When you think of Derry and footballers, there are so many names that come to mind. From current stars to legends of the game. There is a hot list of players that come from this magnificent area.
Probably the most gifted player the League of Ireland has ever seen. They used to call him the ‘Derry Pele’ because in fact he was that good. He was known for scoring many wonder goals particularly during his time at Celtic. His mazy runs and exhibit dribbling were eye catching. He was a Derry boy through and through and this is where he’s at today. The Head of Youth Football at Derry City to give back to the club who helped make him such a good player. In fact, he was part of the FAI Cup winning side in 2006. Now he’s helping bring through the next crop of young talent.
Well this man needs no introduction. That night in Cardiff and that night in Vienna. He has delivered on countless times for his country. He always goes up a level when he puts on that Irish jersey. People question his quality but you won’t find a more hard working individual out there than McClean. A fine example of this could be seen when he won the ball back to set up McGoldrick against the Swiss. It was at Derry City when he got a move to England. He hasn’t looked back since and his current club Stoke City continue to back him. He’s openly expressed a desire to get back with the Candy-stripes before he retires. That should come as no surprise tho because we all know how proud he is of his roots.
The tricky winger has been a key player for Dundalk in recent years. Such a naturally gifted footballer, when he cuts inside with that right foot, the net usually ripples. Like many others, he started off with Derry City. Things didn’t quite work out when Celtic snatched him up. But ever since he’s come back to his homeland, he’s consistently been up there as the best player in the LOI. An Irish call up can’t be far away, watch this space.
The towering (6 ft 4 in) central defender is quite the presence. There’s a reason why Ireland are so dangerous at set pieces. With Duffy in the box, the Boys in Green always have a chance. Proof of this can be seen when he headed home in Denmark last June. It’s incredible to think had it not been for the quick thinking of Irish team doctor Alan Byrne, Duffy might not be here today. He had to undergo life saving surgery after rupturing the blood supply to his liver during one of his first training sessions. Better times have followed with the Derryman well adapted to Premier League level at Brighton and Hove Albion. It’s possible you might see this man captaining his country in a few years. He has the right attributes to do that.
As you might have guessed, Derry was his first club and that’s where he gauged the attention of Dundalk. Another technically brilliant player who the Town were and still are lucky to have their hands on. I think of that beautiful curling finish at United Park before he left for Oldham. Things didn’t quite work in England as his club struggled financially. A move back to the Lilywhites has gotten his career back on track. I’m sure he must be loving being back amongst his Derry pals. It’s a credit to Stephen Kenny and now Vinny Perth who’ve helped him along the way.
The Shamrock Rovers midfielder is part of a side that just loves to dominate the ball. That suits McEneff perfect as he manages to arrive into the penalty area and smash belters past many goalkeepers. His hometown club were crucial in making him ready to join Ireland’s biggest club. At 24 years of age, his best years are still ahead of him. There’s certainly more to come. He’s also not the only footballer in his family with his younger brother Jordan currently on the books of Arsenal.
Gone our days when this man used to be a well known figure in the Irish squad. It’s hard to believe Gibson was once scoring in both a Champions League quarter final against Bayern Munich in 2010 and a semi-final against Schalke the following year. Manchester United was where he developed. When he won the Youth Player of the Year in 2006, this was just the start. Winning Premier Leagues and League Cups under the guidance of the great Sir Alex Ferguson. He left in 2012 but stayed in the top flight with Everton where he stStruggled badly with injury after 2013. Whenever he did play, the stats show that his side barely ever lost. In his first two seasons, his side won 52% of the matches he played in and only 25% of those he did not play in. When he left for Sunderland, it all went downhill when the Black Cats were relegated and Gibson was charged for drunk driving. He’s currently in League 2 with Salford City as he looks to get his career back up and running.
The striker was voted Derry City’s greatest ever player on a Derry Journal poll and it’s clear to see why. Scoring 60 goals during numerous spells at the club. That’s not bad for a midfielder. He had trophies to go along with it as well. Winning the League of Ireland twice with the Candystripes, including a domestic treble in 1988/89 season. No other team has done that.
The 30 year old is back in the LOI with Shamrock Rovers after a previous spell with Derry City. Burnley, Rotherham Oldham, Sheffield were a few of clubs he played with in the UK. The 13 capped Northern Ireland international is one of a few to not opt for changing allegiance to the Republic.
I’m sure he’s sick of being called James McClean’s brother at this stage. He’s not a bad player tho. He remarkably scored a last minute bicycle kick winner to send the Glens fans mental last October. He’s currently at East Belfast side following spells at Derry City, Waterford and Sligo Rovers. The Glens fans have treated him with utmost respect despite their fan base being largely Protestant. I know that shouldn’t really matter in this day in age but it’s still great to see because we all know the treatment his brother’s family can get. Long may the McCleans be loved by their fan bases.
I don’t think it would be fair not to mention the great man himself in this article. The former Derry captain passed away suddenly in March 2017 but we will never forget him. R.I.P
So there you have it, some quality football players have come out of Derry, a great area for any young lad to grow up in.