FELIX Healy and Liam Coyle were weaned, literally in the shadow of Brandywell Stadium, and for Ryan McBride, the latest player to claim the same fame, the 2013 season may well prove to be a significant landmark in his Derry City career.
ARTHUR DUFFY reports
The unfortunate knee injury, sustained by Derry’s rugged centre-back, Stewart Greacen, now opens a window of opportunity for the 23-year-old from the city’s Bluebell Hill Gardens.
And it’s an opportunity he feels he must take full advantage of as he commences his third season in senior football.
“Everybody is cut up about Stewart’s knee injury,” claimed Ryan. “He’s a very experienced player for us and he will be a big loss. But as I play in the same position, I feel this is a chance I’ve got to take having already played in our opening two games this season,” he added.
Considered one player who, interestingly, slipped under the Derry City radar before his ability was recognised when he played in the annual Pat Hark Summer Cup in the Showgrounds, McBride has learned quite a lot since graduating into the senior ranks.
Having watched him perform in the First Division when joining his home town club back in 2011, the tenacious defender showed no fear in the heat of battle and he seemed to relish the 50-50 tackle. However, back then everything appeared to be a diving header for Ryan in his attempts to win possession at all cost!
Since then, he’s matured into a solid, comfortable defender and now is his chance to prove that given that Derry City’s key centre-half will be out for up to two months, facing a second cartilage operation on his left knee.
“One door closes and another door opens,” commented the player when quizzed on the next two months. “I’ve played against Drogheda in the Setanta Cup and against Sligo on Friday night, so I’ve got two tough games of 90 minutes under my belt. I felt I’ve done a good pre-season, I’ve work hard on the training ground and while I genuinely feel very sorry for Stewart Greacen, this could be my chance and I really must take full advantage.
“I think Stewart would expect me to say that. He’ll be a big loss but I’ve no doubt that he would want me to play at my best even if he’s not in the team.
“I’ve always been confident in my own ability and I think you’ve got to take advantage of any chances that come your way.
“I feel I’ve got to keep working very hard, try to improve my central defensive partnership with Shane (McEleney) and, hopefully, start recording clean sheets and maybe even manage to score a goal or two in setpiece situations,” he declared.
He held the view that the key issue for any player was to “work hard for the team” and try to remain fully focused at all times.
“I just want to get in there and try to do my best for the team. Having played in the local leagues before Derry approached me, I was quick to realise that playing at senior level was a whole new ball game for me.
“But it was a challenge I was prepared to meet full on when I arrived at the club and I think I’ve managed do that.”
Appearance in Drogheda
McBride recorded his 54th competitive appearance for his home town club in last night’s Setanta Sports Cup second leg tie against Drogheda United having made his debut against UCD in the League Cup back in June, 2011.
“I probably would have preferred to play more games than I have done, but it’s all about learning the game at this level and, to be totally honest, every day is a school day as far as I’m concerned,” insisted Ryan.
“I always try my best in training and I always try to work hard for the team when selected for matches, but I think the League of Ireland is a fantastic league to play in
“I’ve realised it’s physical - but I don’t mind that at all. As a defender you have to be physical but I’ve also learned that defenders are also expected to be able play the game the way it should be played; be comfortable and able to pass the ball out of defence rather than simply hoof it up the park and that’s the way it should be.
“I continue to learn on a daily basis, Every week bring can bring something different and when I look back at how I played when I joined the club, I believe I’ve learned so much both from club coaches and other players.
“To be perfectly honest, when I came in I was never too comfortable when in possession of the ball but now I’m much more confident and content with it. I’m much more comfortable taking the ball down and passing it about.”
He refused to get carried away having played in last Friday night’s opening league defeat against Sligo Rovers, his last ditch tackle failing to get a block on Antony Elding’s strike which won the game for the visitors.
Reflecting back on that game, Ryan respected Sligo’s superiority but felt Derry were not “a million miles away” in terms of standard.
“They are the league champions and they are a very good side, but in the second half I thought we played really well. We had a great opportunity to equalise but, unfortunately, we failed to take advantage.
“But all the games against the so-called big teams will be difficult, however, I believe we can hang in there and do well over the period of a season. If Sligo are considered the best team in the league, then I believe Derry City are capable of being up there challenging provided we can get our fair share of luck in games.
“I was very disappointed that we didn’t take something out of the game as we had a brilliant home attendance for our first match but, hopefully, we can turn that around and that our supporters will continue to come out and support us throughout the campaign.
“The games are coming up thick and fast and I think we’ll settle down when we can get a win under our belts and build on that,” he concluded.