Ireland U21 boss Jim Crawford believes Colm Whelan will thrive at Derry City

IRELAND U21 boss Jim Crawford has tipped talented striker Colm Whelan to become a major hit at Brandywell next season and described Derry City Football Club as the 'perfect fit' for the ex-UCD hitman.

Ruaidhri Higgins pounced to make the in-demand Kilkenny native his first new signing of the close season, pipping several clubs in both England and Ireland to his signature on a two-year deal.

Crawford, who handed Whelan his U21 debut for Ireland against Luxembourg this year, knows all about the player's qualities and predicts the striker will bring 'a hell of a lot' to Higgins' ambitious side.

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Whelan netted 44 times in 66 games for the Students and Crawford has no doubt the prolific centre forward will take his game up a level or two on Foyleside.

"He's certainly a proven goalscorer and I wouldn't say there was a shortage of clubs interested in signing him," said the Ireland boss.

"I do know there was UK interest and some other full-time clubs in Ireland that were interested in getting him on board.

"In terms of goalscorers he's one of those fellas who understands where the goal is. He'll score goals for you! They are few and far between in our league so for me he's a huge asset.

"Derry have got him and I'm sure with the coaches they have at Derry City, they will bring him on to another couple of levels.

Derry City new signing Colm Whelan pictured in action for UCD against ex-City midfielder Gerard Storey; Photo by Kevin Moore/mci

"The boy is open to learning and he'll work hard on his game and they are the attributes you need to make that next step. I've no doubt about it with his character and his footballing attributes, he will be a success at Derry City Football Club.

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"He's gone to a club that's associated with a lot of really good forwards as well. The likes of Liam Coyle and Mark Farren, top, top players. So he'll be fine. I think he's a player with a hell of a lot of potential and he will be good for Derry City."

Whelan joins Jamie McGonigle in a formidable looking strikeforce for next season and with the likes of Patrick McEleney, Will Patching and Michael Duffy supplying the ammunition, it's a mouth-watering prospect which should 'excite' the Derry fans.

"This is the perfect fit because he does make clever runs. He's a great goalscorer and players like Michael Duffy and Patrick McEleney will create chances for him. “Ryan Graydon, we saw in the cup final how he can get to the byline and get crosses in and Collie Whelan's movement in the box in those type of situations is very impressive.

Ireland U21 manager Jim Crawford believes Derry City is the perfect fit for striker Colm Whelan. Photograph by Kevin Moore.
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"So the players that are there will complement Collie and vice versa. Collie will make their passes look even better when he gets on the end of them.

"So I think it's an exciting move for Collie with the players that are there. They're full-time and I think the level of understanding between Collie and the top players that are there at Derry already will be hugely exciting for Derry City fans.”

City assistant boss Alan Reynolds knows Whelan well from both his time at Waterford and from the U21 international set-up. Crawford believes Whelan will flourish in Derry's full-time structure and under both Higgins and Reynolds' tutelage.

"There's no doubt about it, going to UCD and playing first team football there has been a real springboard with regards to his development.

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"He's had good coaching from the coaches at the club. You look at Andy Myler who played in a similar position, so I've no doubt they have helped with his development.

"And now Derry will help develop Colm Whelan to become the best possible player he can be at this phase of his career.

"Wherever that takes him, whether that's senior Irish international caps, who knows? One thing I do know is Derry are getting a really good player who will score goals.

"And I know Ruaidhri Higgins, I know the way he works with players. I have a lot of time for him. I think he will be an exceptional coach. He'll definitely get the best out of all the players at the club and the players who are coming in such as Colm Whelan.

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"Alan Reynolds also would've known Collie from his Waterford days because there isn't a player that's come out of Waterford that Alan doesn't know. So he would have been aware of him and he's always liked him from the time he was manager at Waterford, he always spoke highly of him."

Whelan can score all types of goals and 'comes alive' in the 18 yards box with his movement and eye for goal but it's his grounded personality and willingness to work hard which has impressed Crawford.

"Nothing fazes him," explained Crawford. "He's a very calm, relaxed, quiet type of individual. He's a player that when you get him on the training pitch he works exceptionally hard.

"In terms of his quality, he makes clever runs off the ball. He's a very good goalscorer, both left foot, right foot and with his head.

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"I've seen him in games missing opportunities as well but he doesn't let it get him down. He's got a good level of workrate which at U21s level is something we want from our players, that they can work off the ball as well as on it.

"He comes alive in transitional moments in the game. He picks up really good positions that as soon as his team wins it, he's got that switch to make intelligent runs either beyond defences or he'll drop to show for it.

"His hold up play to link up with midfielders is very good. So he will bring a hell of a lot to Derry City."

Whelan ruptured his ACL during the summer which ruled him out of the conclusion of Ireland U21s Euro qualifiers but Crawford expects the player to come back stronger.

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"He suffered a horrendous injury but what was nice about the U21s we had last year was Will Smallbone spoke to him about it. They were all in it together.

"Will suffered a similar injury and he made a call and I know Collie got a few text messages from other players as well wishing him well. He will get back to his best because that's the type of player he is.

“He won't let it get him down. I've spoken to him a few times during this period and he'll be in a good place when he gets back playing."

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Derry City boss Ruaidhri Higgins 'excited' as ex- UCD striker Colm Whelan signs ...