Belfast Telegraph

'Ronan and Rory will do well at Seaview because they're smashing lads and players. The family is very proud'

Crues legend Danny Hale on grandsons following in his footsteps

Three of a kind: Ronan, Danny and Rory Hale
Three of a kind: Ronan, Danny and Rory Hale
Rory Hale signs for Birmingham
Goal machine: Danny Hale in his playing days
Kitted out: Danny with grandsons Ronan and Rory and their parents Paul and Cathy at Derry City

By Graham Luney

The master is now casting a watchful eye on two young apprentices.

Danny Hale is hungry to share his immense pride after seeing his two grandsons Rory and Ronan join Crusaders.

The two talented boys are maintaining a proud family tradition after their grandfather Danny and his late brother Gerry played for the Crues.

Ronan (20) and Rory (22) are expected to make a big impact at the Danske Bank Premiership champions and looking on with great pride are Danny and the boys' parents, Cathy and Paul.

Danny doesn't have far to travel to watch the lads weave their magic in the famous red and black - the 77-year-old's home is on Eia Street at Belfast's Duncairn Gardens.

And when it comes to the art of scoring goals, the Hales know how to produce a masterpiece.

"Danny's a madman," jokes Rory. "He's always talking about himself and all the goals he's scored!"

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If anyone has earned the right to boast about his prowess in front of goal it's Danny, who has a suite named after him at Seaview and like a true rock star he is often seen signing autographs at the north Belfast venue.

Danny will be down at Crusaders' home quite a bit this season and the golden memories bring a smile to his face.

"I like getting down to Seaview when I can," he says. "I could never say anything bad about the Crues, they were always good to me and were a big help in my career.

"I have brilliant memories from playing for the club including the Ulster Cup and County Antrim Shield wins.

"I go to the odd match at Crusaders and Cliftonville. Football is still my big passion but unfortunately you don't see too many former players now.

"I'm still a north Belfast man and the boys live very close to me.

"Put it like this, they haven't forgotten me at Crusaders and that's a nice feeling. I signed a few autographs the other day when I was down!"

Rory and Ronan may be constantly reminded how prolific Danny was but the older generation of fans will remember the deadly finisher with great fondness.

In his 13-year career, Danny smashed through the 100-goal barrier for both Crusaders and Derry City, while also making some history at Dundalk.

The goals first flowed for him as a teenager at Cliftonville and he also received his first Amateur International cap against England when Ireland fell to a 3-2 defeat at High Wycombe. Two more caps followed.

A move to Glentoran arose but competition for places was healthy and the opportunity surfaced to make his mark at Crusaders. The Crues dug deep and forked out £40 for his services and it was money well spent.

The Ulster Cup returned to the Shore Road in 1964, soon followed by the County Antrim Shield in 1965.

Danny netted a late equaliser in the '64 decider, setting up a replay in which the Crues would see off Glenavon. In 1965, Danny went one better, firing two goals past Larne in a 6-0 win.

In his four-season spell with the Hatchetmen, Danny racked up an incredible 143 goals in the red and black including 55 goals in the 1965-66 season.

In 1966, Danny took his shooting boots to Dundalk and his new employers went on to claim the title, the League of Ireland Shield and the Top Four Cup. Naturally, Danny was the club's leading scorer with 28 goals.

The goal machine then returned north and joined Derry City where he slammed in 45 goals in the 1968-69 campaign.

City, however, would lose out in the Irish Cup final to a Martin O'Neill-inspired Distillery side and also finished second in the league.

After a short spell at Ards, the curtain came down on Danny's career. More than 300 goals across a 13-year senior career is a phenomenal record.

In his retirement, Danny kept a keen eye on the local game, mainly with his local team Newington YC.

"I'm very proud of my amateur caps and of course all the goals," says the man nicknamed 'Red Sand Dan' due to his fondness for the six-yard box.

"I then had a brilliant four years with Crusaders and scored 55 goals in one season when we won the County Antrim Shield and Ulster Cup.

"I later played with Dundalk and in the European Cup. That was a really good period for me and then I ended up at Derry City before moving to Ards."

Now it's Danny's grandsons Rory and Ronan who are aiming to keep the Hale goalscoring tradition at Crusaders alive.

It was no surprise when striker Ronan, who spent last season on loan at Derry City, stated: "This club and my family are linked in history and I hope I can be the legend my grandfather was on the Shore Road."

It is the striker's second spell at the Crues where he was part of their development academy before joining Birmingham City in 2015.

Republic of Ireland Under-21 midfielder and Aston Villa youth player Rory signed for Derry last year after a spell with Galway United before joining up.

Danny adds: "The boys are both very happy to join the Crues.

"I was down at Seaview to see Rory make his debut and he played very well against Glentoran.

"The boys are two decent players. Rory will enjoy playing with the big man, Jordan Owens. Crusaders manager Stephen Baxter highly rates the boys, he will help them a lot.

"I think they will do well because they are smashing lads and players. They are happy and that's half the battle. The family is very proud of the boys. They don't miss training and will be well looked after at Crusaders.

"Ronan's a good striker and I'm very happy to see their progress. With my late brother Gerry playing for the Crues too it's a nice family tradition - something to be proud of."

Rory and Ronan look set to enjoy many happy times on the Shore Road but they've a distance to travel to earn the respect shown to their grandfather at the famous old stadium.

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