A delighted Paddy McLaughlin admits he was ‘surprised’ that Derry City allowed the highly-rated Conor McDermott to join Cliftonville.
The 22-year-old right-back signed a contract which will keep him at Solitude until the end of the 2022-23 season, much to McLaughlin’s delight.
“I was surprised in a way that Derry let him go, because I think when ‘McDee’ is fully fit, which is where he’s at right now and when he’s on top of his game, I think he’s the best right-back in the country and he’s proven that with Cliftonville this year,” he insisted.
“I feel he’s definitely a candidate to be the best right back in the country, North and South and whenever a club lets a talent like that go, you are a wee bit suprised. However, it was a good bit of business for both clubs.
“Derry accepted our good offer, which was a good fee and that shows you that everybody has got their price and we were happy to get the business done, but obviously if he wasn’t playing regularly at Derry, then sometimes a change is what’s needed and that has proven the case for Conor as he’s back to his best.
“But Declan Devine is a top manager I know he’ll get a replacement for Conor and Derry will continue getting better.”
McLaughlin hopes that the right-back can keep up his current good form.
“To get Conor on a long term deal is brilliant for the club and brilliant for the team,” he stated.
“We worked hard to get everything sorted over the last number of weeks because the agreement was always there that he was to go back to Derry in January, but because he has settled in so well and he has got his hunger back and his love back for the game, which he probably had lost for a while, he was more than happy to commit and make the deal permanent himself. So everyone at the club is delighted to have him on board long term.
“Conor has been really good for us this season and he has put in a few really top drawer performances on a regular basis and he has been up there in terms of one of the best players on the pitch on a regular basis. That takes a lot of doing!
“To be fair, the boys have been excellent all season and they have been super this year defensively and Conor has been a big part of that as well.
“But as a defensive unit we have been really strong and really solid, so having the quality of Conor McDermott in our back four is a massive boost for us.
“We were targeting right-backs and looking around for one in January, but now we have got the best in the business. So it has been a tremendous bit of business by the club.”
This season McDermott - who also won the NIFWA Goal of the Month competition for November with his audacious 60-yard effort against Warrenpoint Town - has linked up well with Joe Gormley and the Reds boss wants that relationship to continue.
“Both Conor and Joe have definitely got a bit of an understanding. Joe has got great movement off the ball and Conor does play with his head up and likes a forward pass and he has got it in his locker to pick out a 40 or 50 yard pass. So, yeah, they definitely have a good link-up.
“But to be fair, whatever full-backs we play we encourage them all to get forward.
“I think Conor has had four or five assists and scored three goals, which is a brilliant return for a full-back and we aren’t even at Christmas yet. We are hoping that he can maintain that standard and keep adding to what he has already brought to the team.”