AS former Donegal GAA manager Jim McGuinness nears the end of his first week with Chinese club Beijing Sinobo Guoan, another local soccer coach is achieving success with a team who are based some 11,000 miles from home.
Paddy Sweeney (41) is part of the coaching team which has been put together by New Zealand manager Anthony Hudson as they bid to reach the 2018 World Cup.
A native of Mullaghduff, Paddy now lives in Tampa, Florida where is a full time professional coach.
He was part of the New Zealand coaching staff ahead of the recent Confederation Cup although family commitments saw him return to Donegal instead of following the fortunes of the All Whites pitch-side in Russia.
During his time in Donegal he conducted coaching workshops with the Gweedore Celtic FC Academy Under 9 and 10 teams before returning to the States with his wife Bethany and son Keenan (10).
Speaking to the Donegal News, Paddy recalled a playing career which took him from Keadue Rovers, via Finn Harps and Sligo Rovers, to the States.
Sweeney has worked under Hudson as an assistant since 2010 beginning in the United Soccer Leagues (USL) Second Division and then with the Bahrain national under-23 football team.
Most recently, Sweeney was brought in by Hudson for the New Zealand National training camp held in the United States last October during which time they played Mexico and the US national team.
“It’s been a great journey so far but I hope there’s a few more surprises to come down the road yet,” he said.
The son of Eamon and Winnie Sweeney, he has two sisters Kelli and Katie and one brother Michael. His father worked in the tunnels in Glasgow before the family returned home to Donegal when Paddy was fourteen.
“Like most lads my age we followed Celtic and my dad used to take me to games. When we came back to Donegal I started to play football,” he said.
A pupil at Rosses Community School, Paddy played with Keadue Rovers where his team-mates included John Andy Bonar, James O’Donnell, the Boyle brothers Brendan, Tony and James and the Gillespies – Brendan, Alan and Declan.
A talented midfielder, he was a member of Richie Kelly’s Donegal U17 squad playing alongside the likes of Brendan Devenney, Paddy McGrenagahan and Cathal Campbell.
He soon attracted the attention of Finn Harps manager Patsy McGowan and played for the club’s USL side before joining Sligo Rovers while he was a student at Sligo IT.
“Tony Fagan (former Sligo and Harps player) had a friend who was coaching at a college in Tennessee and he put me in contact and I spent two years out there in college,”
It was during those college days that he met his wife Bethany who was a member of the women’s team at the same college.
“We went a long way to find one another I suppose,” he laughed.
College football worked out well for Paddy who would go on to play professional football with Northern Virginia Royals, St. Pete Aztecs FC, and Real Maryland Monarchs in Washington.
A cruciate knee injury in 2005 led to Paddy starting his coaching badges – securing both his UEFA A and FIFA licences. Around the same time he met Anthony Hudson, whose father Alan played with Stoke City, Chelsea and Arsenal in the 1970s.
Sweeney, who also holds a bachelor’s degree in Sports Management from Columbia Southern University, teamed up with Hudson and the pair continue to work closely together.
“I used to go back and forth when Anthony was with the Bahrain U23 squad and he invited me to scout for him when he took on the New Zealand job. I was with them when they came to Ireland earlier this year in preparation for the Confederation Cup. They played Northern Ireland in Windsor Park and then Cabinteely.
“When they all travelled out to Russia I decided to stay at home for a while due to family reasons,” he said.
“It was nice to be home and close to my family. We enjoyed our time back in Donegal,” he added.
Back in the States, Paddy works as Technical Director with Aztecs FC – Champions Soccer League USA.
“I’m getting paid to do something that I really enjoy which isn’t a bad thing,” he said.
Paddy’s wife Bethany works as an art teacher in the same Florida school that their son Keenan is a pupil.
“Life is good,” he said.
Posted: 5:00 pm July 8, 2017