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Shiels backs young Dungannon Swifts to shine under skipper Smyth

Danske Bank Premiership


Oisin Smyth

Oisin Smyth

�INPHO/Brian Little

Oisin Smyth

Dean Shiels has said Dungannon Swifts' young players are having to quickly learn to do the job of Irish League regulars.

The Swifts ­- who yesterday named Oisin Smyth (20) as their new captain ­- have one of the youngest squads in the league.

Saturday's starting line up against Linfield comprised four teenagers and three others in their early 20s.

It is a steep learning curve and, with games against Cliftonville tonight and Glentoran this weekend, the big tests just keep coming.

Shiels said: "I think we had four or five teenagers in the squad (on Saturday) and they all have bright futures.

"When they cross that line they are men and they have to add personality.

"They are quiet young boys at times and when they go on that pitch they have to lead and stand up and be men.

"It is an aggressive and physical league. There is the other side of the game - teams are going to put balls in our box and try and bully us - and we have to stand up to that."

Saturday's 2-0 loss to Linfield was the Swifts' third in-a-row.

Shiels saw signs of encouragement, adding: "There were so many good performances from the young lads on Saturday. I was really happy with the performance - obviously we don't enjoy losing but, taking the positives out of the game, I was delighted."

Tonight comes another big test at fifth-placed Cliftonville. Smyth, who was Swifts captain for the first time against Linfield, has now been handed the armband full-time, replacing Ballymena-bound Dougie Wilson.

Shiels added: "Oisin is the personification of what we are trying to build. His style of play matches the team's identity. He's got the characteristics to lead and become a top player for Dungannon for many years to come."

Smyth made his senior debut against Warrenpoint Town in October 2018.

His father, Liam, played Irish League football for Portadown, Larne and Lurgan Celtic. He is also the nephew of former Manchester United and Northern Ireland player Pat McGibbon.

Smyth said: "Having been at Dungannon for seven years it means a lot to me personally. I understand the responsibility that comes with it and I'm excited for the challenge."

Belfast Telegraph

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