DJ fulfils a heartfelt promise to end his Slane reign

David Johnstone. INBL1537-271PB
David Johnstone. INBL1537-271PB

David Johnstone is a man who honours his promises.

He proved that by standing down as manager of Moneyslane last week after two and a half years in charge.

And that was all down to a vow made to his young son.

“One night last summer I was heading out the door and one of the kids asked where I was going,” he explained. “I told him I had to go to training and he was disappointed so I shook his hand then and told him this year would be a football-free summer. I’m not going to go back on that now. There’s not a job in the world that could tempt me back in this summer.”

And so, after leading Moneyslane into the top tier of Mid-Ulster football, Johnstone knew it was time to press eject on the Jubilee Park hot-seat.

It was a role that Johnstone never intended to hold for quite that long.

After former manager Neil McCullough and the club parted ways back in December 2013, Johnstone came in as caretaker boss. Despite initially ruling himself out on a permanent basis, he fell under the spell at Jubilee Park and couldn’t quite tear himself away.

“I only ever stepped into the club to help them out for a while,” he recalls. “It was never a big career step to leave Portadown Reserves. I was helping Ronnie out and doing some scouting there. There are only a handful of Premiership clubs in Northern Ireland so to be involved with one of those is a good position to be in.

“I really wanted to help the guys at Moneyslane out though and offered to stay on to the end of that season. Then I was offered another year and another one.

“I have really enjoyed it. Working with Darragh Peden (Assistant Manager), a good friend of mine, has been good fun. He’s an excellent guy and a great player and coach.

“It was great to work together on that project and to put the pressure on ourselves to gain promotion. We said at the start of the season that anything less would be failure so it was great to deliver on that.

“There is a great group of lads there and it’s been great to be able to help them out.”

Johnstone’s reign has certainly been a successful one as the club finally sealed their promotion to Intermediate A. They also bagged the Alan Wilson Cup last year, only beaten in the final this season as they attempted to defend that title.

“If you look at our last 49 matches, we won 41 of them, which is quite exceptional,” he said. “It’s just unfortunate that a few of the bad results were in big games recently like the final or the Windmill Stars game. There is a little bit of disappointment there. At one stage we were going for the treble.”

Nonetheless, Johnstone is now looking forward to leaving behind the stresses and strains of management, although knowing the man who lives and breathes football, it won’t be long before the itch returns.

“I’ve had 26 years of football with few breaks in there,” he said. “I had two broken legs in that time but I was still going to matches. The longest break I had was I think three months between Dunmurry Rec and Annagh United but I haven’t had a proper summer off in a long, long time.

“I’m looking forward to take that time now.

“We’ve have an incredible season which makes it easier but it’s constantly in your mind, thinking of matches or players to sign. I’m looking forward to the break from having to think about those things as much as anything.

“At the same time, I do fancy a crack at something else maybe after Christmas time.”

For now though, Johnstone isn’t totally divorcing from matters at Moneyslane as the club look to appoint his successor soon.

“I’m involved in the process of the finding a new man and if he wants any advice or help, I will be there to lend a hand,” he said. “I’ll still go down to watch games but at the same time,

“The club are trying to get someone in as soon as possible. They don’t want a big gap but at the same time, it’s important to get the right man in.

“The club are in a really good position and there is no shortage of people throwing their hat in the ring.”

So it’s a case of watch this space for Moneyslane and for Johnstone. For now though, all that matters to one local lad is having his dad all to himself this pre-season.