Portadown's Darren Murray is still a fan of the Amateur League
Darren Murray may be one of the Irish League's best strikers, but the Portadown man still keeps an keen eye on the Amateur League.
Murray was one of the Amateur League's finest players, winning the Premier Division twice with Newington Youth Club in both 2009 and 2010, but now he's plying his trade at Shamrock Park.
After spending time at Newry City and Donegal Celtic, Murray moved to Portadown where he has been a massive success. In October, he scored eight goals and won the BT Sport NIFWA Player of the Month Award.
When the ace striker has a day off, he likes to check in with his old friends at Championship Two side Newington.
He said: “I like looking at the pull-outs on a Monday and a Tuesday and seeing what young lads are doing well. I like to see young guys doing what I was doing when I was 18 or 19.
“I always keep an eye on the Amateur League and also on my old team Newington. They've done really well to get promoted to the Championship and they're now flying in that division. Whenever I get a Saturday off I always get down to watch Newington, as I've still loads of friends there.”
Murray admits that he struggled to adjust to the standard of the Irish League when he first moved to Newry City in the summer of 2010, but now he's found his level.
“My first year in senior football was with Newry City and I found that really tough. It was quicker and more physical than the Amateur League and I found myself picking up more injuries.
“The fitness was a lot more than what I was used to at Newington, and it took me a while to pick up the pace.
“In my second season in the Premiership with Donegal Celtic, I was better prepared for it and I managed to get myself 18 goals, which wasn't bad going. I actually got six goals against Portadown, I think that's why Ronnie McFall came in for me!
“The Premiership is a massive step up from Amateur League football, but a few guys like myself have shown that you can make the step up if you've got the ability and you're prepared to put the extra work in.”
Murray isn't the only former Amateur League man doing well in the Irish League. Former Crumlin Star man Joe Gormley won the Premiership with Cliftonville last season, while ex-Kilmore Rec man Andy Waterworth has been in fine form for Linfield.
Murray believes there are more rough diamonds out there for Irish League managers to discover.
“There is talent in the lower leagues if clubs can find them.
“For example, there is a young guy called James Doyle who plays for Malachians and he has scored four hat-tricks in four games. You can't look by that, no matter what level of football you're playing at. That's the sort of thing I was doing while I was at Newington — and it's served me well.”
Belfast Telegraph Digital