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Coyle slams Irish League as Derry talent moves on

The journey from Derry to the upper reaches of the English and Scottish games is a well-worn one these days.

Left-back Daniel Lafferty is the latest to take what has become a conveyor belt of talent from the Brandywell across the Irish Sea after signing for Championship side Burnley.

He follows James McClean, who has made a spectacular start to life in the Premier League with Sunderland, Niall McGinn and Patrick McCourt who both swapped Foyleside for Celtic as well as striker Conor Sammon, now at Wigan via a spell at Kilmarnock.

The moves from Derry and other League of Ireland clubs is not being mirrored to anything like the same extent in the Irish League at the moment.

Legendary City striker Liam Coyle suggests that’s an indication that the standard of football is simply higher in the Airtricity League.

“It’s not just Derry who are seeing players leave,” he points out.

“Sligo have seen Richie Ryan going to Dundee and Owen Doyle’s gone to Hibs and there are plenty of others as well in the last few years.

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“I don’t mean disrespect to anyone in the Irish League but they don’t seem to have players as good as that at the moment.

“I think it’s a better standard of football in the south.”

Derry chairman Philip O’Doherty reckons that the move to summer football has also made a difference.

“The players play on better pitches now, there’s no doubt about that,” he says.

“In Europe we have gone up in the rankings and the co-efficient has improved which is down to a lot of clubs in Ireland doing well in the last six or seven years.

“Sunderland have told us that they were extremely happy with the level of fitness James McClean had when he first went over there, which is a compliment to the training regime that we have at Derry City.

“I don’t really know why it’s not happening for players from the Irish League moving over as well. It would be interesting to see what sort of training regimes they have.

“Most league of Ireland teams may not be full-time but they do have a full-time ethos in training.”

But according to former Derry, Sunderland and Manchester City player John Crossan, the eagerness of clubs across the water to look to Ireland is a sign that standards are slipping.

“Overall I think the game is on a bit of a downer,” he said.

“It’s the money which has ruined it and I don’t mean just that the players are getting well paid, but what they are serving up just isn’t as good.

“When did you ever hear of a player being able to walk out of a Derry team and onto an English team like Daniel Lafferty has done? Good luck to him and it’s great to see James McClean doing well at Sunderland but in the end it all comes down to money.”

Although Derry are naturally reluctant to see their most talented players leaving the club, O’Doherty knows there are fringe benefits as well as the transfer fees they have received.

“These high profile moves mean we are getting mentioned all the time on Match of the Day and on Sky and we are getting a lot of website coverage as well,” he said.

“And I think it also attracts players to Derry City because they see us as a stepping stone to England.

“Daniel Lafferty (pictured) didn’t succeed when he first went to Celtic and because they don’t really have a reserve league in Scotland, he didn’t get a lot of proper game time.

“As soon as he came to us with a strong training regime, he absolutely blossomed.”

A serious knee injury probably prevented Liam Coyle from being picked up by a top English club during his heyday in the nineties — although he puts forward a different theory as to why players are more likely to head across the water these days.

“The big difference between now and then is that all the players nowadays have agents and we didn’t,” he says.

“You don’t like to say that our time was better than now, but I genuinely believe the influence that agents have on the game now makes all the difference.

“I think that players like Paul Curran, Paul Carlisle, Johnny Speak and Pascal Vaudequin could all have gone to England and done well.

“You’d like to think that you could have played at that level. But in those days it was all done through the club or the manager whereas now agents are in constant contact with clubs across the water so there’s more of an opportunity to get away.”

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