All hail Danny Hale!

Continuing on with our series on players who have made their mark on both sides of the border, this time we will look at one of the deadliest strikers ever seen either North or South, Danny Hale.

Danny was a prolific goalscorer at all the clubs he played for across a 13-year career, smashing through the 100 goal barrier for both Crusaders and Derry City, while also making a huge mark in the history books at Dundalk.

Danny, who resides in the Duncairn area of North Belfast, started out at North Belfast side Cliftonville. In those days the Reds were a strictly amateur club and finished bottom of the table in eleven consecutive seasons, regularly having to apply for re-election to the league. Nonetheless, Danny was quickly on the goal trail, barely 18 when netting on his Irish League debut against Coleraine in 1959.

Danny was the club’s top scorer in his first season and was honoured with his first Amateur International cap against England as Ireland fell to a 3-2 defeat at High Wycombe. The game saw a crazy finale as the Irish team led 2-1 with eleven minutes to go. England were awarded a penalty to equalize before a second English penalty was crashed against the post. Just as the visitors thought they had secured the draw England grabbed a late, late winner to break Irish hearts.

After two seasons at Solitude, he moved across Belfast to Glentoran, once again scoring on his debut for the Oval side. Danny would find competition fierce at the Oval, however, with the likes of Walter Bruce and Trevor Thompson ahead of him in the pecking order. Despite being in and out of the side Danny still managed a one in two ratio across the season, before making what would prove to be a productive move back to North Belfast.

Having seen two of his brothers enjoying spells at Seaview, it was a natural move for Danny and it proved to be just as enjoyable for him. Crusaders chairman Tommy Moorhead thought little of stumping up the princely sum of £40 to secure Danny’s signature, and what a piece of business it proved.

Manager Sammy McCrory was putting together a useful side on the Shore Road, with Jack Milligan between the sticks looking ahead to a spine made up of Norman Pavis, Albert Campbell, Bimbo Weatherup, Mousey Brady and Danny Trainor.

In 1963 Danny picked up his second Amateur International cap, once again against England, but this time Ireland saw off the visiting team 2-1 with two quick-fire first-half goals at the Oval.

It wasn’t long before the Crues were amongst the silverware as 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 eventually see off Glenavon. In 1965 Danny went one better, firing two goals past Larne as the Crues raced to a 6-0 win.

On a personal level, in this four-season spell with the Hatchetmen Danny racked up an incredible 143 goals in the red and black. In the 1965/66 season, official records say Danny netted 55 goals, an incredible total that was only bettered by Linfield talisman Sammy Pavis. To this day, however, Danny insists he got 56 goals. In a 10-1 victory against Newry the scorecard noted that Davy Logan had netted, but Danny claims the final touch was his!

Early in this season, Danny picked up his third and final Amateur International cap, once again against England. This time the Irish were on the end of a 2-0 defeat in Ballymena.

In 1966, Danny moved into the League of Ireland with the Lilywhites of Dundalk. In what was becoming a bit of a habit, Danny scored on his debut for the club, but not content with that he netted in each of the four opening games. This would prove to be the start of a memorable season for Dundalk as they went on to claim the title, the League of Ireland Shield and the Top Four Cup.

Danny netted 28 goals in that season, picking up the club’s leading scorer title, while his 15 league strikes made him the joint highest scorer in the division along with Johnny Brooks of Sligo Rovers.

Of course, the title victory led to European travels, with Budapest the destination for the Oriel Park side. Danny would net the only goal for Dundalk as they fell to a 9-1 aggregate defeat to the Hungarian champions. However before the season was out Danny was on the move North again, this time to Derry City.

In three seasons at the Brandywell Danny broke the 100 goal mark, including a phenomenal 1968/69 season when he notched up 45 goals. Danny had an enjoyable spell in the North West and during his spell there Derry City would lose out in the Irish Cup final to a Martin O’Neill inspired Distillery side and came second in the league, along with a few semi-final defeats. That 45 goal haul in 1969 included 21 league goals which saw him win the league’s top scorer award, one of the few strikers to ever win the accolade on both sides of the border.

Danny would wind up his career a little closer to home, with a short spell at Ards. By the time the 1971-72 season was over Danny had notched up over 300 goals across a 13-year senior career, an impressive average of 25 goals a season, superb by anyone’s standards.

In his retirement from playing Danny kept a keen eye on the local game, mainly with his local team Newington YC. Danny served the now Premier Intermediate League club as President while they were the kingpins of Amateur League football. Newington, who recently won their first ever Steel and Sons Cup under manager Conor Crossan, where the dominant force in NAFL, winning four Premier League titles after a rapid rise through the Amateur League ranks, and Danny’s son, Danny junior, was one of the main men in the trophy-laden 15 year spell, as player and later serving on the coaching staff.

It was always clear that football ran in the genes and there is now another generation of Hale’s determined to make their mark at the Brandywell. Danny’s grandsons, Rory and Ronan, have recently signed on at Derry for the upcoming season. A former Aston Villa  youth captain, Rory has joined on a permanent deal after leaving relegated Galway United, while Ronan joins on loan from Birmingham City. Both lads are Republic of Ireland youth internationals.

Striker turned midfielder Rory, 21, made a big impact for The Tribesmen in what was ultimately a disappointing end to the season, but his performances raised eyebrows across the country and it wasn’t long before Derry came calling.

Younger brother Ronan, 19, remains under contract at Birmingham until 2019 and is highly rated at the Championship club. Soaring past the 30 goal mark in his first season in the Midlands, while playing at an age level above his own, Ronan had moved up to the U23 set up this season. A succession of injuries meant he was in and out of the side in the first half of the season, and now he will look to get some games under his belt and, along with Rory, get the Hale name back on the Derry City scorecard.

A lethal striker in every side he played for, it’s perhaps no surprise that during his playing days Danny garnered the nickname ‘Red Sand Dan’, due to his fondness for the six-yard box. They say scoring goals is the hardest skill in the game. Danny had it down to an art form.