FORMER Derry City and Finn Harps midfielder, Tony McNamee is hoping to help Swilly Rovers turn the corner in the coming weeks having left League of Ireland football behind him in favour of a return to his hometown club in the Ulster Senior League.
The 23-year-old is back at Swilly Park having decided to sever ties with Finn Harps in early December.
USL action resumes this Sunday following the Christmas break and McNamee will be included in the Swilly squad that takes on League leaders and defending champions Cockhill Celtic at the Charlie O’Donnell Sports Grounds.
Swilly are without a League win so far this season, but McNamee – back after making 40 appearances in two seasons with Harps – is aiming to change the Lennonsiders’ luck.
“It’s been a while since I played and I’m really looking forward to getting back out on the pitch again,” said McNamee, the brother of Derry City midfielder, Barry.
“I was just looking in the last couple of weeks there; my last full 90 minutes was back in June away to Longford Town.
“I haven’t seen too much of Swilly but from what I’ve seen even in training, I believe we’d give most teams a game if we have our full side out.
“It’s always nice to pull on the Swilly shirt. I’ve always played for Swilly, from schoolboys level. There was one season where I played Under-16, Reserve and senior before I moved into Derry.
“It’ll be enjoyable again, going back in and playing with boys that I grew up with. It’ll be nice to get back playing with Swilly again.
“It’s a results-based business and we need to start getting results. There are no ‘big-time’ players here at Swilly and no-one gets a penny for what they do. There’s no point in that anymore.
“At the start of the season, Swilly had boys out from Derry, but still weren’t getting the results.
“Gerry (Crossan) has taken over and a lot of young players have come in. There is a lot to be positive about. There is a great underage set-up here at the club. A lot of players have moved onto Derry for instance.
“Playing in the USL is great for players. Myself and Barry (McNamee) both benefitted greatly from it. You’re playing against men in proper, physical games.
“It’s one reason I disagree with the Under-15 League of Ireland – it will hurt underage teams and development at schoolboys teams like Swilly, but hopefully not too much.”
McNamee previously played in the USL with Swilly, lining out under Danny McConnell and Kieran Boyle before he was signed by Derry City.
He was given a first team debut by Roddy Collins, then manager at Brandywell, before a move to Glenavon didn’t yield success and he was signed by Harps boss Ollie Horgan ahead of the 2015 campaign.
Harps fans were sad to see McNamee depart last month and were even hopeful of a U-turn at one stage.
However, the Ramelton native – who is a nephew of Finn Harps legend Con McLaughlin – has revealed that frustrations with an increasing amount of time on the bench as well as his work commitments at Michael Murphy Sports & Leisure contributed to his decision.
“As the season went on, I was getting frustrated at the lack of game time and it got the better of me,” he said.
“Over time, work commitments came into it too. It was the easy option for me, really.
“People sometimes don’t realise what players in the League of Ireland have to do. To be fair, Michael and Martin in the shop were very helpful to me. Even getting off for training, never mind matches, was never a problem.
“Sometimes, though, after matches, I was coming back from Wexford or Cork at half five in the morning and was clocking in for work again at nine.
“We played away to Galway one Monday night and we were in Cork on the Friday. I took a week’s holidays that week to get recover in between the games. That’s a week I couldn’t get back.
“You’re taking hours off, so you’re getting paid less. Some days you’re coming in late or leaving early. I was lucky in comparison to some players who had struggles to get off for games.
“I did a lot of thinking during the last part of the season. I was actually thinking about pulling the pin back in September, but I stuck it out.”
Meanwhile, Derry City Reserves are back in action this Sunday as they take on Finn Harps Reserves at Templemore Sports Complex at 2 p.m.