DFC Magazine | Stephen Staunton Interview
One hundred and two caps, three World Cups, a former captain and manager of his country, there is no denying that Stephen Staunton is Dundalk’s most famous son. The 51-year-old was a special guest at the launch of the National Football Exhibition in the County Museum recently and DFC Magazine’s Gavin McLaughlin caught up with ‘Stan’ on his return to the town he loves so well…
GMCL: Stephen, it’s great to see you in Dundalk. How does it feel to be back?
SS: It’s always great to get back to town. We were over for the Six Nations rugby game with Wales and I was asked if I’d be around to come to this. Any excuse for me to come home! It’s a great honour and it’s great for the town to have the exhibition and all of that memorabilia here in the museum.
GMCL: Do you get back to Dundalk much?
SS: I try and get back as much as possible. All the family are still here, my mother, my brothers and sister and all of their families. I love coming home.
GMCL: The last time I spoke to you in Dundalk was back in 2010 when you sat beside the late Tommy McConville at the Crowne Plaza to launch a Dundalk Legends v Liverpool Legends game. Dundalk FC has changed immeasurably since then. What have you made of what has happened at the club over the last seven years?
SS: It’s fantastic. The previous owners, Andy Connolly and Paul Brown brought the club out of the doldrums from where they were. Financially, we knew the club wasn’t in a great place but what they did by bringing in Stephen Kenny and the success that followed means it has been a real rollercoaster. Last year, Vinny Perth came in and he has just continued what Stephen did before him. It’s absolutely fantastic and a long-time coming. I was a ball boy the last time we had success in Europe back in the seventies and it’s lovely to see it again. What makes me proud is that everybody around the town is wearing Dundalk coats, jackets and jerseys with the crest on show. When I was growing up it was Liverpool, Manchester United and Celtic tops so it’s a massive thing that all the locals are wearing Dundalk gear with that sort of pride.
GMCL: When people in England Googled the words ‘Dundalk’ and ‘football’ I’m sure you would have been at the top of many lists but that European run in 2016 really put the town and the club on the football map.
SS: 100%. When you’re with an English club you’d look at League of Ireland teams and think ‘we’re only playing a small club’ but everybody who watched that team could see that Dundalk not only played brilliant football but winning football. The club is in a great spot and hopefully, Vinny can maintain the success he had last year.
GMCL: It’s 18 years since you retired from the international set-up after the World Cup in 2002. Can you believe it’s that long?
SS: No, but I’ll never forget a certain Ronnie Whelan telling me when I was 19 or 20 that before I knew it, it would be over. He was bloody right too! I’m still here, though, and I’m so proud of the part I played in the Irish story. Jack Charlton did some amazing work, Mick McCarthy continued that on and Stephen Kenny will hopefully keep that going when he comes in.
GMCL: Niall Quinn is also here. He’s after coming in at a difficult time for Irish football. How do you think he’ll do in his new role with the FAI.
SS: Niall will be fine. There’s a lot of work to be done and a lot of things need to be sorted out but if you wanted something to be fixed, you couldn’t get a better person in this country than Niall Quinn.
GMCL: Finally, it must fill you with real pride seeing your Irish jerseys and boots on display in your own home town.
SS: That’s it. I’m very proud and I’m just glad I was a part of it. It’s great for the people of Dundalk to see but to actually be a part of that great Irish football era is something that I can’t really put into words. I was just fortunate to be in the right place at the right time and I was aided by a little bit of ability.