A Tribute to Dave Conroy

There is widespread shock and deep sadness across the football community in Laytown, Drogheda and Dublin, after the sudden passing of Dave Conroy (41) in a traffic accident, in the prime of his life. Originally from Foxhill Avenue, Ayrfield in North Dublin, Dave and his wife Jackie had moved to Inse Bay in Laytown over 15 years ago. They have three sons, Lee (22), Alex (12), Dayne (10) and two daughters, Heidi (8) and Cheryl (29), who is the eldest in the family and is based in Perth, Australia. 

I first got to know Dave when he brought his underage teams from Laytown United to play at half-time of Drogheda United games more than 11 years ago. During that time Dave and his coaches brought hundreds of boys and girls from their club to enjoy the experience of meeting the Drogheda players and playing in front of a big crowd on a Friday night. He was a born leader and always brought a huge group of parents to support the children playing. If a club dropped out for some reason, Dave was the one person who could bring a team at short notice. He was Director of Football and manager of the U-17s at Laytown United F.C and this year was also coaching the Drogheda United U-14s.  Dave was so popular with all who knew him, always smiling, charismatic and professional, a genuine football man, with a burning passion for the game. 

Dave was the driving force at Laytown United, a truly outstanding club, and wanted the very best for his players and everyone at the club. He really was one in a million. Dave organised a huge number of activities, fundraisers, tournaments, summer camps, friendly matches and brought his club’s teams on coaching trips to his beloved Liverpool F.C in England. He also arranged for Liverpool and Everton coaches to come over to Dublin and conduct coaching sessions for the NDSL. This season Dave and his son, Alex, travelled all over Ireland to see Drogheda United’s first team playing in the Premier Division, when Alex would interview the players (or managers) after each game for the club’s media team. Despite his tender years, Alex is a complete natural, very popular with all the players and staff and runs his own fan page on Instagram called drogsblog. 

Dave’s eldest son, Lee Conroy, is an outstanding referee in the NDSL league and previously managed teams at Laytown with his dad. Last Friday it was wonderful to see Lee and Alex celebrating out on the pitch with all the Drogheda players at Oriel Park, after the fantastic 2-1 win over Dundalk. Lee fondly recalls “Dad had two passions in life, his family and football. He did absolutely everything for his family and was so proud of every one of us and equally proud of everybody at Laytown United and Drogheda United football clubs.”

Fiona Fetherson’s son Dylan plays on Dave’s Laytown U-17 team. Fiona is very grateful for Dave’s huge influence on Dylan and posted this message on Facebook “We have lost one of the best people we have ever been lucky enough to know. There are no words to describe the hole you will leave in our hearts. You were not just Dylan’s coach. You were his mentor. He idolised you, looked up to you and respected you. As did all the lads on the team. You developed him not only as a footballer but also as a person. We know also that you were a true family man, with a heart of gold.”

 Kevin Doherty is Assistant Manager at Drogheda United and after the crucial win over Dundalk commented “I didn’t need to say it to the players that they were doing it for the family, but they really were. The lads had tears in their eyes in the dressing room. It was great to get the win in a football sense and beat your local rivals, but it was very much for Alex and all the Conroys”

Liam O’ Reilly is the Club Secretary of Laytown United and also coaches one of the club’s U-8 teams. His son Taylor plays for Laytown U-17s which was managed by Dave. “My phone hasn’t stopped ringing since the news broke. Dave touched so many people’s lives particularly through football. He always made players feel good about themselves and he was a father figure to so many. His enthusiasm was so inspirational to all the coaches at the club as he always set such high standards for himself.  We decided to bring the Laytown U-17’s team together on the day that Dave passed, to show the lads that it’s ok to grieve and that we all have different ways of dealing with this type of sadness and at different times. The coaches stepped out of the dressing room and we were delighted when the players started talking amongst themselves.”

Gary Deegan is one of Drogheda United’s outstanding players this season and has played many games with clubs in England such as Coventry City and Hibernian in Scotland. The photo of Gary hugging Alex Conroy after Friday’s 2-1 win over Dundalk epitomised the community’s sadness and was widely circulated on social media. Gary explained “Family and community is something we pride ourselves in at Drogheda United. Dave showed that on a daily basis. He touched a lot of hearts and he will be sorely missed”

Darren Rowley knew Dave very well over the years and remembers Dave’s wonderful commitment and dedication. His son, Darren Junior, progressed through all the Laytown teams and currently plays for Drogheda United U-17s and 19s. “Dave always gave 100 per cent to everything he did. I remember Dave being so proud after building and painting a brand new dug-out in the club’s colours, red and black! He was really enjoying his coaching but more recently, he was scouting the best players in the local area for DUFC Academy director Morgan Hughes. Dave sent several excellent players on to play with Drogheda.”

Sean Brennan was a top class player with Drogheda and is now a coach with the first team at the club and added “It’s absolutely heartbreaking. Dave’s passing is a huge loss to the local football community and of course to his beautiful family, who he was so proud of”.

Luke McQuillan (16) plays centre-back on the U-17s team that Dave managed and is also a key member of the DUFC media team “As a person Dave was always approachable, not just about football matters but really about anything. He brought so much happiness to so many people’s lives. As a coach he really helped me develop so much as a player. He made me feel so welcome when I signed for the club and he was a fantastic role model. I know his son Alex very well and it’s great to see Alex following in his dad’s footsteps with such a passion for football and Drogheda United. Dave was so proud of Alex but would always take a step back to let Alex learn in his own way. I have no doubts that Alex will continue to make Dave and the family so proud.”

Damien O ‘Connell was a lifelong friend of “Conroy” as he used to call him, from the time they were next door neighbours growing up in Dublin. Damian is also a coach at Laytown United and is the main organiser of the special Go Fund Me ‘Friends of David Conroy Fundraiser’. Damian’s wife is also great friends with Dave’s wife Jackie. He continued “Dave was an early riser and would be up at 5.30 am so that he could finish his work early and spend more time with the family and at the football. He always kept the club and pitches spotless and like his own dad, was very good with his hands. It was only last Sunday that he finished building an apartment/cabin in his back garden for his son Lee. He also did lots of odd jobs for many of his neighbours. He did all his own tiling and could put his hand to anything. When he got involved with me for The Seaside Cup, he would say ‘Whatever you need, just give us a shout’. Dave had a ‘can do’ attitude-he was a ‘doer’ more than a ‘talker’. He was so driven, not for himself, but for the community.  All of the kids in the Conroy family are a lovely mix of Dave and Jackie, the way they have developed through the years.”

Keith Reilly is a close family friend and also coach of East Meath United’s U-15 team and explains “Dave will be sorely missed in the whole football community. He was the heart and soul of Laytown United. Dave was the ‘Go To’ person at the club. He was brilliant at giving advice on any aspect of the game. He would often say ‘Just imagine if it was your own child involved -make the decision on that basis’. Just last Sunday he was in his element, cheering on his beloved Laytown teams, when his son Dayne and daughter Heidi were playing in the Kells Blackwater Tournament.”

Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis

Paul Holland

Half- Time Co-ordinator  

Drogheda United F.C

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