Belfast Telegraph

Enthusiastic David Healy 'has brought back the Linfield way'

David's desire to see young players live their dreams is big factor in Blues' revival of fortunes, says legend Dornan

By Graham Luney

Linfield legend Alan Dornan says David Healy's passion for youth development convinces him the club is moving firmly in the right direction.

Dornan, who was appointed Linfield Swifts boss in the summer of 2015 during Warren Feeney's Windsor Park reign, is excited by the winning partnership forged by Healy and his assistant Ross Oliver.

There's a feel-good factor at the Blues with the senior side on the brink of tasting league title glory.

A draw at Cliftonville on Saturday will secure a 52nd championship and the club's first in five years, with an Irish Cup final against Coleraine to come and the County Antrim Shield already in the trophy cabinet.

But the young players have also prospered with the Swifts winning the reserves league, the Steel and Sons Cup and on Tuesday, May 9 they will take on Limavady United in the Intermediate Cup decider at Windsor Park.

Linfield Rangers also overcame Ballinamallard United III 3-0 in the Harry Cavan Youth Cup final at Stangmore Park earlier this month.

Dornan, who won 18 trophies with the Blues during his glittering playing career including five league titles, says the fans have every reason to be optimistic about the future and Healy's hunger to keep the club's production line working is refreshing.

"David and Ross take a huge interest in the younger players," said Dornan, one of the many legendary defenders to pull on a Blues jersey.

"As well as being fantastic coaches, they have genuine interest in players' development and from the senior team down to the young players the boys aren't judged, they are viewed as footballers and their welfare is everything.

"The standards are set by David, the manager who takes the criticism when the team doesn't win.

"Everyone at the club knows what the gaffer wants and expects. He takes the pressure on his shoulders and has come through difficult times.

"I think he has been treated a bit unfairly by officials at times but his desire for success is obvious and everyone at the club feeds off that.

"Ross (Oliver) operates a little in David's shadow in terms of publicity but it's a great partnership and he is also an absolute star and the bigger picture is the club is in great health and moving in the right direction.

"And it is no fluke, it's down to staff, the board and manager who are supporters of the club and devoted to seeing improvement.

"That success comes from a love for the club. As an old player here, it fills me with great pride again and hopefully the boys, while taking nothing for granted, can win the league on Saturday."

Linfield youngsters Cameron Stewart, Ryan Strain and Stephen Fallon are just three of the club's promising prospects who have the potential to be big stars in the Irish League and Dornan says they are in the perfect environment to blossom.

"A lot of it is down to hard work and at the club's AGM next week, top of the agenda will be Cameron Stewart turning professional and that's our goal in the Reserves and Academy, to bring talented young players through to the first team," he said.

"Ryan Strain is only 17 and he's been on the bench for the first team.

"It's up to us to teach the boys good habits and with hard work and the right attitude they can prosper as a Linfield player.

"The Swifts won the league by pipping Ballymena and it was a tough league, very competitive but a hugely beneficial experience for the young players.

"The team has been very young and the Steel and Sons Cup-winning side had an average age of about 17 and a half.

"The boys know they aren't the finished article but they have a willingness to learn.

"Paul Smyth is a prime example of a player who can develop his skills in the Irish League and show he is good enough to play across the water.

"David (Healy) knows when it is the right time to let a player go, he has been down that road before himself, he knows the pitfalls.

"David has come through some tough times but the club is bouncing at the minute and now challenging for a league title and in the final of the Irish Cup and that progress filters down and gives everyone at the club a lift.

"I was at the Coleraine game at the weekend and it's been a long time since I can remember a Linfield support being so passionate and excited about what they are seeing."

Dornan isn't sure whether he can make it to Solitude on Saturday as his side may have a George Wilson Cup fixture.

But he will be at Windsor on May 9 for the Intermediate Cup decider which, after a frustrating delay, has been confirmed for the international venue.

He added: "I think it's wonderful that the final is going ahead at Windsor Park and it's a fitting reward for both sets of players who have worked hard to get there. It's a big competition at our level and the boys will thrive on the occasion.

"I'm grateful that the powers that be have seen sense and the young players will have an opportunity to show what they can do. Even many of our players will not have walked on Windsor Park before so there is no advantage to us."

It's clear that Linfield's winning mentality is back with a vengeance.

Belfast Telegraph


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