Having spent almost 40 years in the game, there is little in local football that David Martin hasn’t seen and few positions he hasn’t held.
Starting at the grassroots as a player for Dromore Amateurs, he moved into more administrative roles and at the start of July he was elected to the top role as the new IFA President.
A quiet man who wants to get on with the job with the minimum of fuss, David is immensely proud of his Dromore roots where his love of the beautiful game began.
“I played for Dromore Amateurs from 1971 but I was never first team material,” he says. “However, I was a clubman and I became the club treasurer in 1975 and that set me on my administrative path within the game.
“Like a lot of other people I went along to the league the club was playing in as their representative at fixture meetings and that was the start of it all. I spent 10 years as the treasurer at Dromore Amateurs before becoming treasurer at the Northern Amateur Football League in 1980. I combined the roles until 1985 when someone else came along on the committee with fresh impetus.
“There have been many changes in the game since then. I think there are more expectations from players nowadays. In our day we didn’t have all the tracksuits and kitbags and you washed your own kits as well.
“I had a good time at Dromore and you never ever forget your roots. Even though I now live in Hillsborough it’s the first result I look for on a Saturday evening. I’m still Treasurer of the Northern Amateur League and it was great to see Dromore come into it in 1971/72. They had been in the league in earlier years then went to the Lisburn league. They wanted to progress so they came back to what is the biggest league in Northern Ireland. It is progressive and it has moved forward and a number of the office bearers have taken it to where it is today.
“We have a very good Officer team and a pretty good committee. For 25 years four of us as officers have worked together - Chairman, Vice Chairman, Secretary and Treasurer. There are still three of us there from 1990.”
Gaining experience at local level, it wasn’t long before a young David Martin found himself part of the IFA.
“In 1981 the league wanted someone young put into administration at Association level and also at National level,” continued David. “So I spent 10 years on the IFA Junior committee and then I moved to the Council in 1991 where I have been ever since. I have served the Association in virtually every capacity, obviously not in the senior game but I served in every capacity that was available to me for the past 35 years.”
Having spent four decades working within the sport he loves, David has seen a few changes.
“The game has progressed considerably in terms of facilities since I played. In those days there were very few clubs with showers and changing facilities and that has progressed over the last 40 years to where it is today.
“Councils have put effort and money into their facilities including 3G pitches and the Association has undertaken to develop the game at all levels in their strategy and we seek to move everyone along not just those at Senior level.
“We do have to remember that the Senior game plays a significant role as it is the flagship of the game in Northern Ireland. It may not be a full time, professional sport here but it has a considerable role to play in identifying and nurturing talent and hopefully getting players into the game across the water”
David’s election came hot on the heels of the Northern Ireland team returning from France and as the fans sing - ‘good times have never been so good.’
“The Euros were fantastic for everyone,” continued the IFA President.
“It was super from the players, super from the supporters, the administration was very good, everything worked really well and the PR for Northern Ireland was brilliant.
“We also had the homecoming for the players and on the back of that £10,000 was raised for charity so it was great to be able to give something back following the tournament.
“Now we are looking at the opening of the new state of the art stadium with a capacity of 18,500 on 8th October when we play San Marino.
“Coming into the World Cup campaign we have quite a challenge as we play the World Champions. Germany are a formidable side and we play them in Hanover in October.
“What is pleasing is the legacy from the Euros. There were two things for me stood out, the first was the number of women at the games and the number of children who are now coming along and hopefully that will be replicated when the World Cup campaign gets underway.
“The government has put a significant amount of money into it. This has taken 16 to 18 years in the making from it was first mooted. There has been a 90 million pound investment in the game which is extremely significant.”
With the team’s success on the pitch at the Euros and the new stadium on the cusp of opening few could doubt that all the IFA’s ducks appear to be sitting in a row at present.
“This has all been part of the strategy and we are currently looking at the strategy and setting more targets for the future,” added Mr. Martin.
“Michael has a four year contract with the Association and things are going well with the football development strategy which is a 10 year plan to develop young players. Jim Magilton is doing an excellent job with Club NI. He is identifying young talent and it’s not just about the training and coaching the players get, it’s the education they get about health, nutrition, hygiene, everything is covered. The aim is to develop them and move them into the English or Scottish game and look after them when they are there.
“You really couldn’t ask for anything better at this point, there is a real feel good factor in Northern Ireland.”
As the new man at the helm, David Martin seems undaunted by the role and it is clear to see that he wants success from the very top level of the game right through to the grassroots.
“I have been at the top end of the game for 17 of the last 20 years. I have been involved in probably every area of the game within the Irish FA, from discipline to the women’s development plan and the youth strategy. I just get on with the job that needs to be done and it will be no different now I am IFA President. I was elected unopposed and that doesn’t happen if your peers don’t believe that you are doing something right.
“What I want to see is the International team continue to do well. If that happens it brings the fans out and it fills the house. With that comes revenue which allows us to put more money into the game at all levels and that is the key.
“It’s all about having a winning team now and in the future. We are doing all the basics right and the work that Michael Boyd does with the youth development before moving them on to Jim Magilton at Club NI will see us develop young players for the future.
“We need to do everything right. It’s the legacy we have from the Euros and what we do in the coming months is important, it is vital that any surplus finances from the Euros finds its way throughout the game and it is important that we spend it wisely.”