Thursday 24 January 2019

Martin expecting a few new recruits to his exclusive double club

Irish Daily Mail FAI Cup, Sunday November 4, Aviva Stadium

Martin Lawlor lifts the league trophy in 1991. He also won doubles with the club in ‘78/’79 and ‘87/’88
Martin Lawlor lifts the league trophy in 1991. He also won doubles with the club in ‘78/’79 and ‘87/’88

James Rogers

For more than 30 years, Martin Lawlor has been part of an exclusive one-man club but come this Sunday night he's hoping to welcome a few new members in at long last.

As things stand the 60-year-old is the only player to have won two doubles with Dundalk FC, having won the league and FAI Cup under Jim McLaughlin in 1978-79 and nine years later in 1987-88 under Turlough O'Connor. Should Stephen Kenny's side beat Cork City this weekend then as many as nine players who were part of the double winning squad in 2015 will join Martin in the 'Double Double Club'.

They include Gary Rogers, Brian Gartland, Gabriel Sava, Dane Massey, Chris Shields, Sean Gannon, John Mountney, Stephen O'Donnell and Georgie Poynton. Lawlor, who played for the Lilywhites between his debut away to Thurles Town in October 1977 to his final title-winning season in 1995, said he would welcome the company.

When his status was put to him by The Argus this week, he backed Dundalk to win at the Aviva Stadium on Sunday. 'That is going to come to an end on Sunday,' he said of his record as the only double-double winner. 'That would be wonderful. It would be a fantastic achievement for the club historically. That would be a great achievement to have so many fellas at a club who achieved two doubles. It has been long enough outstanding. 'I wish the hell somebody would hurry up and jump onboard with me,' he laughed.

While football has changed plenty since Lawlor was playing at left full under the likes of McLaughlin, Dempsey, Connolly, O'Connor and Keely, he sees many resemblances between the current panel and the teams that helped him to win five league titles, three FAI Cups and three League Cups at Oriel Park.

'My doubles were so long apart,' he said. 'Mine was probably exceptional in that I think they were nine or 10 seasons apart. That in itself is a kind of strange scenario but I always associated the two doubles with the same type of calibre of player. Players who were loyal, players who spent good periods of time at the club. If you done two doubles over the space of three years you'd do it with a lot of the same players but the telling factor for me was the type of people we had with the same ambition.

'If you take the first double that we did, the club had come through a relatively difficult period of time in the years before that but we got a crowd of players in and a lot of them stayed at the club for a reasonably good period of time. 'For the second one you had a lot of players who were at the club at least four or five seasons and that's one of the real telling factors for success for any team, where you've a hardcore of the panel who stick around for season after season. That is the bedrock and foundation of your success and you can see it at the club again now.'

Having played 570 times for the Lilywhites, there's little doubt that Dundalk FC runs through his veins. He hasn't been able to get to Oriel Park as much in recent years since the passing of his old pal Tommy McConville but says he'll be back cheering the Lilywhites on this Sunday and next season.

'I've every intention for the new season of getting up on a reasonably regular basis. It's always great to get up and connect with the supporters. That's what Dundalk is all about. 'I'd be hoping that those lads, with a bit of luck, will achieve a victory in the cup final. It will only be in a couple of years when fellas are saying to them you've two doubles that they'll realise how lucky they are because there's not many footballers who get to achieve that.

'Dundalk in a kind of parallel universe is spelled 'community'. That's the way I look upon Dundalk. It's not just a team, Dundalk is a really, really special place for the word community. Its passion, its expectation is superb. Within that is a community spirit that lifts the whole town and region of people. It really is a special club and any player who comes to the club should immediately be given a sense of that. The club is bigger than just Oriel Park. There's a whole community of people around it that have a passion like any new signing has never seen before.

'You represent the entity of Dundalk Football Club. It doesn't stop at the door at Oriel Park. It's a societal passion for a great sport. It's when you do stop playing and you're out of the bubble that you hear the wonderful life stories that unfold around something that you're part of as a player. I used to describe them as births, deaths and marriages because you hear about people meeting, divorcing, everything all while following the club.

'There was even three lads who travelled down in a pig slurry truck to Cork to watch us win the league there in 1991. They were standing on the terrace with loads of space around them because no one would stand next to them because of the smell of the slurry. When you're in the bubble you just don't get to hear those stories. When you stop playing its when you get the real sense of the community and what, in effect, you are contributing to in a town and region of people. You need to know what you're representing. Here you're not just a player coming to pick up a salary.' Lawlor said the club's recent success should be backed by Louth County Council to ensure the area capitalises on the many gains of having a successful football team.

'There seems to be a reluctance on the part of the council to work in with the success of the team. That would be good for all sorts of reasons, for political and commercial reasons and to put the town on the map. There's been a lot of investment in the area with the likes of PayPal and National Pen but there's always room for another international company to come in and create more jobs. 'Having a successful club helps all that because it gives the impression of a vibrant community and a great atmosphere. That sense of community can be brought into the workplace and it can be used for the psychology of good productivity.

'There's a lot of social and commercial reasons why it's fantastic for Dundalk to be on the map. It's all connected and I think it's a little short-sighted for local authority not to row in with Dundalk to promote the area as a whole. It can raise all boats.' That's a battle for another day. For now Lawlor is backing the nine double winners of 2015 to win theirs on Sunday by joining him in an exclusive club. 'Hopefully I'll have a few partners next Sunday and I won't be feeling so lonely,' he laughed. I'll have a cup of tea waiting on them, as Mickey Fox used to say.'

The Argus