Veteran winger who used the experience from his role in Linfield's famous 1922 Seven Trophy team to help guide his hometown team in their first season in senior football before retirement.
The Broughshane native began his football career close to home in 1912, joining the newly formed Raceview United team as a teenager. The village team was formed midway through the 1911/1912 season and did not compete in the local league, but did find their way to the end of the season Ballymena Charity Cup final; losing 2-0 to Summerfield in May 1912.
Cunning and Raceview hit the ground running in their first full season, with the winger making a big impact in the Ballymena Junior League First Division during 1912/1913. David would play in a forward line that also included his older brother Samuel, however the team failed to maintain their early season promise to eventually finish the season in eighth place (from twelve teams). David's individual efforts were rewarded with selection for the Ballymena Junior League's representative team in a match against a County Antrim FA Select in April 1913, but eventually ended up on the losing side by three goals without reply.
David started the 1913/1914 season in the colours of reigning Ballymena Junior League champions Summerfield Strollers and scored on his debut in a 1-1 friendly draw with Southend Rangers in September 1913. Bizarrely the Strollers, four time consecutive league champions leading into the season, decided against competing in any league ' saving only for friendlies and the prestigious Irish Junior Cup. By January 1914, Cunning (alongside other Strollers compatriots) had stepped up to Intermediate football with Southend Rangers in the Irish Alliance League, helping the team to a mid-table finish. Cunning picked up his first winners' medal and the opening goal in the Leaken Cup Final, the final trophy on offer in May 1914, defeating Summerfield 3-1 in the final action of the season.
The winger remained with Rangers for the 1914/1915 campaign, but whilst the team finished mid-table in the Intermediate Alliance League, the season was disrupted by the outbreak of the First World War. Southend Rangers lost one of their most prominent players Leslie Houston early in the conflict, having been killed in action. The cloud of war continued to hang over football into the following (1915/1916 season) as with no less than six members of their team being 'with the colours', Southend Rangers withdrew from football activity ahead of the season.
Galgorm took the opportunity to move into the vacated position in the league and signed up David Cunning and several his Southend team-mates, as they eventually finished in a respectable mid-table position come the end of the campaign. Cunning's performances were noted by the Alliance League as he was drafted into the league select team for a game against Bradford District Junior League in February 1916.
A return to the reactivated Southend Rangers club ahead of the 1916/1917 campaign in the Alliance League followed before a move across to league rivals Summerfield the following season (September 1917). An impressive start to life at Summerfield alerted senior clubs to his talents and subsequently a move to Distillery (as a professional) materialised in November 1917, with the Whites currently playing in the war-time Belfast & District League due to the suspension of the Irish League.
Cunning's time at Distillery was limited to a handful of games at the Grosvenor Park club, yet despite concerns of the eligibility of his registration for the club, he scored his first senior goal against Champions elect Linfield in a 2-2 draw in December 1917. Distillery would eventually finish the shortened league campaign in third place from six teams, but it proved that the player and club were not a good fit and it would soon see a parting of ways. Davy's former club Summerfield had requested the release of his registration to allow him a return to Ballymena, which was rejected by Distillery in the summer of 1918.
His next move was the opportunity to join Linfield Swifts after being lured to the Belfast club's second string by secretary Mr. D. Hunter in December 1918; but Davy failed to make a substantial impact during the second half of the 1918/1919 season. There was press speculation he would be considered for senior selection for the 1919/1920 season, but instead it was a move back home to Ballymena after two years away, to return to the Summerfield club once again.
(Mar 1912) Raceview United; (Aug 1913) Summerfield Strollers; (Jan 1914) Southend Rangers; (Sep 1915) Galgorm; (Sep 1916) Southend Rangers; (Sep 1917) Summerfield; (Nov 1917) Distillery; (Dec 1918) Linfield; (Oct 1919) Summerfield; (Aug 1920) Linfield
Last updated: 2 June 2022