As one of only two local men to lift a league trophy for Dundalk, former club captain David Crawley wants to see more from the area breakthrough into the first-team at Oriel Park in the years to come.
The former left back added his name to that of John Murphy in the club’s history books when he picked up the First Division title as captain for the club 20 years ago this May. He followed it up by captaining his hometown club to the FAI Cup a year later before embarking on a hugely successful spell with Shelbourne where further silverware and European adventures followed.
Crawley, whose brother Willie also represented the Lilywhites with honour for many years, would later return to Oriel Park to play a big role in helping the club out of the First Division after seven long years in 2008.
Now back at the club as a coach under new academy manager Stephen McDonnell, Crawley will help coach the club’s U-14 side in the year ahead.
While he admits he is starting at the bottom of the coaching ladder, the now 43-year-old says he wants to encourage young local talent to break through to the club’s first-team in the years ahead.
“Stephen McDonnell got the job as academy manager and before it was announced he got onto me and asked me would I get involved,” explained David.
“I was going to go to Warrenpoint with Stephen at one stage to do a bit of coaching but unfortunately things didn’t work out for him there in the end. When he came onto me a few weeks ago he said this is a great opportunity for both of us and in fairness my kids are 10, 13 and 19 so they’re sort of grown up now. Then when I said it to my wife, Carla, she said if you ever want to get involved with Dundalk again then this is your opportunity.
“I’m going in as a coach to the U-14s and I’m really looking forward to it. I’m starting at the bottom of the ladder but hopefully I can climb that ladder in a couple of years and dream big. That’s the way I’m looking at it.
“When you play one game for Dundalk it’s a great honour but I’ve been lucky to play over 320 games and it’s only when you’re finished you realise what it means. I played under so many great managers up there, the likes of Jim McLaughlin, Dermot Keely, Tommy Connolly, Tommy McConville etc so I’m hoping to go up there and get a couple of local boys playing. At the end of the day I’m at U-14 level but I want to be pushing them on to U-15s and hopefully beyond so that they’re eventually pushing for the first team,” he said.
Crawley feels his own experience of being at the club as a teenager will help him in his new role.
“I’d love to be growing up again to have the opportunity of playing full-time with Dundalk,” he said.
“It’s a massive chance for young kids and hopefully I can put my experience across to them from playing under the likes of Jim McLaughlin, Tommy Connolly and even Pat Fenlon at Shels. I was in and around the reserve team when I was just gone 15 so I know what it is like. I know I haven’t been there for a while but hopefully this is the start of something good.
“I can remember going to Oriel Park and we used to train down in the De La Salle and Jim McLaughlin used to make us run down to the De La Salle to play indoor football. I used to train with Tommy McConville, Barry Kehoe, Willie (Crawley), Paul McLaughlin, Denis Cunningham, and all these greats but it stood to me because they used to kick me up and down the pitch.
“I got great experience out of it and whatever I put into football I got out of it.
“I’ll be honest there was a stage of my life where I said I’m never going to win anything but all of a sudden I had two First Divisions and I won an FAI Cup as a captain. To me that’s my biggest achievement.
“I used to go up and watch Dundalk every Sunday with my mother and when they won the 88 Cup coming over Hill Street Bridge I was directly in front of the bus saying to myself these are heroes so for me to do that was a massive achievement and I still get a massive buzz out of it. It’s only really when you retire that you appreciate it.
“The likes of Brian Gartland can’t enjoy it now because they’re always going again and going again but they’ll have some memories when they look back on it in years to come. You can’t beat memories and what Dundalk have done over the last six or seven years has been unbelievable but fingers crossed it keeps going for many years to come.”
He reiterated his desire for the club’s long legacy of talented local players to continue into the future.
“We want locals to get a chance,” said Crawley.
“At the end of the day there’s always going to be Dublin boys or boys from Derry. That’s the way it has always been but the more locals we can get into the team the more people you’ll get into Oriel Park because if your son is playing his friends, relatives etc will hopefully all go,” he said.