Dundalk confirm the signing of former Chelsea midfielder Conor Clifford

The 25-year-old Dubliner captained Chelsea to win the FA Youth Cup in the 2009-10 season.

Conor Clifford celebrates after captaining Chelsea to win the FA Youth Cup at the expense of Aston Villa.
Conor Clifford celebrates after captaining Chelsea to win the FA Youth Cup at the expense of Aston Villa.
Image: John Walton

TEN YEARS AFTER he departed for England, Conor Clifford has returned to Ireland to resume his professional career closer to home.

Dundalk have this afternoon confirmed the signing of the 25-year-old midfielder, who joins the SSE Airtricity League Premier Division champions from Boreham Wood in the National League — the fifth-tier of English football.

“I am delighted to have signed with the club,” the Dubliner told Dundalk’s official website. “I spoke with Stephen Kenny [Dundalk manager] and things went well there so I can’t wait to get started. I trained with the lads earlier today and enjoyed it.

“Stephen was massive in my decision. I like the way that the team played last year and he has done great things with Dundalk. I am looking forward to playing under him so I am happy to be here.”

Having played his schoolboy football with Cherry Orchard and Crumlin United, Clifford joined Chelsea’s academy at the age of 16. Although he never made a first-team breakthrough, Clifford captained the club to their first FA Youth Cup in 61 years in the 2009-10 season.

Clifford went on to have several loan spells — at the likes of Plymouth Argyle and Portsmouth, among others. He had a brief stint at Leicester City in 2013 before spending two seasons at Southend United. The Irish U21 international, who was included in the senior squad for a World Cup qualifier against Germany in 2012, joined Boreham Wood in 2015.

Clifford is the latest new arrival at Oriel Park ahead of the 2017 season, following the additions of Niclas Vemmelund (Derry City), Sean Hoare and Jamie McGrath (both St Patrick’s Athletic). The Lilywhites have been forced to bring in new faces after key players such as Daryl Horgan, Ronan Finn and Andy Boyle departed at the end of last season.

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Dundalk will be looking to win the Premier Division for the fourth consecutive season in 2017, as well as aiming for more success on the Euopean front when they enter the Champions League qualifiers.

“Europe is something I am looking forward to this season,” said Clifford, who played alongside former Dundalk stars like Boyle and Richie Towell during his time at Crumlin United.

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“I watched Dundalk in the Champions League and Europa League last season and I was very impressed with them. The style of football was good and they played well. I want to do something similar this year. I want to help repeat that but I want to win trophies as well. I want to win things. That’s the aim and hopefully we can achieve that.”

He added: “I know Andy [Boyle] and Richie [Towell]. They have been here and they are good friends of mine so I have been aware of what was going on at the club and how well they have been doing. I have seen them do well and they spoke so highly of the club before I came here. It was something that was a big factor in coming here. The season can’t come quick enough.”

Dundalk have also confirmed that John Mountney has signed a new contract which will keep him at the club for a sixth season.

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Paul Dollery

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