David Cawley has experienced more than most his age in the League of Ireland, and he will be hoping to lean on his past to help inspire the next generation at 'his club' Sligo Rovers.
The 29-year-old returned home in 2011 after four years in the UK with Ipswich Town. While at Portman Road, Cawley racked up little experience of senior football during that stint across the Irish Sea.
He would later return home and establish himself as one of the most impressive midfielders the league has seen in a number of years.
And he is hoping that he can lean on that experience as the Bit O’Red look to continue their road to redemption after several years in the top-flight wilderness.
The goals flying in tonight are RIDICULOUS 🤯
Sligo make it 3-1 thanks to this banger from David Cawley 🙌#LOI | #GreatestLeagueInTheWorld pic.twitter.com/us0THaZoVE
— Domestic Ireland (@DomesticIreland) April 20, 2021
“It was an experience that stood to me [at Ipswich]," Cawley said. “There were plenty of downs rather than ups."
I went over when I was going into Transition Year at school, so I was experiencing top level football straight away in the Championship.
Jim Magilton was the manager at the start, and he got sacked, Roy [Keane] then came in, and under Roy I was turning pro, but then he got sacked.
Paul Jewell came in at the end. I never got to impress under him with a knee injury during my first training session with him, and that was me pretty much gone.
You know as a player that when you’re going to be moved on, [But] it was an experience that stood to me. I wouldn’t change it.
While at Portman Road, Cawley plied his trade under a certain Roy Keane, and was also in close quarters with fellow Irish teammate Shane Supple.
Ipswich was the first English club that I went to on trial with. I spent a couple of weeks there on trial [at the start] and then went [over] again later on.
There were other clubs interested, Liverpool was one, but I thought I didn’t need to go anywhere else.
There was plenty of Irish faces there [at Ipswich] and it felt like a home away from home if I was going to make this move.
In fairness to Shane Supple, he was a big part of it. He didn’t have to be as nice to those lads coming up and he made it easy for us.
We were staying at his digs as well, and he was playing in the first-team at a young age so it gave us inspiration thinking if Shane can do it why can’t we.
For now, however, Cawley is an experienced head in a young dressing room at the Showgrounds.
And having returned home after a stint in England, the Mayo native knows what it is like deal with that disappointment away from home.
But like him, he will be hoping that Sligo teammate Seamas Keogh can shake off that blow he also suffered a few weeks back to flourish once more after his Southampton heartache.
Keogh left the Saints after several years at St Mary's, having played for the club at U18 and U23 level.
Similarly to Cawley, Keogh would not stay there past the end of his first pro deal, but his new teammate believes the teenager has shaken that frustration off already.
“I rejoined Sligo when Seamas was 15 and he was in training with us back then,” he said.
He was heading to England at the time when he was in training with us.
I remember thinking ‘Jesus, whos’ this lad’. [Seamas] didn’t look 15 and he was mixing with the lads, firing passes along the ground.
He was a good player, and I didn’t know he was going over to England until the manager told me at the time.
[Seamas] looked a proper player and I thought he could make it. These things happen and he’s back now, but he’s still very young.
He’s got his whole career ahead of him. He knows that so he has to perform to his ability because he has plenty of it. Who knows, he might get another move back over.
When lads get released by clubs in England their confidence probably takes a hit and they go back into their shell a little bit.
I don’t know if Seamas has or not but he’s definitely not in his shell now. It will only be a matter of time before he gets a right run in the team.
David Cawley of Sligo Rovers spoke at the launch of SSE Airtricity’s A Common Goal sustainability initiative to help build a more environmentally sustainable football community by uniting clubs, players, and fans. #ACommonGoal.