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Incoming Derry boss Damien Barton demands Oak Leaf devotion

By Declan Bogue

Incoming Derry manager Damien Barton has promised to tackle what he sees as a "very lazy attitude" adopted by players in the recent past.

Speaking at his first media engagement at the county training complex at Owenbeg, the 1993 All-Ireland winning centre-forward set out his vision for the future of football in Derry, and remarked on what amounted to the players dictating the workload last season under departed manager Brian McIver.

"I thought that players adopted a very lazy attitude last year," the former Slaughtneil, Ballinderry and Kilrea manager stated.

"I think that was very difficult for the management. They had a perception that they had overworked the year before and had peaked too early. I just cannot understand that.

"They changed last year at the behest of the players and so it went, and stuttered. I think the players have to accept a lot of responsibility for that."

He also tackled the age-old question of players showing the required level of commitment to their club, but not to their county.

"The biggest challenge for me is getting players who want to play for this county. I think there has been great talent in the past who have just committed more to their club than to their county," Newbridge clubman Barton stated.

"There are counties that put the county team first and the club team second. I think in this county that is going to be a challenge because there is a great deal of parochialism, in a positive way, but that can be construed as negative as well.

"As I said, we have some very talented players in this county, but I think we have to get them all together and we have to give them the time to grow as a team, to develop as a team. I think that's going to be our greatest challenge."

The technology teacher at St Patrick's College, Dungannon vowed to make an instant impression. He said: "I am not doing this for any other reason than to do it right. If I don't get this first year right, I am not going to sit here. This is up there, in my opinion, and so it should be. I would be expected to get it right.

"We don't want to look back next year and to have wasted people's time. Footballers, coaches can't say, 'we didn't get this right'."

In recent years, the Oak Leafers have flattered to deceive, reaching only one Ulster final since 1998, when they were beaten in the 2011 decider by Donegal.

A previously-feared outfit, Derry begin life in Division Two of the National League.

Barton has maintained that he expects to see absolute commitment. He said: "Players need to realise they have a huge responsibility so I would be expecting a huge buy-in from them. I would be expecting them to look back on their heritage.

"There are many great footballers and many great officials that have represented Derry with great distinction. I think sometimes players forget what they are representing and in the recent past I think some of our players have forgotten that.

"I want people with values, I want people who want to get into this jersey, who understand what this jersey means to people in the past and in the future. I want them to have the responsibility to recognise that they have a role to play in the future of Derry football.

"There will be different challenges. If people are not prepared to give the commitment that I require, I can't see them being part of my team."

In terms of his philosophy, Barton has pledged to produce a style of football that is easy on the eye.

He said: "Players don't train to sit behind the ball and certainly my objective is to get the players to stick the ball in the net or over the bar. I think that's where you get the buzz from, the enjoyment of playing football, winning with some style.

"People used to talk about not caring as long as they won by a point, but hopefully those days are gone.

"My objective is to get players enjoying a type of football that they can express themselves. That's not being critical of what happened last year or the year before that."

Belfast Telegraph


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