundalk. He says he told Kenny that it was fine and not a problem. Stephen told Peter it would probably be Gary Rogers.

Then Peter says Stephen told him that he did not think he would be the club’s number 2 goalkeeper either. He asked Stephen did it mean he would not be coming back. Stephen said yes. Peter was gobsmacked at the news and naturally could not believe it.

He recalled being devastated. He had left all his personal belongings in Ireland thinking he was returning. He thought it was his best season ever and then to be told he was no longer required stunned him.

He could not understand why he was not being taken back and claims he was never really given an explanation except that Gary Rogers was coming to Oriel and that he was not even going to be the number Two keeper.

Peter moved to Cliftonville short term. Then he went to Bray for three seasons where he made 81 first team appearances. Peter says Bray was a great move for him as he fell in love with the game again.

For the 2018 season he moved to Dundalk’s bitter rivals Cork City. They were champions then. He played for City in the Champions League as their number one keeper Phil Harrington was out injured.

When he got the call from Cork to sign, he was led to believe that he would be competing on an equal slate for the number one slot. That’s not how it turned out though. But Peter says in the end he did not mind.

He played against an old foe of Dundalk’s, Legia Warsaw. He was number Two for Cork in the FAI Cup final that season too. Dundalk did the double that year.

The 2021 Return

Then came 2021 when he made a surprise return to Oriel. Just before this he had no club and Stephen O’Donnell had kindly allowed Peter to train at Inchicore. Peter knew there was no opening at Pat’s. All he was looking for was a place to train.

While at Inchicore doing pre-season training word came through that Dundalk wanted him. Stephen O’Donnell had also at this time asked him to join Pat’s. Peter says he returned to Oriel as there would be less traveling.

Peter Cherrie says he felt he had unfinished business left at Dundalk. He described 2021 as a weird season. He had to play as number 2 to Allessio Abibi for a lot of the season when it was clear to all and sundry that it was he who should have been in from the start.

Dundalk made a disastrous start to the season. The club was an utter mess from top to bottom. Peter did get one game under Shane Keegan. He conceded just one goal in that game against Bohemians. Shane Keegan was out the door by mid- April. Jim Magilton took over as acting manager.

At one stage he seemed to have stabilized things. But the crumbling of the club on the field continued. Magilton did put Peter in goals. But he was dropped quickly when he conceded two howlers against Longford.

Vinny Perth came back to Dundalk as manager on the 16th of June with Dundalk 3rd from bottom. He persisted with Alessio in goals and Dundalk continued to leak goals in the league.

Cameron Yates joined Dundalk in August 2021 as a keeper. He played for the Dundalk first team against St Mochtas. Yates got his chance in the league on 11th September when Dundalk headed to play bottom team Longford.

The Midlanders had lost their last five games. They had two players sent off in the game. But they won it when a Shane Grimes weak shot went under the arms of Cameron Yates and into the net. Dundalk threw away priceless points.

As Dundalk lumbered close to the play off place, Peter says he did get the impression that he was no longer wanted at the club. But any worries Peter may have had that he would not get a proper chance at being number one keeper were ended after Cameron Yates made the awful blunder.

Perth turned to Peter Cherrie as his number one. He kept the goalkeeping position for the rest of the season. He says at the time he was under the impression he was no longer wanted at Oriel as he trained on his own away from the rest of the players.

Peter says Vinny did ask him to train with the rest of the players, but he decided not to as his career looked to be on the rocks at Oriel. Cameron Yates howler opened the door for Peter. With Cherrie back in goals Dundalk gradually started to grow in confidence.

If a team cannot rely on their keeper their confidence will be rock bottom. The Dundalk team soon saw that Peter Cherrie solved the keeper problem. They went on an unbeaten run of seven games at Oriel and had a good record away.

Their 1-0 away win at United Park guaranteed Dundalk were not going to get caught in the play-off places. In the end the Oriel Park side were not far off the European spot. They finished 6th in the league and got to the semi-final of the cup.

Allessio Abibi played 20 Premier league games for Dundalk in 2021. Cameron Yates played only 1 game while Peter Cherrie played 15 games. Not all of these games were certainly played in succession.

These are good times at Oriel now. One person who is helping with that is Peter Cherrie who has been connected to Dundalk since July 2009. Have a safe week everybody. And please remember be careful out there.

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