EMMET Friars may not be involved in the Derry City squad competing in the 2012 Airtricity Premier Division, but the 26-year-old refused to close the door on a return to the Brandywell.
ARTHUR DUFFY reports
Having now joined Irish League representatives, Dungannon Swifts, on an 18 months contract, it would appear that the versatile defender has been a victim of circumstances at his home town club.
But while he had been anxious to remain a member of the “Candy Stripes,” the absence of a new manager appears to have placed him in difficulty.
“I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my two years at Derry City when winning the First Division title and the League Cup, but I couldn’t take a chance on being left without a club with a new manager not in place,” said Emmet this week.
“I couldn’t take the risk that I would remain part of the squad given that I was out of contract and when Dungannon and other clubs made contact with me I had to make a decision,” he added.
“Couldn’t take anything
“However, I’m old enough to understand that new managers make changes and I was not in a position to take anything for granted. In the end, Dungannon Swifts came in for me when I was at Newry City, but I opted to sign for Derry.
“They were in touch with me again after my contract expired last season and while I appreciated the call, I held out for as long as I could in the hope that I would be involved at the Brandywell next season.
“Stephen (Kenny) then opted to leave and I found myself in a difficult position. Having thought long and hard about the situation, I opted to join Dungannon as I felt it was in the best interests of my family,” continued the full-back.
Friars insisted he has always remained a faithful supporter of his home town club even when he played in the Irish League in the past.
“Chances are I could probably regret my decision, but the security of my family has to come first and my decision was totally based on that.
“The fact that my brother, Sean, has also signed for Dungannon made my decision a bit easier as we will be travelling for matches and training in the company of three lads from Strabane - all former Finn Harps players - J. P. Gallagher, Michael Funston and Marc Brolly.
“I’ve got a good offer with a good club run by good people and I would hope to playing regularly.”
Describing the Derry City situation as “out of my control,” Emmet didn’t envisage leaving the Brandywell this season.
“I had hopes of remaining involved with the squad as I’ve always supported Derry. My brother has represented the club and my father is a big fan. But I couldn’t take anything for granted and I felt I had to make a decision.
“My two years at the Brandywell, as part of the re-birth of the club, have been fantastic but things did get difficult for me with so much training and trying to keep a job as well.
“Don’t get me wrong, my employers, Gee’s Wine Store, have been fantastic to me and very, very supportive of my football commitments, but there were times when I found it difficult.
“I felt I learned quite a lot from Stephen (Kenny) and Declan (Devine) and I believe I’ve improved as a player under their coaching. The experience was fantastic and I’d never close the door on my home town club as you never know what could happen in the future,” he claimed.
“I’ve signed an 18 months contract with what I believe is a family club. Dungannon concentrate on playing football and under Rodney McAree and Darren Murphy I will enjoy training and playing.
“I’ve spoken to both of them and they insist that Dungannon is not just an Irish League club which wants to survive in the Premier Division, they want to push on and attempt to achieve success which is great.
“And now that I’ll be playing on a Saturday afternoon, I will also be in a position to return to the Brandywell and watch Derry City play, which is something I certainly will do.”
However, his biggest regret leaving Derry City is the fact that he will not be involved in the Setanta Sports Cup or, more importantly, in the Europa League this season.
“To play for Derry City in Europe would be a dream come true for me and, provided they get the red light from UEFA, that will certainly be a major regret.
“The club faces a very tough schedule this year with the Setanta Cup starting the season off and that will be another regret for me, playing against teams from the Irish League.
“That said, I’d like to think I played my part in helping Derry restore its reputation. I’ll miss the players and the banter in the dressing room, but it was time for me to move on,” he concluded.