“I’m Dundalk til I die.”
There was a little tongue in cheek when Bill Hulsizer uttered those words in our recent chat, and yet, so much truth behind it as well.
It might be less than 12 months since the current club chairman took in his first Dundalk FC game – a 1-0 win over Shamrock Rovers at Tallaght Stadium on June 28th last courtesy of a Sean Gannon goal – but you can tell from talking to him that he has definitely caught the bug.
The average fan probably only first became aware of Bill’s presence around Oriel Park four months later when he played a pivotal role in landing a new contract for Patrick Hoban. Then between Christmas and New year any hopes he might have had of staying in the background were firmly ended when he succeeded Mike Treacy as club chairman.
Yet almost six months on, few Dundalk supporters know very much about the 77-year-old apart from the fact he’s the father of PEAK6 owner Matt.
So who exactly is Bill Hulsizer?
Well, he’s a lot of things. Successful businessman in his own right, father of two, husband and football fan.
One thing that slightly bugs him, however, is when he’s referred to as ‘the American’.
While born in the US in New England, Hulsizer’s roots are in West Cork and this gives him a real sense of Irishness that he has embraced more and more in recent years.
“I’m an American but my mom was born in West Cork in a little down called Adrigole on Bantry Bay so I was raised by what I would call the mould from which Irish mothers have been cast,” he said proudly.
“That, for me, is the most important thing about me.
“We had a reunion there two Christmases ago and 42 people from my family ended up in West Cork at the church on Christmas morning. The priest asks my brother every week when are you coming back because they’ve never had a better day than that Christmas,” he laughed.
These days running Dundalk Football Club on behalf of his son’s firm PEAK6 takes up most of Bill’s time but he had a successful career in his own right with American department store chain Sears, which led to him living in Central America for a large period his life.
“I did a little bit of everything growing up but in the end I manufactured clothing in Central America and actually lived in Central America for 15 years.
“I was an engineer for the Sears and Roebuck company when they were the leading retailer in the world.”
It was during this time in Central America that Bill first experienced ‘soccer’, playing his first game at the age of 50.
“I never played soccer as a young man because it really didn’t exist in the USA. I played soccer and got my first FIFA card at the age of 50 in Guatemala. We had a factory team and when we decided to play it got so popular that we had to have two teams because everybody wanted to play.”
Sport has always been a big passion for Bill, who is currently cocooning in his home just outside Fort Lauderdale in Florida, and he revealed that fishing was one of his favourite past-times.
“What’s my favourite thing to do? Probably fish, especially now because there’s no soccer for me to watch.
“I haven’t been fishing in Ireland yet but I have a couple of promises from Irish boys who have told me I’ll really love it. Hopefully when they re-open the country I’ll be able to get back there and experience it.”
Bill describes Ireland as the friendliest place he has ever been and regards himself as one of the lucky guys based on how his life has turned out.
“I have two children, one who is an orthopaedic surgeon and the other who owns PEAK6 with his wife, so what more could a guy ask for?
“I’ve travelled all over the world and I’ve never been to a bad place. I’ve met some bad people but in terms of who I am, I’m just a person. I put my pants on one leg at a time. I’ve been luckier than 99.9% of the world.”
Bill might be an ordinary man but the dreams he has for the club are pretty extraordinary.
There might be outside accusations of PEAK6 being all about the money but as he discusses his hopes for the club over the course of a couple of phone calls in recent weeks you can tell it means a lot, lot more to him.
“I’m passionate for the club but I think I’m more passionate for the fans.
“Take the snoods we’re selling at the moment, if Dundalk FC was so pre-occupied with money why are we selling our snoods for €5 when the market is at €15? Obviously it’s not about money. It’s about being a good citizen.”
Dundalk til I die, indeed.