FOOTBALL: Derry City youngsters earn their call
In recent weeks Derry City players past and present have shone on the international football stage.
Winger James McClean was the Republic of Ireland’s match winning hero for Martin O’Neill’s men, while Ben Doherty played his part in Northern Ireland U21s’ win over Estonia and Ronan Curtis helped Noel King’s Republic of Ireland U21 side to a thumping win over Israel.
Other youngsters Eoin Toal and Caolan McLaughlin have played for Northern Ireland at U19 & U17 respectively.
City’s current U15 manager, Justin Green, is delighted that Ronan McKinley is the latest talented youngster to represent their country.
McKinley will play for the Republic of Ireland in the forthcoming Victory Shield tournament against Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland.
“Ronan played for the Republic against Brazil and Romania recently and it was a great experience for him,” he added.
“He has also been selected for the Victory Shield which is great for him.
“In terms of player development, the Under 15s are massive for the club. They are playing at a higher standard now with Derry City. They are stepping up a level and it can only help their development.
“The boys, including Ronan, are training four nights a week. It’s dedicated training. Monday and Wednesday night, they are working with Pearse Lafferty, doing strength and conditioning and it’s very specific to football.
“Then on a Tuesday and Thursday it’s two dedicated pitch sessions, so it’s a big commitment from them considering their education and school work.”
Green believes City’s underage set-up helps the teenagers prepare for a transition which will see hopefully them play senior football.
“Starting at such a young age, when they have to be dedicated, also teaches them things like what to eat properly, making sure they go to bed at a good time so they save energy and it’s really just a replica of what the first team are doing,” he added.
“What the first team is doing and what Quiggy (John Quigg) and Eddie (Seydak) are doing at the U19s, and Gary (Duffy) at the U17s, we are replicating that at the U15s. Even the style of play and philosophy, we don’t deviate away from that at all in the younger age levels.
“We try to embrace that sort of passing and building out from the back and making sure everyone gets on the ball. The results don’t matter, progression is the most important thing.
“I would stress that to the boys, that’s what John, Eddie and Gary would also stress.It’s about developing players and seeing if we can push them on through to the U17s and U19s so we can hopefully produce players for the first team.
“It’s not about going out to win a trophy as a team, because we are there to try and get a player ready for the first team and equip them with the tools.
“We try to make sure that, as they continue to progressthroughout the club, it isn’t a shock to them. We want to make sure that they just slip into the mould of playing for the first team when they are ready.
“We look to make sure that it’s not a big culture shock to them in terms of teaching them the better habits when they are younger in preparation for hopefully playing senior football.
“We encourage them to always want to get the ball in difficult situations and not just lump it away because the first team will want you to take the ball in difficult situations.”
The City U15 manager has been delighted by the backing the club has received from D&D clubs.
“I feel local clubs have supported the whole process for our current U15 team, especially the likes of Tristar, Don Boscos, Trojans and Ballymoor.
“Our development centres have been going for 11 weeks and that’s in preparation for the U15 season in March 2018. “We had overwhelming support for that. I think we had in the region of 70 odds kids all from Derry at the centres.
“We had great support from Newell Academy, Top of the Hill, Clooney Soccer, Tristar, Don Boscos, Ballymoor and Trojans and all those boys from those teams will face the likes of Dundalk, Finn Harps, Sligo Rovers, Drogheda United and St Pat’s next year.
“That will be great experience for those players, to be playing those bigger clubs from down south.”