The term legend is bandied about all too frequently in football, but for goalkeeper Michael Devine it is nothing but an apt description.
The former Cork City number one has this week called time on his playing career, ending his stint at Munster Senior League side Cobh Wanderers two months shy of his 45th birthday. The ex-Middlesbrough, Cobh Ramblers, Cork City and Waterford shot-stopper spent 16 seasons in the League of Ireland, making his debut in 1993 before concluding with Waterford in 2009.
He graced the Munster Senior League right up until last month but has now decided to hang up his gloves.
It had been on the cards for a while, however, according to the experienced campaigner:
“It had been on my mind since the end of last season to be honest,” Devine told Pundit Arena.
“The age was just finally starting to creep up on me and I felt now was the right to time to finish up.”
Devine is undoubtedly best-known for his time in Cork City’s all-conquering side of the mid-2000s.
He helped City to league glory in 2005 as well as the 2007 FAI Cup and 2008 Setanta Cup. Regarded as one of the League of Ireland’s greatest ever goalkeepers, he spent eight seasons at Turner’s Cross and firmly established himself as a hero on Leeside.
“Looking back I have to be very happy with what I’ve achieved in my career. There were highs and lows but overall I’m pleased with how it worked out.
“As for a highlight, it has to be winning the league with City back in 2005. We really had a fantastic team back then and it was great to be a part of it.”
It is fitting that Cobh is where his playing career reached its conclusion as the harbour town is where it began all those years ago. A Cobh native, Devine began playing with Springfield as a child before moving cross-channel to Middlesbrough in his mid-teens. His four-year stint there was followed by a short time with Newcastle before he returned home to Cork.
Devine made his League of Ireland debut in August 1993 for Cobh Ramblers, incidentally against Cork City, and would spend five years at St. Colman’s Park before joining Waterford United in 1998. His impressive spell at Waterford caught the eye of City and he joined Derek Mountfield’s outfit come the turn of the millennium.
Loved by the Turner’s Cross faithful, Devine was constantly regarded as one of the league’s top netminders and was named SWAI Goalkeeper of the Year in 2005 as he helped the club to the Premier Division title that season. Cork’s Setanta Cup final victory over Glentoran in 2008 proved to be his final game for the club and he re-joined Waterford United for the 2009 campaign.
That would be his last season at national level despite a brief spell at Cork City again in 2010, which ultimately yielded no game time. In total he made a remarkable 459 appearances in the League of Ireland.
As for former club Cork City, Devine is in no doubt that the good times have returned on Leeside. Two current members of the City squad would have played with the stopper in his time at the club – Mark McNulty, who had to bide his time as Devine’s deputy, and pivotal defender Alan Bennett.
And despite all the success they’ve achieved this season, the Cobh man sees them going on to win even more silverware.
“The good days are well and truly back for the club which is great to see. I can see them going on and winning the league for a couple of seasons now.
“John Caulfield is a shrewd operator and it’s brilliant to see the club doing so well again.”
Upon finishing his League of Ireland career Devine continued playing Munster Senior League football on occasion with Fermoy, but in 2015 Cobh Wanderers came calling and he enjoyed two-and-a-half seasons at his hometown club, reaching the 2017 FAI Intermediate Cup final at the age of 44.
“It was nice to finish up back playing in Cobh. When I first returned from playing in England I couldn’t sign for a League of Ireland club at the time and played a few games for Wanderers.
“They got onto me in 2015 to see if I was interested in coming back and I’ve really enjoyed my time there. There’s a very good team there with excellent lads and it was nice to see it work out this way.”
Eventually the gloves had to be hung up and that decision was made by the 44-year-old this week. As for the future, any further involvement in the game will be put on hold for the short-term, with Devine enjoying a well-earned break from the game for a few months at least.
He hasn’t ruled out anything long-term, however, and it’s hard to see any club who wouldn’t want a coach with Devine’s experience involved.
Few players enjoy a playing career lasting a quarter of a century, fewer again are regarded as one of the League of Ireland’s greatest ever goalkeepers.
Michael Devine, a legend of the game.