FORMER Derry City skipper, Barry Molloy claims Peter Hutton made the perfect choice when handing the captain’s armband to Ryan McBride this season.
McBride will be a key absentee for the ‘Candy Stripes’ tomorrow night as a heavily depleted City open their 2015 SSE Airtricity Premier Division campaign against Galway United at Eamonn Deacy Park. However he has received a glowing endorsement from his predecessor who insists Derry have found the right man for the job!
And while Molloy (31) predicts Derry will face a ‘difficult season’, he has every confidence in McBride’s leadership qualities and believes the Brandywell man’s professionalism will ‘rub off’ on the younger members of the squad.
“I think giving the armband to Ryan McBride was a great decision,” said Molloy. “He wouldn’t be the most vocal player but he’s a leader in terms of how he plays and how he conducts himself in training.”
Midway through his testimonial year last season, Hutton presented Molloy with the captaincy following the departure of Cliff Byrne and he led the team out for the 2014 FAI Cup Final, so he knows exactly the attributes needed to fulfil such a role. And he believes McBride’s no-nonsense approach will help drive the club forward.
“I think when you see boys like that training hard and playing hard and putting themselves into tackles and headers, then that rubs off on people.
“So I think with the likes of him and Philip Lowry, who I think will keep getting better and better with full-time training, will be key players for Derry this year.”
Now at Irish Premiership leaders, Crusaders chasing a league and cup ‘double’, Molloy has moved on after 10 years service to the Brandywell club.
But he admits he found it difficult this week not being part of Derry City’s build-up and preparations ahead of the League of Ireland kick-off.
Currently sidelined with an ankle injury, the midfielder plans on visiting Brandywell Stadium as much as possible this season and he’s looking forward to watching his hometown club from the stands.
“I’m obviously going to miss playing for the club,” he said. “This week, with the season kicking off, I’m missing the fact that I’m not part of it for the first time in 10 years.
“It’s been a massive part of my life and it will be difficult to just watch as a supporter but I will be there as much as I can.
“I plan on getting to most home games and a few away games as well if my schedule allows. I’m looking forward to looking to it from a fan’s perspective as well, but I definitely will miss playing.”
Derry finished 36 points behind Premier Division champions, Dundalk last season and having lost the experience and goals of Rory Patterson and Michael Duffy and indeed, the leadership qualities of Molloy, it’s easy to see why pundits have written off the club’s chances of challenging for a top four finish this season.
This week, with the season kicking off, I’m missing the fact that I’m not part of it for the first time in 10 years. It’s been a massive part of my life and it will be difficult to just watch as a supporter but I will be there as much as I can.Former Derry City skipper, Barry Molloy
Derry boss, Hutton agrees that his side won’t feature in the race for the title but Molloy believes they will spring plenty of surprises during their campaign.
“I think it’s going to be a difficult season for Derry,” predicted the former City skipper. “Losing experienced players, it’s always going to be difficult but I think they can surprise a few people this year.
“They need a bit of luck with injuries as well but if they can keep their main players fit then they will be a match for any team.
“The likes of Patrick McEleney, Philip Lowry, Stephen Dooley and that, they are great players so they might surprise a few people and finish higher than people think.
“You’re looking for Anthony Elding to have the same impact as he did at Sligo and to give a bit of experience to the younger players.
“You would think Cillian Morrison could do well too with his pace if he’s playing off the likes of Elding and he could benefit from the passing ability of Patrick McEleney.”
Lowry a key player
Molloy reserved special praise for his former central midfield partner, Lowry who he believes can play an integral part this season.
“I think it could be a massive season for him and he could play a massive role for Derry this year,” added Molloy. “For the past four or five years Philip has been a box-to-box player and somebody who gets goals as well.
“Last year I know he was very disciplined in his performances playing in the middle of the park, especially when I wasn’t playing in there with him.
“But I think Philip is capable of playing any sort of role in the middle of the park and, with full-time training, he will keep on improving and he can be a massive player for Derry this year.”
New signing Seanan Clucas, from Linfield, has been tipped to replace Molloy in the holding midfield role this season so how does he rate the former Bristol Rovers man?
“He’s obviously a top player,” said Molloy. “He’s been at Linfield and you’re not at Linfield if you’re a bad player!
“From what I’ve seen of him when Derry played a pre-season friendly at Crusaders, I was very impressed.
“And I think he’s capable of going in there and cementing his place in the team along with Philip (Lowry) and Barry McNamee. And if Derry can keep the three of those fit then they will be a match for any midfield in the country.” concluded Molloy.