Drogheda United Captain Paul Crowley spoke to Jamie Moore before last Friday's game against UCD
Two weeks ago Drogheda United Captain Paul Crowley lifted the EA Sports Cup after beating Shamrock Rovers at Tallaght Stadium, but the prize was much more than the silver trophy, it was the reward for a season of hard work by Mick Cooke and his players.
“It was a priority going into the season that we had a good cup run and winning the cup, getting to the last eight of the FAI Cup and a guaranteed top four finish in the league is something we are all delighted with.”
Drogheda topped the league table in the early parts of the season, and can still mathematically win the title but they sit seven points behind league leaders Sligo Rovers with just three games remaining and Crowley admits a near miracle will be needed for Drogs to win their first league title since 2007.
“It’s Sligo’s to lose and we would need them to lose all of their three games, they have tough games too against the in form St. Pats, ourselves and Shamrock Rovers. We need to St. Pats to get a result tonight if we are going to have any chance of winning it.”
Drogheda are part time with many of the players combining full times jobs with their football commitments. On training days Paul leaves his house at 6:50am with his lunch box packed in his kit bag, goes to work and drives straight to the training base in Mosney for evening training and then back home again for 10pm. They train three times a week, Tuesday, Thursday, Sunday as well as a match.
“I have been part time all my career and Mick Cooke and Robbie Horgan have got the balance right with the training and the rest periods. We haven’t got tired and I suppose the fact that we have things to play for has helped our consistency throughout the season. It’s down to all the little things like the food after training etc and when the small things are done right it all helps.”
Drogheda have top class facilities at Mosney with two full size grass pitches, as well as access to a full equipped gym, physio rooms, food, protein shakes after training and even access to the beach and sea for cool down sessions that many clubs would not have access to.
Boy In Blue
The 32 year old spent a season and a half with UCD under Pete Mahon after Dublin City folded. He made 27 appearances for UCD.
“I came in mid season and played against the following season. We had some really good young players such as Gary Dicker, Conor Sammon, Ronan Finn, Conor Kenna, Tony McDonnell. It was very professional and I was glad to be there.”
Martin Russell was First Team Coach of UCD at the time and Crowley can’t speak highly enough of the current UCD manager.
“He’s excellent, one of the best around that I have dealt with. I always liked his coaching and his way of playing the game and I knew it wouldn’t be long before he was a manager. His attention to detail was excellent, every time he stopped a session he always had great points to make and the players would stand back and say ‘he’s actually right’ and what he has done to UCD has been some achievement and he doesn’t get the credit he deserves.”
The turnover of players at UCD is always high and Crowley admits Russell and the players are working wonders every season.
“Season in, season out he will lose 7 or 8 players, even the likes of Paul Corry going away to Sheiffield Wednesday recently, and it’s hard to keep a hold of young players when they make a certain level. There is nobody better to bring a player through than Martin.”
Switching focus back to Drogheda, Mick Cooke came in a week before the start of the 2011 season with Drogs favourites for relegation with the club just coming out of a financial crisis, almost two years on they have won a major trophy and have been in the top four for the entire season, while the club has stabilised and home crowds have improved. Paul told me about the work Mick and coach Robbie Horgan have done.
“I believe it was crazy what was going on when Mick took over but it’s a fantastic club and he has relished the challenge of bringing the club back to where it deserves to be. Robbie does most of the coaching but Mick will step in when he needs to.”
“Mick keeps a really comfortable atmosphere around the place and he can have a laugh with the players but when the whip needs to be cracked there’s no better man.”
In It Together
Drogheda have been praised for their togetherness on and off the pitch this season and Paul says this has been crucial to their successful season.
“It’s amazing when you have good characters in the dressing room, you have to be a team to do well in this league and I think we have shown that we would die on the pitch for each other and that has also been down to Mick as he has brought in a good mix.”
Looking ahead to next season, Crowley knows where he wants to be.
“I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else next season, the atmosphere is good and the buzz about the club seems to be on it’s way back so we will have to see, I’ll have a chat with Mick in the off season and see where it takes us.”