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Happy 85th Birthday Francie!

History
// 24 May 2020

Everybody at Dundalk FC would like to wish Dundalk FC legend Francie Callan a very happy 85th birthday.

Francie played 264 times for the Lilywhites, scoring 96 goals, and won two league titles, a Top Four Cup and the Presidents Cup.

Below is an article on Francie, written by the late Jim Murphy, that was published in the Dundalk FC Magazine in 2015.

FrancieCallan_PlayerStats

Francie Callan’s early football career saw him play with a number of ‘upper-end’ teams. At schoolboy level, he lined out with Bendigo (U14), St Malachy’s (U16) and in the local Junior League with St Joseph’s and Arsenal. With all of them he scored goals—and plenty of them.

Dundalk trainer Gerry McCourt had periodically played him with the reserves when he was just 16 years old and then brought him into the Reserve panel on a regular basis for the 1954-55 season where his performances earned him two league games at the tail end of a dreadful season.

He made his debut on March 20th, 1955 against Transport at Harold’s Cross (0-0) and his first senior Oriel Park outing came the following weekend against Bohemians (0-2). Under player-coach Walter Rickett the following season, Francie enjoyed a dream start, scoring in three of the first four Shield games, and ended up as leading league (10) and all-game (16) goal scorer.

Shelbourne v Dundalk - League of Ireland 1964

The Dundalk team, pictured before a league game with Shelbourne in 1964. Francie Callan is in the back row, third from the right

He repeated this feat the following year, 1956-57, and was heading in the same direction at the beginning of 1957-58 when Peter Doherty, manager of Doncaster Rovers, came a-calling. By the beginning of November, Francie was on his way to the English League. A plentiful supply of goals with the reserves saw him promoted after three months, making his English League debut against the Bill Shankly-managed Huddersfield Town and he scored twice in a 2-2 draw.

During his period at Doncaster, he was given great help to settle by ex-Dundalk player, Paddy Gavin. Over two seasons he made 28 League appearances, scoring 6 league goals. Afterwards, he linked up again for a couple of seasons with Walter Rickett, now manager at Southern League outfit Ramsgate Athletic. He scored plenty of goals at Ramsgate but his second season was disrupted by injuries.

He returned to Oriel Park for the 1961-62 season, joining a forward line that included Jimmy Hasty, Willie Coleman, Victor Meldrum and Liam Munroe. Picking up where he had left off four years previously, he scored twice in his first match back, a 5-0 City Cup first-round win over Sligo Rovers at Oriel Park, and a few days later he was on the scoresheet again in the second round tie against St Patrick’s Athletic. Francie’s 20 season goals were sufficient to earn him the leading marksman award for the third time.

The acquisition of Dermot Cross saw Francie occupy the inside-left role for the 62-63 championship-winning season and his understanding with Cross and Hasty was one of the critical factors throughout the season. Contributing six goals to the first title-winning success in 30 years, none was as important as his equalising goal in the dying minutes of the final game of the campaign against Bohemians at Dalymount Park. The draw was sufficient to give Dundalk a one-point winning margin.

Francie Callan, pictured in 2016

While he was out of first-team favour in the spring of 1965, he played with a Reserve team that consisted mainly of local youths—Tommy and Brian McConville, Gerry Savage, Tommy Kelledy, Jim Smith —and before the season was completed, Francie had collected a Castrol Cup Trophy, Dundalk’s first reserve triumph in 20 years and a memento which he treasures just as much as his championship one.

Of the 1963 title-winning team, only Francie and Tootsie McKeown were still at Oriel Park for the 1966-67 treble year which saw the Lilywhites deliver another league title as well as the Shield and Top Four Cup. A trip to Spain in the summer of 1967, a reward for the season’s endeavours, closed his Dundalk career with another trophy when the ‘Spanish Cup’ was taken home.

He moved to Portadown at the beginning of the 1967-68 season but returned to the League of Ireland by December to finish the season and his playing career with Drumcondra, contributing three goals in 15 appearances. Appropriately, he finished his career under Sam Prole, who had been in charge of Dundalk when he started with the reserves 18 years previously. At the club’s 2010 Gala Dinner he was the recipient of the Hall of Fame Award for the 1960s.