Chris Breen signed for Finn Harps for the third time last week and since his career path has taken another sporting turn the 26-year-old said his hometown club is the only senior side he would play for.
Eight-handicapper Breen, a member of Ballybofey and Stranorlar Golf Club, is currently living in Cork city undertaking a greenkeepers’ course at Douglas Golf Course. He has been there since August and will be clocking up the miles to represent Harps until he returns home in May for the summer shared between fairways and football, before returning to Cork in October for the final three months of his course.
“I hope to get home to do a week of pre-season and then I’ll be training down here, possibly with Douglas FC,” he said. “I was delighted to get the chance to re-sign for Harps again and to be honest if they didn’t come in for me I probably wouldn’t bother with senior football with any other club. I’d have been happy enough playing some junior soccer with someone but having got the chance I’m really looking forward to it.”
It seems many moons ago now that a teenage Breen made his first team debut for Jonathan Speak’s Harps in 2003. After Noel King’s tenure, the former St Columba’s in Stranorlar student played a vital part in Harps’ memorable 2004 First Division title winning season, under the management of a certain Felix Healy, the current Harps director of football who works alongside manager Peter Hutton.
“Playing under Felix was brilliant and he was never afraid to give youth its chance,” Breen continued. “It’s the same now. I know the circumstances at Harps are a bit difficult as things are tight in terms of money but there are a lot of good players from the Donegal area and Felix will not be afraid to give them a chance in the first team. It was the same when I was there first with myself, Mickey (Funston) and Wizzy (Shaun Mcgowan).”
Breen first left Anthony Gorman’s Harps in 2006 with the club struggling in the First Division without so much as two pennies to rub together for a loan with Shamrock Rovers and played only a bit-part in the 2007 season in his second stint at the club having spent time in Australia and New Zealand travelling.
Breen’s return saw Harps struggle in the second tier under both Paul Hegarty and then James Gallagher before being offered a lifeline at an ambitious Limerick FC the year before last.
“Limerick was a great experience and I enjoyed and met some good people there,” Breen added. “They are certainly favourites for promotion this season working off a massive budget and they essentially have a Premier League squad there, with players like Joe Gamble and Shaun Kelly from Killybegs, who is an excellent full-back.
“Shaun had only joined the club from Galway United and in his first game I put my shoulder out and I never really recovered from that. It was a pity as things were going well for me there but last season Limerick played at Finn Park on the first night of the season and for me Harps were every bit as good as Limerick that night.”
Breen, after watching Harps from the terraces since being a young boy, has played for the first team and literally work the t-shirt. He’s still relatively young but certainly experienced both in terms of playing for the club and giving a decent opinion on it.
“At Harps, the start to the season is essential. If Harps are going well they will get good crowds and it’s as simple as that. The realistic ambition from last season is a need to improve as they finished in as low a position last year as they ever did.
“It was great to see the club get through the financial difficulties over the winter there and I cannot understand people being critical of Donegal County Council for helping the club out. With the new stadium starting in Stranorlar the club will be employing people and although it will take time, if we can be self-sufficient and get things right on the pitch we can give people a reason to come out and see us play.”