Sean McCaffrey was appointed as Brian Kerr’s successor as manager of the Republic of Ireland Under-17, Under-18 and Under-19 teams in November 2003, fulfilling a life-long dream to manage Ireland.
A talented footballer in his youth,McCaffrey spent time at Leicester City before returning to Ireland as a 20-year-old. Coaching was always of interest and he began coaching schoolboy teams in his native Monaghan, before being appointed manager of Monaghan United in 1983 when just 23 – the youngest ever manager in the League.
In 1989 McCaffrey founded Oriel Celtic, a schoolboy club in Monaghan. The club quickly developed from one team to 18 within a couple of seasons, and went on to win several European competitions, including the Holland Cup, the Dana Cup, the Italy Cup and the Marne Trophy, between U16 and U18 level. As a result of the contacts he made on his travels, McCaffrey was able to invite the youth teams of clubs like Celtic, Manchester United and Ajax to play in Monaghan. In 1999, McCaffrey joined the FAI as a Regional Development Officer. Two years later, Brian Kerr and Noel O’Reilly brought him in to coach with the Republic of Ireland underage teams.
When Kerr was appointed senior manager in 2003, McCaffrey was the obvious choice as caretaker manager and he impressed taking the Under 19s close to qualification for the 2003 European Championship and, after also earning good results with the current batch of Under 19s, he was given the chance to take over as Under 19 and Under 17 manager on a full-time basis.
His first full-time year in charge saw Ireland go agonisingly close to qualifying for the European Under-19 Championship Finals and that would typify how they fared for the next couple of years.
McCaffrey has won a number of tournaments during his reign including the Under 17 Nordic Cup in Iceland in August 2005, the Under 18 Lisbon Trophy in March 2007 and the Under 19 La Manga tournament in April 2006.
During McCaffrey’s reigns as Ireland Youth boss, he blooded a plethora of current senior Internationals including Joey O’Brien, Paul McShane, Darron Gibson, Andrew Keogh, Stephen O’Halloran, Stephen Elliot, Aiden McGeady, Anthony Stokes, Stephen Gleeson and Shane Long despite his first eight qualifying campaigns in both age-groups ending without qualification. That all changed in March 2008 when he guided the Under-17’s to the European Championships.
Sean went on manage Dundalk FC in 2012 for a brief period in the Airtricity League Premier Division.It was a difficult time for the club but current players Chris Shields and John Mountney were signed by McCaffrey and played a key role in their recent European exploits.