AARON BARRY paid tribute to the family of the late Ryan McBride for succeeding in their bid to rename the Brandywell Stadium after the former Derry City captain as he got the first chance to play at the new-look venue last Friday night.
The Arklow man, who formed arguably one of the best central defensive partnerships in the league with McBride at the heart of the City defence during two seasons with the Candy Stripes, proudly wears the number five on his shirt in memory of the Brandywell man who died suddenly at the age of 27 during the 2017 season.
Barry left Foyleside at the end of that campaign to join league and cup double winners, Cork City and on Friday night got his first taste of playing at the Ryan McBride Brandywell Stadium having been an unused substitute in the stalemate last May when the Leesiders last travelled to the North West.
The defender was rarely troubled during the 90 minutes alongside former Crystal Palace and Ireland international Damien Delaney as Cork managed to keep a third successive clean sheet in the league but afterwards he paid tribute to his late friend and the work done by the Ryan McBride Foundation as he admits he still struggles to come to terms with his tragic passing.
“You look over and there’s the mural and look that way and it’s his house and it’s still mad,” said Barry afterwards. “You just get on with it I suppose. But what a credit it is to his family, the Foundation and everyone who came out and voted for him.
“The fact he’s got his name on it is a great tribute to him. It is what it is and it’s a credit to the Foundation and his family. It’s a nice little legacy for him.”
As Cork City warm up for a fourth consecutive FAI Cup Final meeting with rivals and newly crowned league champions, Dundalk on November 4th, manager, John Caulfield has stated there remains places up for grabs.
And Barry is doing all in his power to make sure he gets the nod having started six of the last seven league matches and having kept three clean sheets in their last three fixtures, he’s happy with his form.
“It’s so competitive,” he said. “We have a big squad and people of quality around it. So it’s important, whoever plays, that you take your chance. We’ve racked up a couple of wins now on the bounce so it’s still all to play for and the Bray game will be telling is you’re in the team or not but all you can do is try and take your chance when you’re given it.
“Obviously I’ve played a few games lately and all you can do is control what you can. When I’m on the pitch I just try to do my best and try get clean sheets and I got the odd goal again last week so it’s good.”
Indeed, he netted the third goal in the victory over Limerick the previous weekend and while he didn’t get on the scoresheet at Brandywell he was delighted with another clean sheet and felt Derry played into their hands. It was his first start against Derry having played just the final five minutes in the 4-2 win at Turner’s Cross in June and just over 20 minutes in the 5-0 rout at the same venue in July. And he felt it was ‘strange’ to be back playing on Foyleside where he spent two seasons under two different managers.
“It’s a bit strange (being back) I suppose but I came here to do a job. We knew Derry would have possession but we were kind of confident we could hit them on the counter. We are a big team at set-pieces as well and I think that’s how we got the win tonight.
“The way it went it just played into our hands. When we get a lead we’re very organised and disciplined and the boys in front of us work really hard to make mine and Damo’s (Delaney) job pretty easy. So yeah, they played into our hands and I thought the second goal killed the game as we pretty much sucked up the pressure again.”
Barry joined Cork from Derry in November 2017 on a two-year contract claiming it was the Rebels’ winning mentality which attracted him to the club as he followed Barry McNamee to Leeside just one week after the Ramelton man made the move. And while his former club have went on to claim the EA Sports Cup this season, he has his eye on a bigger prize at the Aviva Stadium next month.
He signed for Cork to win silverware and while he was bought by Caulfield as a direct replacement for Ryan Delaney who returned to Burton Albion after a loan spell, he’s struggled to nail down a place in the team so far. This latest run of games has given him plenty of encouragement, however, as he hopes to make up for his only other FAI Cup Final appearance when he was on the losing side as Derry City lost 2-0 to St Patrick’s Athletic in 2014 - his first season at Brandywell!
And while Dundalk appear to be on a different level at present, Barry is expecting a tight encounter. “To be fair we’ve played them five times and we’ve won two and they’ve won three and they’re always tight games. They’re always won by the odd goal. If you look at the last few finals they’ve always went past 90 minutes so we’re expecting a tight final again I just hope we come out the end of it with a win.”