TRIBUTES have been paid to former Ireland youth coach Sean McCaffrey, who has passed away at the age of 58.
McCaffrey, who managed the Irish under-17, under-18 and under-19 teams, oversaw the development of stars such as Robbie Brady, Jeff Hendrick and Aiden McGeady.
He also managed Monaghan United and Dundalk.
He passed away earlier this morning at Cavan General Hospital.
FAI chief executive John Delaney led the tributes, praising the man who “drove Irish football on”.
He said: “[The FAI] is very sad to learn of the passing of Sean McCaffrey, who was truly an inspirational character and someone who made a difference at all levels of the game.
"From his early days with Monaghan United to serving as an FAI Development Officer in the north east of the country and through to his masterful handling of the Republic of Ireland Under 19, Under 18 and Under 17 teams, he covered so much.
"While many people will rightly praise Sean for leading his Under 17 team in 2008 to the European Championships in Turkey, his real legacy lies with the numbers of players that he helped produce for the men's senior team, which was well into double figures and included the likes of Robbie Brady, Jeff Hendrick, James McCarthy, Darren Randolph and Aiden McGeady.
“Quite simply, Sean McCaffrey was a football man.
He was passionate about the development of the game, he drove Irish football on, and he was always the same, whether he was dealing with a schoolboy starting out or one of the country's elite players.
"We send our deepest condolences to Sean's family and friends at this time and we will remember Sean's contribution to Irish football with a special presentation in the new year."
A statement from former club Monaghan United read: “It is with regret that Monaghan United has learned of the death of Seán McCaffrey, former Monaghan United and National team manager.
“Funeral arrangements not yet known. Ar dheis dé go raibh a anam.”
In 1979 McCaffrey helped found and also managed his hometown club Monaghan United.
In 2003 he took charge of Ireland’s youth teams, replacing Brian Kerr who was appointed manager of the senior side.
In 2008 he led the under-17s to the European Championships.
He left his post with Ireland in 2010 and later had a short spell in charge of Dundalk.
Tributes to Sean McCaffrey
Sadden to hear the news of Sean McCaffrey’s passing. Showed me great faith and trust as a player and gave me the opportunity to taste international football for the first time. ??
— Callum Morris (@CallumEM5) 30 December 2017
Very sad news hearing of the passing of Sean McCaffrey, give me my chance to represent my country at a young age, a lovely man and a great manager very sad day for Irish football
— Stephen B Folan (@StephenFolan) 30 December 2017
Seán had the unenviable task of replacing Brian Kerr with Ireland and his time with Dundalk did not work out, especially in comparison to how his successor Stephen Kenny fared, but he was a great football man and a complete gent.
— Neil O'Riordan (@noriordan) 30 December 2017
... Deserved more than his one Euro qualification. And deserved better when he got there (Turkey, 2008, with Johnny Dunleavy, Gearoid Morrissey, John Sullivan, Richie Towell, Greg Cunningham, Robbie Brady in his squad). A gent and a pleasure to deal with. Made my job v easy #RIP
— Mark McCadden (@markmccadden) 30 December 2017
The club is saddened to learn of the death of former #DundalkFC manager, Seán McCaffrey. We offer our deepest condolences to Seán’s family and friends at this time. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam. pic.twitter.com/wblLtMH4Gu
— Dundalk FC (@DundalkFC) 30 December 2017
Sean McCaffrey was an inspiration to hundreds of schoolboy footballers. He was my first coach, the first grown-up I wanted to be like and the man who suggested I try to get into sports journalism.
Heart-broken today at the news of his death.
Sleep well, Seán. RIP.
— Malachy Clerkin (@MalachyClerkin) 30 December 2017
So sad to hear of the passing of Sean McCaffrey. An absolute gentleman and brilliant manager who had a huge influence on my own development and that of many others. RIP Sean
— Johnny Dunleavy (@Johnny_Dunleavy) 30 December 2017
RIP Seán McCaffrey, a lot of lovely tributes to his work as U17 and U19 international manager but he was also a major part of the development of football in the north east during his time as @FAIreland Regional Development Officer.
Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam. https://t.co/e1DnBpjNY6
— Mark Scanlon (@markscanlon85) 30 December 2017
RIP Sean McCaffrey, sad to hear of the passing of this absolute gent of a person. I'll always remember when times were tough at a former club, he offered players money from his own back pocket to help them out. A summary of the kind of man he was.
— Derek Foran (@Deggsaaay) 30 December 2017