Old pals encouraged Clifford to make Dundalk move
Dundalk new boy Conor Clifford says that the Oriel Park experiences of his old Crumlin United pals Richie Towell and Andy Boyle influenced his decision to come home to Ireland.
The ex-Chelsea youth is looking to kickstart his career in Louth after a difficult couple of years in England.
Clifford (25) was tipped for stardom in his youth and was the leading figure in a talented Crumlin underage side that included Towell and Boyle.
He picked Chelsea over a number of suitors and captained their FA Youth Cup winning side in 2010. His performances with Ireland's underage teams up to U-21 level also led to a senior call from Giovanni Trapattoni for a World Cup qualifier with Germany.
But he was released by Chelsea in 2013 following a series of loan spells and then went to Leicester and Southend before ending up in non-league football with Conference side Boreham Wood.
He finished up with them last month and had an option to return to the Football League with Crawley Town.
However, he was attracted by a fresh start in Ireland working with Stephen Kenny after watching Towell and Boyle advance their careers with the League of Ireland champions.
"They are good friends of mine so I have been aware of what was going on at the club and how well they have been doing," he said.
"They spoke so highly of the club before I came here. It was something that played a big factor in me coming here.
"Stephen was massive in my decision. I like the way that the team played last year and he has done great things with Dundalk.
"Europe is something I am looking forward to this season. I watched Dundalk in the Champions League and Europa League last season and I was very impressed with them.
"I want to help repeat that but I want to win trophies as well. That's the aim."
Clifford trained with his new team-mates yesterday as they started preparations for the new campaign. Winger John Mountney was also present after agreeing a new deal.
Elsewhere, Galway United have signed American netminder Ciaran Nugent from Sligo Rovers.
And Wexford Youths secretary Barry Devereux says it's "business as usual" for the club in preparing for the new season despite the shadow of a winding-up order arising from a debt of €200,000 owed to owner Mick Wallace's construction company.