Derry born footballer, Paddy McCourt, has been linked with a move to English Championship side, Leeds United, sources have revealed.
Northern Ireland international McCourt, (29), joined Scottish Premier League side, Glasgow Celtic from Derry City in 2008 but in recent months he has been linked with a move away from Celtic Park.
Speaking at the launch of the IFA’s ‘Football for All’ campaign at the Playhouse Theatre in Derry this week, Northern Ireland manager, Michael O’Neill, said whilst McCourt remains part of his plans he believes the Derry winger would benefit from more first team football.
“I speak to Paddy McCourt regularly and he knows the situation. He’s a fantastic player and a fantastic talent and if anything he needs to play.
“Paddy’s at that stage in his career that he would benefit by going to somewhere where he is going to play on a more regular basis. Paddy McCourt is still very much part of my plans as manager of Northern Ireland and I hope he can have a real impact, whether it’s at Celtic or elsewhere.”
When asked for his thoughts on the performance of Derry City manager, Declan Devine, last season, Portadown native, O’Neill, said he was impressed with the Derry man’s first season in charge and added that he believes Devine will continue to improve and develop,
“Declan Devine has done an amazing job. To build the team he built last season with the budget he had is just brilliant.
“Declan’s a young manager with young players. Ok, there were periods when the team dipped a little bit in the league but they more than excelled in the cup competitions.
“I think Declan is going to develop and go from strength to strength as a manager. I really like the model that Derry City have subscribed to. This focus on home grown talent is something to be celebrated. You can see that the home grown players are proud to play for their city and for their club. Declan has done a fantastic job in harnessing that, identifying with that and bringing those young players in, some who’ve come back from England, and giving them a platform to re-launch their careers.
“Ian Baraclough won the Sports Writers’ Manager of the Year award but Declan Devine couldn’t have been too far away.”
One of the issues facing O’Neill as Northern Ireland boss is trying to convince young players from nationalist and Catholic backgrounds to declare for Northern Ireland as opposed to the Republic of Ireland. O’Neill said that he will meet with any player who is interested in playing for Northern Ireland and said that he was delighted when Derry City brothers Shane and Patrick McEleney changed their allegiance from the Republic to Northern Ireland.
“I deal with any player at any age level. I will meet with that player and if necessary I will meet with his parents to outline why I believe they’d be better served to play for Northern Ireland.
“I took this approach with Shane and Patrick McEleney and they both agreed to play for Northern Ireland.
“I did the same with James McClean but unfortunately I wasn’t successful. James had already made his decision before I was able to talk to him.
“James has every right to make his own decision and I would never criticise him for that. I’d hoped he would reconsider and play for Northern Ireland but that wasn’t the case. It’s part of football and you have to deal with it in a professional manner and move on.
“I have spoken to James subsequently and I have wished him well in his career.”