BARRY McNamee’s seamless integration into the Derry City first team squad in recent weeks has been one of the major success stories of the current campaign.
SIMON COLLINS reports
In his breakthrough season in senior football, the 20 year-old Ramelton lad has made the most of the club’s injury crisis, forcing his way into contention with a string of promising displays.
Having waited patiently for his opportunity, he’s now made 10 league appearances for Declan Devine’s troops since his Airtricity Premier Division debut as a late substitute against Sligo Rovers on April 13th last.
The Derry boss has maintained the club’s policy of harvesting players from the youth ranks and he’s now reaping the benefits with his current crop of youngsters.
Indeed, the contributions of McNamee and Ryan Curran in particular were notable in Tuesday night’s 4-0 victory over Dundalk at Brandywell.
McNamee produced a ‘Man of the Match’ display against the ‘Lilywhites’ - his fifth consecutive start - and is hoping he’s done enough to keep his place in the starting line-up for City’s crunch semi-final clash against Shelbourne on Sunday afternoon.
However, with the imminent return of first choice winger, Stephen McLaughlin the versatile McNamee may have to settle for a place on the bench but he’s willing to do whatever it takes to help the club make their first FAI Cup final since 2008.
“It’s a game I definitely want to be involved in but that’s up to Declan Devine and Paul Hegarty to make that decision,” said McNamee. “If they give me the nod then I’ll continue to give my best.
“I hope I’ve done enough to be considered for a start but everyone knows the quality that Stephen (McLaughlin) has and if he’s fit then he’s more than likely to come straight back into the team.”
McNamee, who is currently studying Sports and Business at St Eunan’s College Letterkenny, was just 14 years-old when Derry last won the FAI Cup but he’s excited about the prospect of reaching the 2012 showpiece at the Aviva Stadium.
“This is my first season in senior football so it would be a great way to end the year with a day out in the Aviva Stadium and hopefully it all goes well.
“Everyone knows that if we get beat on Sunday then we have nothing else to play for so this is the biggest game of the season without a doubt.”
Tuesday night’s display on the left wing was arguably one of McNamee’s most accomplished performances in a ‘Candy Striped’ shirt, showing great composure when in possession.
And he contributed with two assists, setting up Curran with a sublime pass for his second goal for the club and then Dermot McCaffrey’s first Derry City strike in the final minute.
“Well it was a badly needed result after a run of five straight defeats and it will give us a bit of confidence going into the big game at the weekend.
“We always have had confidence in our ability as a team but we just needed to get a win under our belt and a clean sheet as well which is good.
“That’s five or six games in a row now I’ve been involved in the team,” he continued. “Whenever I get a chance I just want to do the best I can for the team and hopefully keep my place.
“There’s obviously a bit more responsibility in the first team when you’re taking corners and free-kicks and I’m glad I delivered those well on Tuesday night.
“It’s always nice to provide assists,” he added. “I was happy with the day’s work and hopefully I can carry it on for Sunday.”
McNamee has been deployed at left-back, on the left wing and in central midfield throughout the season but he’ll be delighted to fulfil any role Devine requires of him on Sunday should he get the chance.
“My favoured position would be in central midfield but I’m happy enough to play anywhere.
“We obviously have a lot of quality and experience in the centre of the pitch so it will be hard to get a chance to play in centre midfield I would think.
“Whenever I get a chance I’ll do my best to impress and you never know where it’ll take me,” he concluded.