BY THE time Philip O’Doherty, the Derry City Chairman, pulled the guillotine down on Roddy Collins’ tenure at the Brandywell last May, Tony McNamee was one of the few inside the Lone Moor Road to feel a pang of regret.
The controversial Dubliner was sacked after a disastrous series of results and, like in most of these cases, the end was an acrimonious one.
He had given McNamee his League of Ireland debut when he lined out for a 1-0 defeat by Shamrock Rovers.
Collins fancied McNamee as a player but, in the game of opinions, Peter Hutton – Collins’ successor as manager – didn’t hold the same feelings for the Ramelton man, who left for Glenavon soon after.
His switch to Mourneview didn’t quite work out and last November he put pen to paper at Finn Park.
On Saturday night, he comes face-to-face with Collins again as his former mentor is now the Waterford United manager.
“I felt I was doing ok and I couldn’t say a bad word about Roddy,” McNamee says.
“The way he was playing probably suited me and when Peter (Hutton) came in he had a different idea. I didn’t get many games after Roddy left at all, but I enjoyed my time at Derry.
“I learned a lot and was involved for the FAI Cup final last year and the European games. It was great to be around the club for those games. The full-time training – we were in for two sessions a day most days and had the gym programmes – was brilliant and it really helped me as a player.”
Of his first ten Harps appearances, only two were as a starter, but he started the next ten and really shone in the FAI Cup clash with Longford Town.
He says: “The main thing is playing. Even at the start of the year, those 20-minute spells I was getting were more than I’d got in a long time.
“Everyone wants to be playing here. Training has been so intense for the last six weeks and it’s so hard to pick the squad every week. This is the time of year that everyone wants to be involved in.
“I’ve played more than I’ve played before at this sort of standard and I’m just happy to be playing in the team every week.”
A look at the bloodlines shows a player who comes from strong football stock. He’s a nephew of Con McLaughlin, who was the first Donegal man to score 100 League of Ireland goals, while his brother, Barry, is a mainstay in the Derry City team and their father, Tony senior, is a former Swilly Rovers player and manager.
Harps have a play-off spot within their grasp now. With a handful of games to go, they have six points to spare on Shelbourne, who occupy fourth place.
Within the confines of the Harps dressing room, Waterford is the only thing on anyone’s lips.
McNamee says: “Everyone talks away about UCD and Wexford and those big games, but you have to keep it just one game at a time. For us it’s all about turning Waterford over.
“Most teams under Roddy will be about football, football, football. At this stage, Waterford don’t have an awful lot to play for so they’re able to just go out and play a bit and express themselves.
“The game down in Waterford that we won 3-0, they could have been one or two up before we even got a chance. They’ll give us a tough game.”
Last Friday, Harps were at one stage eyeing up a record win for the season when they raced into a 3-0 lead, with Kevin McHugh’s double and another by Nathan Boyle giving them a solid cushion.
They were made sweat, though, as Karl Byrne and Conor Foley netted in the second half.
They won 3-2 and that, at this stage of things, is the only statistic that matters.
“Everyone thought that it was too easy,” McNamee admits.
“We should have had a bit of common sense because Cabinteely put it up to Wexford and we could easily have dropped two points.
“It was much harder than it should have been, but at least we’ve got the win and the points.
“We were happy with the start we had. The penalty kicked us on, but after we got the third we took the foot off the pedal.
“At times it’s harder than it looks because you still have to win the 50-50s. For a while in the second half it seemed as if they were winning every 50-50. Luckily enough we didn’t concede too many chances and we should have hit another three goals ourselves.”
Among the big traveling support, relief was the order of the night, but McNamee and his team-mates were acutely aware of how it was a game that could have threatened to send their season down the Liffey.
He says: “Everyone was a bit down going into the dressing rooms, but we went to win the game and we done that. At this stage, if you win 7-6 or 1-0 it doesn’t matter.
“The performance wasn’t as good as we wanted it to be. It was just one of those games where we showed a bit of grit to get the win.
“As long as the results come, that’s the main thing.”Tags: