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I closed door on McCourt return to put faith in youth: Derry City boss Kenny Shiels

By Eoin wilson

Derry City manager Kenny Shiels has revealed that he had sleepless nights before deciding not to bring Brandywell favourite Paddy McCourt back to the club.

Despite the funds being in place to nail down an emotional return for McCourt to his hometown side, Shiels took the decision to say no to a move for the Northern Ireland international, preferring to put his faith in the youth development system he has incorporated at the club.

Shiels' call, which has been criticised by some Candystripes supporters, means that McCourt - who mutually agreed to end his Luton Town contract early - is likely to play in the Irish League rather than the League of Ireland with Glenavon the favourites to sign him.

It was far from an easy decision for Shiels, who admits that he rates the 32-year-old McCourt highly.

"Paddy is one of the best players I have ever seen and if it had been the start of the season, I would have been desperate to get him in because we would have needed him," explained Shiels, who in his first campaign in charge at the Brandywell has guided Derry to third in the League of Ireland.

"The progress that the young players have made has left me in the mind that it would be unfair on them. I need to be able to look the likes of Josh Daniels, Ronan Curtis, Conor McDermott, Rory Holden, Aaron McEneff and Nathan Boyle in the face and not be a hypocrite. I want to make sure I continue their development.

"Paddy is in the same bracket as Sammy Clingan and even my own son (former Rangers ace Dean) in that they are really good players but I have to have trust in my players; they equally have to trust me.

"It's left me with sleepless nights because Paddy is such a good player but I really need to do what's honest and decent. Paddy is a Derry boy and he loves playing for Derry but at the same token, I have started something which I need to continue with."

Shiels (right) is eager to emphasise the fact that the club were willing to fund the move for the former Celtic player and that it was he, and he alone, who made the decision to move forward without McCourt.

"It's my fault and I accept all the blame," he continued.

"There are people in the club who have said that they would find the finance to bring Paddy in so it's not down to the club.

"They have been very, very supportive but I feel that it's in the best long-term interest of the club to try and continue this player development programme.

"It's me that's making the decision, totally. I'm the one who is making the decision. The chairman has been nothing but supportive of me since I've come in."

The Candystripes' 4-0 win over Longford Town on Friday night keeps them in the fight for European football next season, while the club also remain in the two domestic cup competitions.

Shiels is willing to attack those three fronts without the talismanic McCourt, insisting he has faith in his players.

"I have to back myself and my young players," he said.

"They have got us into third position now. I know Paddy would create a fantastic atmosphere at the club but what would happen to these young players?

"I'm trying so hard with lifestyle management programmes for the young players and that comes before everything. That gives them a chance at a professional career.

"I want these boys to become the next Darron Gibson or Shane Duffy and whether rightly or wrongly I want them to have the career that Paddy had or my son had in the professional game in England or Scotland. That's well within our grasp to do that."

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