HAVING begun his career in the League of Ireland with Cork City, Rochdale manager Brian Barry-Murphy confessed that he is still a great admirer of the league and that he is always monitoring players within it.
The recent pandemic has made signing players much more difficult for clubs in the United Kingdom, but Murphy admitted that aside from the financial straits over the pandemic, signing players from Ireland has become more difficult in recent seasons.
“I’ve always kept an eye on the League of Ireland over the past several seasons not just for potential signings but because I’m a fan of the league,” Barry-Murphy said.
“We have a lot of lads at the club that played in Ireland, so we are constantly talking about the league.
“There are a lot of talented players in the league but in recent years, clubs in the lower divisions in England are finding it difficult to compete with teams like Shamrock Rovers and Dundalk financially.
Also, teams in Ireland are operating very professionally and their facilities are equal if not better than those in England.
“We have talked to players from Ireland in the past and could only match the offers they were receiving from back in Ireland at best.
“It comes down then to personal choice. Some lads might not see the point in uprooting their life when they can earn the same money and live at home, but others might see it as an opportunity to try and progress their career and experience football in England.
“Take for example Jimmy (Keohane) and Dools (Stephen Dooley).
“They had great careers in League of Ireland and probably could have stayed in Ireland and earned just as much money, but they wanted to see how they would adapt to playing in England and both have been excellent for us.
“Dools is a senior player in the team and has become a big influence in the squad. Jimmy is one of the most underrated players in the team. He seems to always go under the radar, but his stats are very impressive and he’s a manager’s dream.
“He’s never injured and will always play through the pain. He’s a great guy to have around the place.
“He’s quiet but I can see how much he is respected by everyone in the squad.”
In the current climate, clubs in the lower levels of England are struggling financially, meaning there have been cutbacks. Loans seem to be the most feasible option for lower league clubs and Barry-Murphy has found that Premier League clubs have become more accommodating with loaning their players because of the pandemic.
“We have a young squad and that’s because we have had to promote players more from the youth squad than we would have in the past.
“Premier League teams have been very understanding when trying to loan players.
“Before they would be looking for clubs to pay the majority of the players' wages but now, they are happy for clubs like ourselves to pay a smaller percentage of the player’s salary.
“They see it as beneficial to them and the player as well. With Covid, there are fewer underage games for Premier League clubs and this way the player gets more football.
“We signed Haydon Roberts and Gavin Bazunu on-loan from Brighton and Manchester City and they have been excellent since joining and both have very bright futures.
“Bazunu is the best young player I’ve ever worked with. His attitude and work-rate are incredible, and he is obsessed with the game.
“He is always looking to improve and has made great progress. Teams think because of his age and being such a young goalkeeper that they can target him by putting balls on top of him, but he is well capable of dealing with those situations.
“He’s got a bright future and it wouldn’t surprise me to see him pushing for the number one jersey with the Irish senior team very soon.”
Having been appointed Rochdale manager on a permanent basis just under two years ago, Barry-Murphy hasn’t noticed much difference between his time as first-team coach and manager, although, he does admit that players are more aware of what they say around him.
“I was very fortunate, that during my time as a coach, I took a lot of reserve games and worked with the younger lads in the squad.
“So, when I became manager it made the transition much easier because I had already worked and managed the players that are now more involved in the first team.
“One thing, I have noticed, is that when I was a coach I would always be in the dressing room talking to players but as a manager you have to leave the players have the dressing room without the manager being in there all of the time.
“When I do chat to lads, they aren’t talking about their nights out like they used to. They are a great group to work with and are very dedicated for players that are so young.
“I’m not surprised to see the interest from other clubs in some of our players here because how they continue to grow and develop as players.”