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Going through Hull to play for Ireland

Dan has joined Hull City on loan from Birmingham for the rest of the season. Picture: Hull City FC.

Daniel Crowley told David Hennessy that nothing less than promotion will do for Hull City this season, about his ambitions to play for Republic of Ireland and how he first met Jack Grealish on the GAA pitch before they both ended up at Aston Villa’s academy.

Finding first team opportunities restricted at Birmingham City, Daniel Crowley has joined League One leaders Hull City on loan for the rest of the season.

Born in Coventry, the attacking midfielder joined Aston Villa’s academy aged eight before joining North London giants Arsenal in 2013 at the age of 17, having impressed Arsene Wenger himself.

Having failed to make the breakthrough at the Emirates, Crowley went to play in Holland with Willem II although he also had loan spells with Go Ahead Eagles and SC Cambuur.

Crowley has represented both the Republic of Ireland and England at youth international but the 23-year-old has now declared for the Republic of Ireland and is now looking to earn a senior call-up to Stephen Kenny’s Boys in Green.

Speaking just after he made the move in January, Crowley told The Irish World that nothing less than promotion back to the Championship at the first time of asking will be good enough for League One leaders Hull City this term.

“One hundred percent that is our goal,” Daniel says. “That’s the goal for the gaffer, the players and everyone around the place.

“Anything else would not be good enough.

“The team, the players we have, the squad is really good in every position.

“We should get promoted.”

Daniel said he has also been impressed with the winning mentality in the dressing room that convinces him Hull can achieve their goal/

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“It’s a great bunch of lads, you’re not going to say they’re not, are you, but honestly, it’s a great group of lads, they’re really welcoming, funny and hard-working.

“They’re determined, they set really high standards every day in training, it’s a good group and it has everything to get promoted.

“When it’s time to work, everyone works.

“Everyone’s dying to play, there’s no bad eggs and there’s no players that throw their dummies out of the pram. Everyone just wants to win, everyone wants everyone to do well which I think is really important in a winning team.

“Everyone’s really eager to play, to win, to get the best out of each other, to get the best out of themselves and it’s the same with the staff. It’s been really good and I’m really impressed.

“It’s the kind of team you want to be in – you see teams get promoted from the outside and you see it’s a good mix, a good group of players and here we have that.

“I’ve been in loads of different teams: Winning teams, losing teams, and this is definitely a winning team, a winning mentality, striving to be the best and get promoted.

“I’m really enjoying it.”

While he was a regular in the team after joining Birmingham City in 2019, Dan found himself overlooked by Aitor Karanka this term and says he was hoping for such a loan move.

“I kind of knew before January. I’m not stupid. I can read situations and the last game I was involved in was in October so it was always my plan to try and get out and play. It’s difficult because you’re waiting for that phone call. I was desperate to get out.

“It’s part and parcel of football. There’s times when you don’t play and then January comes along, you’re waiting for something to happen and thankfully it did fairly quickly.”

Crowley’s contract with Birmingham City is up in the summer but he admits it’s too soon to start talking about the future.

Asked about a permanent move to Hull, he says, “Wow. Its early days to be asking that question.

“I’m just concentrating on helping the team get promoted and then who knows what’s going to happen.

“I have no idea and I’m not even thinking about it, I just really want to play and add myself to the team and what I can bring, I just want to get promoted and play as much as I can.”

Hull City are currently third behind Peterborough United and Lincoln but will have their eyes on Portsmouth, Sunderland and Doncaster who all have games in hand.

“It is really close, I think we’re the best team in the league.

“There’s some good teams with some good players but we’re the best.”

Dan donned the Irish flag after he helped Willem II through to a cup final

Crowley has played for both England and Ireland at U16 and U17 levels but has stated his desire to represent the Boys in Green.

“I want to play for Ireland. Last I heard everything had gone through in terms of paperwork which has been very complicated but last I heard it was pretty much done.”

Mick McCarthy was known to be a keen admirer of Crowley but has the midfielder had any contact with his successor Stephen Kenny? “No, I haven’t spoken to him. It’s a dream of mine and it would be amazing to play internationally.

“I am concentrating on my club now in terms of trying to get Hull City promoted and when you start doing well for your club then things happen but my main focus is completely on Hull. Obviously t would be amazing.

“I have been patient and I’m going to carry on being patient. If it happens this year or next year then great in terms of getting the call-up from Stephen Kenny… For now, I’m concentrating on Hull City, but I would love to play for Ireland.”

How does he see himself fitting into Kenny’s plans? “I don’t know really. He likes young players. I think he likes attacking players and my kind of style but I have to prove to him that I am good enough to play for his Ireland team and when I do that, I think I will get my chance.

“I cannot expect to get picked for Ireland when I am not even playing for Birmingham… I have to get playing for Hull, get promoted and see what happens.”

As a youngser, Daniel also showed promise on the GAA pitch, playing for his local club in Coventry, Roger Casements with whom he participated in the annual Feile na nGael.

In 2009, Crowley captained Casements to an U12 Championship.

“I loved playing Gaelic, I absolutely love it. It is a great sport. Some of my best childhood memories are playing Gaelic football. It is a tough sport, it’s quite rough and I think it’s definitely stood to me playing football. I don’t mind coming against players who want to kick me or try and rough me up, that’s for sure.”

Although they ended up at the Villa academy together, it was on the GAA pitch that Daniel first came into contact with Jack Grealish.

“I played against Jack when he played for John Mitchel’s and he was just as good at Gaelic football as he is at football, so you can imagine how good of a Gaelic footballer he was.

“I just stayed out of the way of trying to defend against Jack.

Daniel pictured with his All-Ireland-winning grandfather on the day he signed for Arsenal

“I used to talk to him when we were at Aston Villa about Gaelic Football.

“Jack really enjoyed the Gaelic football and so did I. It was a shame when I had to stop Gaelic at 13, 14 because I was at the academy at Villa. I would definitely have liked to have played it a bit longer.”

Daniel also comes from good GAA stock as his grandfather, Tom Crowley from Tramore in Co. Waterford, was a member of the Warwickshire 1973 All-Ireland junior winning team.

Tom has been encouraging of Daniel’s exploits in both GAA and soccer.

“He loved it. He loves watching me play sport. He was going to every game before lockdown when I was playing for Birmingham.”

Daniel’s father Dave also played GAA for St Finbarrs.

“I have a massive sporting family. My dad, my mum, my sisters, my mum and dad’s parents, they’re really into sport and played sport at quite a decent level. It’s massively in my family and I think that’s really helped me be the player I am now.”

Crowley also has Irish connections come from Mayo on his mother’s side, while on his paternal grandmother is from Fermoy, Co. Cork.

Daniel grew up in a very Irish house and neighbourhood in Coventry and has spoken before of crying his eyes out when he saw Ireland get eliminated from the 2002 World Cup.

“Yeah, in Coventry there is a lot of Irish people, a lot of Irish families and Irish traditions. It’s a very sporting and Irish community.”

After starting his career at Aston Villa, it was Arsene Wenger himself that pushed for Arsenal to sign the youngster having personally watched Crowley playing against Arsenal youth sides and being convinced Crowley could be an elite player.

However, Crowley never made the breakthrough at the Emirates and has been candid enough to say it may have been down to him.

Finding himself out of options in this country after his four years there, Crowley went on loan to Dutch club Go Ahead Eagles, scoring twice in 16 matches. This was his third and final loan spell away from the Emirates after having spells at Barnsley and Oxford.

In 2017, Crowley completed a permanent transfer to the Netherlands, signing a three-year deal with Eredivisie outfit Willem II.

Making 10 appearances during his first season, he gained additional experience on loan at Dutch second-tier side SC Cambuur, racking up 17 appearances and netting four goals.

Returning to Willem II for 2018/19, Crowley started all 34 league matches and played a further six cup games as the club reached the KNVB Cup final, losing to Ajax.

Daniel says playing abroad has helped him to ‘grow up’ and also steeled his resolve as he never again wants to be as out of options as he was leaving Arsenal.

“It was a great experience on and off the pitch. There were some tough times living abroad and being on your own away from my family but I learned a lot about myself.

“I had to grow up. I was living on my own. You have to fend for yourself and when I was here I had my family.

“When I was over there, I had to look after myself so you grow up off the pitch and on the pitch as well, I realised what it takes to be a footballer and what you have to do.

“Because Holland was kind of my only option to go and play, I never wanted to be in that situation again. Now I know I have to give everything every day in training to play in England because it is a tough country to make a career.

“I think everyone needs to play. Especially when they’re young. I was brave and confident enough to go out there and I had one goal and that was to play and gain experience. I backed myself to do that. I really enjoyed it.

“It was a good experience but I was definitely ready to come back.”

Many would have predicted Daniel to be playing at a much higher level at this point in his career considering the early promise he showed.

“Sometimes it’s frustrating,” he says on this. “Everyone’s journey in football is completely different. When you start comparing yourself to other people or you try and rush your career, you have to take a step back, relax, be patient and stay focused.

“I think that as a player and as a person if you have ability and you’re 100% professional every day in training, you give everything and you stay focused then you’re going ot get your chance.

“It’s when you start going out and not giving everything and letting your standards drop, it’s not going to happen for you.

“But I know that if you give everything, your attitude’s good, you’re professional on and off the pitch then you’re going to get your chance to play at the top. That’s my belief.

“When you’re in a winning team like this and you’re fighting for promotion, you have to be ready straight away and if you’re not, it’s not going to work out for you.

“We want to get promoted. I want to get promoted. I have to be on it every single day.”

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