Belfast Telegraph

Talented young guns Ronan and Rory are continuing the proud Hale legacy

Danny hopes his grandsons can emulate his success

By Graham Luney

All hail the Hale boys. This is one Northern Ireland football family that is hard to beat.

Crusaders legend Danny Hale could entertain us with his own goalscoring tales from the 1960s but it's the impressive progress of his gifted grandchildren Ronan and Rory that is leaving him excited about the future.

Ronan (17) signed a four-year deal with Championship side Birmingham City earlier this year while Rory (19) has agreed a one-year deal with Aston Villa, who will begin life in the Championship next month.

The boys' proud mother and father, Cathy Hale and Paul Chapman, are also kicking every ball from a distance, encouraging them along the path to success.

Whatever is served up for breakfast in the Hale household clearly works.

Danny's son Danny Junior played for Newington YC and his late brother Gerry also played for Crusaders when Jackie Vernon was boss.

Visitors to Seaview will have encountered the Danny Hale suite, a fitting tribute to a man who ran his own upholstery service.

Now aged 75, the Belfast man reflects on a remarkable career at the Crues and Dundalk along with further spells at Cliftonville, Glentoran, Derry City and Ards.

He scored a total of 143 goals in just four seasons with the Crues, placing him fourth in their all-time top scorers list, behind Curry Mulholland (149), Glenn Hunter (157) and Jordan Owens (160).

Danny netted a club record 55 goals in the 1965/66 season, claimed County Antrim Shield and Ulster Cup winner's medals and also earned three Northern Ireland amateur caps.

Striker Ronan and midfielder Rory (right) don't have to look far for inspiration with their grandfather hailed as an Irish League legend when he travels around the grounds.

"Ronan is on fire, scoring goals for fun and I was impressed by how well Birmingham are looking after him," said Danny.

"He has great people, from doctors to coaches, looking after him and he's living the dream.

"His proud parents Cathy and Paul are very supportive and we are all following their careers closely, wishing them all the best.

"When Tim Sherwood was Villa boss he brought Rory in to train with the first team.

"The boys have a great opportunity to enjoy a fantastic career and it's great to see them improving and enjoying it."

Birmingham have high hopes for Ronan, an academy scholar who spent time on the production lines of Cliftonville and Crusaders.

Remember the name because this boy knows where the net is.

Fresh from signing his first professional contract, the Republic of Ireland Under-18 frontman feels he has the world at his feet but no doubt his grandfather will stop his head from hitting the clouds.

"I'm really enjoying it here," said Ronan, who joined the Blues in the summer of 2015 and impressed with a strike-rate of 23 goals in 17 games for the Under-18s.

"It was great having my mum, dad and brother over to see me sign the four-year deal.

"It is a long contract and I was a bit surprised but delighted.

"I'm very pleased with my scoring record and I just want to keep my head down and keep working hard.

"Birmingham are a fantastic club and they really look after us. My digs are great - there is another player from Romania staying with me - and I'm still studying Maths and English.

"Like a lot of players I'm hungry to play at as high a level as I can and I'm making the most of the great coaching.

"I played for the Northern Ireland schoolboys side as well before joining the Republic set-up and any senior international recognition will only come if I can keep improving at club level.

"I played for Cliftonville and Crusaders before Birmingham scouts thought I had potential and the club have given me a fantastic chance to perform as a professional.

"It's also wonderful to see Rory do so well at Aston Villa.

"He's doing well in midfield for the Under-21s and the coaches are happy with him."

The boys can count on Danny's support and encouragement and Ronan is well aware of the legendary goalscoring exploits of their proud grandfather.

"Trust me, I've heard all about Danny's career!" joked Ronan.

"I've heard plenty of stories but it's great that he is now watching us start out in our careers.

"Danny always encourages us and I would be foolish to ignore his advice.

"We've a lot to be thankful for as a family and I can't explain why football is in our DNA but it's just something we have always enjoyed doing and you want to be the best player you can be."

Proud mum Cathy adds: "The boys are loving it and that's what matters.

"They are doing what they love and hopefully they can enjoy more success.

"We are supporting them all the way."

While the boys set about making their own headlines, Danny's legendary status is assured.

"People slag me off all the time and call me a legend because I scored so many goals but I get a wonderful reception at Seaview from the Crusaders and Newington boys," says Danny.

"I had a Cliftonville season ticket for the last campaign but I don't get to many matches now as the weather is too cold!

"I was proud to be on the same pitch as guys like Jackie Milburn and Tommy Dickson.

"It's impossible to compare eras but you always have great teams and great players.

"Winning three Northern Ireland amateur caps was special but as a Celtic fan I was gutted when I missed out on representing the League of Ireland against a Scottish League side at Celtic Park.

"I was with Dundalk at the time but injury prevented me from playing."

From his home in Belfast's Duncairn Gardens, Danny cherishes the many wonderful memories the beautiful game has given him.

His big wish is now for his talented grandchildren to live their footballing dreams.

Belfast Telegraph


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