Belfast Telegraph

'Rhys Marshall would be the best midfielder in the Irish League': Gary Hamilton talks up Glenavon full-back for positional switch

Rhys Marshall celebrates scoring his third goal in as many games at central midfield for Glenavon.
Rhys Marshall celebrates scoring his third goal in as many games at central midfield for Glenavon.
Wanted man: Rhys Marshall is considering his future
Gareth Hanna

By Gareth Hanna

Glenavon might just have found the best midfielder in the Irish League hiding under their own noses.

That's the claim of manager Gary Hamilton as one of his full-backs makes a move up the pitch.

Home fans at Mourneview Park are well used to seeing Rhys Marshall put in leading performances on the right side of defence but on Saturday afternoon, they saw the 24-year-old star in central midfield.

Since Glenavon's Scottish Challenge Cup win over Formartine United, that's where he has been utilised, tasked with providing an attacking threat.

While there is a worry amongst the locals in Lurgan that Marshall could be off to pastures new during the summer - Larne and Linfield are both interested - Hamilton's still keen to get the best out of one of his key men for as long as he can.

With three goals in three games so far in Marshall's new position, it's an experiment that the boss is hoping could bear long-lasting fruit.

"In my opinion, and it's only my opinion, I think Rhys Marshall would be the best midfielder in the Irish League," said Hamilton, who also saw Aaron Harmon shine as Marshall's replacement at right-back, his cross leading to Glenavon's second goal in the 3-1 win over Ballymena United.

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"I've said it for years. We did play him in there a couple of years ago and he did really well in a run of games then wanted to go back to right-back again.

"I think he needs to use the quality that he has in those areas of the pitch a bit more. This is just my personal opinion but I think at right-back he has to do too much defending.

"We had a chat in Scotland and we asked him to do a role because we were short and he was outstanding and scored. Last week in my opinion again he was the best player on the pitch and then today anybody watching will see that he's in the top two or three performers.

"It's something I think, with the ability that he has, he should be using in more in that position. At right-back, for me, he's defending too much. He's so good on the ball, so good going forward, he can score goals, he's decent in the air, he's quick and I just think he's got so much more to bring to the table in central midfield. In the last three games he's been a big plus for us in there."

Marshall was edged to Saturday's man of the match award by former Carrick Rangers centre-back Andrew Doyle, who Hamilton was only too keen to give the limelight to after a starring role in Glenavon's comeback win.

"I'm sick, sore and tired saying it but if I'm here and Andrew wants to be here, he will be," he said. "Even when he's not playing, he's good in the changing room and he sets the tone in training.

"Him and Singy (James Singleton) are very similiar in personalities and they've been excellent in there over the last two or three games (in central defence). Cathair Friel is a top, top player who's hard to mark and today I thought they did really well against him."

Saturday's success was much-needed round Mourneview way as the club had been languishing third bottom in the table with only four points from six games.

"I was just delighted for the boys, after the result last week with the performance that they put in and they didn't get the result they deserved. I was hoping they got that this week," Hamilton continued, referencing the previous week's defeat at Seaview, where he was less than happy with the referee's performance.

"They've been excellent all week. They worked really hard and they brought it into the game. I thought they were the better team over the 90 minutes.

"Hopefully it will give the lads a bit of confidence because they've been unfortunate in a lot of games and we've had a lot of injuries, which we haven't pointed out.

"Whenever I looked round at the bench today, for the first time I was thinking what a squad we have here with the likes of Eoin Wearen, Sammy Clingan and Daniel Larmour there just to name a few that didn't even get onto the pitch - Caolan Marron an Under 21 international. Hopefully we're getting these boys back at the right time because we'll need them.

"It puts pressure on the boys on the pitch to perform and probably over the first few weeks we didn't have that. Thankfully they're all coming back and ever since the game in Scotland, the boys have been really good. They've looked like themselves and they've brought it into games on the pitch."

Next week, Glenavon go to Windsor Park to take on champions Linfield.

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