HOT ON the heels of Derry City Reserve team defender, Caoimhinn Bonner, joining Kilmarnock, Brandywell boss, Declan Devine is keen to hold onto other youngsters in demand.
ARTHUR DUFFY reports
And while 20-year-old Bonner was considered one of the Reserve team’s prized assets last season, another young player, Michael Duffy, remains in the limelight following interest from Sheffield United.
Derry, however, do not wish to lose Duffy at this stage of his career, with Devine insisting that the 18-year-old could well make a determined challenge to fill what could prove a troublesome gap on the left flank with Stephen McLaughlin having now joined Nottingham Forest.
However, while he would have preferred Bonner to remain at the Brandywell for another season, the Derry boss extended the best wishes of the club to the accomplished centre-back.
Indeed, it is also understood that the local club has also waived the right of claiming UEFA Training Compensation to allow him progress to another level.
“I think Caoimhinn has been very unfortunate while with the first team as he was competing against three established centre-halves for a regular place in our first team, which was always going to be difficult for him,” said Devine.
“He graduated through from our Reserve team but had to compete against Stewart Greacen, Shane McEleney and Ryan McBride for a place in the back four and that would not have been easy for him.
“That said, he made his first team debut last season and given his continued improvement, he was included in our successful FAI Cup final squad,” added the Derry boss.
“Caoimhinn showed us that he certainly had potential to go further. He has worked very hard under the guidance of John Quigg, Eddie Seydak and Hugh Harkin and his progress proves what can happen a young player who continues to progress within our youth set-up.
“He was a member of our Under-19 squad which travelled to Scotland last year to face the Kilmarnock Under-19’s and given that we recorded a 6-1 victory, it was clear that our panel was much stronger.
“The player did well in that game and he certainly has the potential to do well in the SPL with Kilmarnock. He ticks all the boxes associated with a modern day centre-half.
“He’s physically strong and is excellent in the air but he also boasts a fantastic attitude which will take him far.”
While Devine was sorry to lose yet another quality player, the 20-year-old was predictably anxious to get the move to Scotland and accept the offer of a three and a half year full-time contract.
“To be fair, Caoimhinn was anxious to join Kilmarnock when they came in looking for him and we would never stand in his way. He goes with our best wishes and, hopefully, he will progress quickly into the Kilmarnock first team panel.”
In fact, Duffy was another player to have impressed Kilmarnock coaches in that particular game but, since then, Sheffield United and others are believed to have made a tentative enquiry regarding the teenage striker’s future.
And having lost Bonner, Devine was not keen to see Duffy follow his team-mate out of the Brandywell at this stage of his career.
“I’m aware that Sheffield United have made an approach for Michael Duffy a number of weeks ago, but nothing has materialised on that front as far as I know.
“That said, I would dearly love to see him remain at the Brandywell for at least another season as I believe he would then be ready for a possible move into full-time football in England.
“I’ve spoken regularly to his parents on the issue and, indeed, to Michael, but he’s very keen to travel over and try his luck if he gets a move.
“I’m very keen for him to stay but the truth of the matter is I need an answer from him over the next few days as I may have to spend my budget elsewhere.
“Michael is currently involved in pre-season training with our first team squad and while other clubs are believed to be dangling offers in front of him - they don’t appear to be pushing the boat out to sign him - so for us it’s a case of wait and see what develops.
“He’s the type of player we certainly could be doing with next season as he can operate as a striker or a left winger and given that we’ve lost Stephen McLaughlin to Nottingham Forest, a window of opportunity could well open for Michael at the Brandywell next season.
“He’s just 18, but I believe he would be well placed to fill Stephen’s boots in the 2013 season. Stephen left us at the age of 22 so we believe Michael has plenty of time on his side and at this stage in his career, we see him as a perfect replacement on the left flank.
“We also believe that Michael could also comfortably occupy the lead striking role later in his career.
“His versatility would be an added bonus, but it’s all down to the player and his family. I’ve given him time to think it over as I must push on and complete the panel which will represent Derry City in so many competitions next season,” concluded Devine.