‘Baz’ hopeful of success in his Testimonial Year

Picture Margaret McLaughlin �
Picture Margaret McLaughlin �

About to celebrate his 10th season on home turf, Derry City’s robust midfield general BARRY MOLLOY is taking nothing for granted this season, but he’s been very impressed with the club’s pre-season programme.

HE’S been regularly praised and is highly regarded by all Derry City supporters for his ability to protect his back four and win those vital midfield battles.

But Barry Molloy is certainly not considered one of the club’s most outgoing personalities, despite his robust, no nonsense nature on the field of the play.

He’s won FAI and League Cups during his nine year tenure, but he would dearly love to challenge for the Holy Grail in this, his Testimonial Season.

Indeed, he’s reflected back on previous pre-season interviews, when insisting that Derry would challenge for the title. However, in 2014, he will hold counsel on this occasion.

That said, he’s been impressed with the names of the players linked to the club and his view of the new coaching team and the facilities have been particularly positive.

In fact, only Marty McCann has been retained in his first team coaching capacity andMolloy, a prolific trainer, has thoroughly enjoyed the “Candy Stripes” pre-season programme thus far.

“We’ve been working under a totally new regime and, to be fair, while it’s been tough it’s also been very good with two sessions every day,” he noted.

And he heaped praise on the club’s decision to base the opening pre-season sessions at the impressive Vale Centre in Greysteel, describing the facility as “top class.”

“The Vale Centre is superb; the centre caters for all our needs and it’s really been good.

“This will be my 10th pre-season campaign with Derry, so it’s nice to experience these changes in local facilities which are top class. The fact that Greysteel is right on our doorstep makes it even better,” he declared.

“New kings make new rules, but I can safely state that the players are happy with the training and I think everyone has bought into what Roddy Collins, Peter Hutton and Marty McCann are attempting to achieve.

“Since our first session, everyone has knuckled down; the players are training hard and doing things right.

“We know the season ahead is going to be tough, but everyone has been putting the work in and I think it’s fair to suggest that the players have now been seeing and feeling the benefit of their hard work as their fitness levels continue to improve. And everyone is really enjoying the training,” he claimed.

When questioned on his thoughts of the new players arriving at the club and, indeed, the departure of long standing team-mates, Molloy opted to look to the future.

“Quite a few names have been bantered about in the local Press giving details of possible new recruits.

“And while I am aware of the quality of some of those players, I think it’s important to remember that we’ve also lost a few from last season who will not be easy to replace,” answered the midfielder.

“That said, I believe the nucleus of last year’s squad remains in place.

“Thankfully our keeper, Gerard Doherty, who has been immense for us over the past few years, remains in place while defensively Shane McEleney and Ryan McBride are under contract and with myself and Rory Patterson still here, I think the spine of the team remains in place with most of our senior players remaining at the club.

“Many of our talented young players are still playing at the Brandywell, but I still believe we need to bring in maybe four or five experienced players and then work off a squad of 18 to 20 players.

“Some players have been here for four, five, six and more years so it’s also important to retain the continuity as local lads, more than most, know what it means to play for Derry City Football Club and as a local player, I think that’s very important,” insisted the Bishop Street native.

Delighted to have tough opponent onboard!

One player Molloy was particularly delighted to see join the club was former Sligo skipper, Danny Ventre.

“We’ve had a few personal battles in the middle of the pitch over recent seasons,” he laughed. “So I’m well qualified to comment on his quality and he’s a superb addition to our squad.

“He was a big part of Sligo’s success over recent seasons. He’s captained a quality team and he knows what it is to be a winner.

“Danny has won all there is to win in the League of Ireland, so in my mind he is exactly the type of player we want to be bringing to the Brandywell.”

Molloy also gave the thumbs up to Mark Stewart, a new striker who has arrived from SPL side,Kilmarnock.

“Mark Stewart travelled over to train with us last week and he looked really, really good in training. I think he enjoyed his few days with us and now that he’s signed a one year contract, I believe he will bring a new dimension to our front line.

“These are the types of players we want to see coming here and, to be perfectly honest, I believe this club deserves to have players of that quality representing them.

“Derry City is still considered a big club in Ireland but, if the truth be told, we haven’t really been pushing for the major honours enough to justify that identity over recent seasons.

“So I think it’s about time we started to do that again and I would agree with the manager’s sentiments that our priority now is to sign experienced defensive players.

“We scored more goals than the top four teams last season but, at the same, we conceded more and that tells its own story.

“The strength of all the top teams in every league in the world has been built on a foundation of a solid defence with teams very strong in set-piece situations.”

Molloy had no difficulty in accepting the fact that his home townclub was not good enough last year after what had been a bright start.

“Defensively, we were not good enough, but we must defend from the front and we can’t apportion all the blame on the back five,” maintained Molloy.

“Going forward we didn’t have too many problems as our goal tally suggests, but we failed to defend as a unit and, going forward, I think the new management team has identified that as a priority.

“I think we really missed the experience Stewart Greacen who was out injured for so much of the season, his presence in the back four was a big loss to us.”

Molloy also acknowledged the quality that Derry City had lost with a few of his former team-mates having moved to pastures new.

“We have also lost quality from last season. Simon Madden, Stewart Greacen, Ruaidhri Higgins and, while we’re still hopeful that Kevin Deery will come back, those are top quality players in my view and they will be hard to replace.

“But we have been linked to other quality players and if Roddy can secure the services of his main targets, then I think it will go a long way to putting us in a strong position for the 2014 season.”

Could Derry City actually compete for the Premier Division title?

Barry opted to err on the side of caution.

“In the past I have been niave if I’m to be honest,” he answered.

“I made rash predictions about winning titles when interviewed in the past, having suggested that we would be pushing for title.

“In hindsight I realised that such suggestions were premature as we were an emerging side with so many young players in our panel.

“So this season, even given that the young lads are a year older, I intend to enter the season with a very open mind.

“Naturally, I want to be pushing for top honours. As is the case with every player; I want to win more trophies, but I’m not going to forecast that we will be going all out to win what will prove a very difficult league.

“And it will be a very difficult league to win, I’ve no doubt about that.”

He concluded: “I’m concentrating on getting myself as fit as I can be and I’m also attempting to sort out a few wee niggles that troubled me from last season.”

Having been the club’s vice-captain from last year, Molloysimply wanted to continue his role as a regular player.

“At this stage the most important thing is that the team starts to take shape and while I certainly hope to play my part, if I was presented with the captain’s arm band then that would be an added bonus in my testimonial season it’s all about playing my part.”