A bank holiday weekend, another week finished and without any affiliation to any club I decided to attend Cockhill Celtic vs Derry City reserves in the Donegal News Cup final at a blustery dry arch park.
The first thing I noticed was the teamsheet; 6 players in the Derry line up today who aren’t necessarily regulars with the first team but are still occupying squad numbers playing a game here or there should they be required.
Kenny Shiels, the Derry City manager was sat at the far end of the dugout watching potentially the younger players trying to use the reserve team as a pathway into the senior team or maybe those who have been in the senior team previously trying to be re-instated into a Derry side full of quality.
With as mentioned noticeable names in the Derry squad, Cockhill who today successfully won the trophy for the fifth year in a row had the likes of Garbhán Friel a player who has had two stints at Harps and been involved with Institute as well, A Derry team applying their trade in the Northern Irish divisions. Gavin Cullen, another man who has served the Ballybofey club in earlier years, now in a player-manager role with Cockhill.
Despite being a league with teams from Donegal and Derry the “Ulster Senior League” has seen many former League of Ireland players descend into the later stages of their career, Jonathan Minnock, the former Finn Harps defender who played against Athlone in the second round of the FAI cup last year.
As mentioned above reserve teams are a great chance for players who are coming through the ranks to test themselves against older players, Several lads I know are playing against opposition with players twice their age, testing themselves against much more physical opposition which surely can only be described as progression.
To get an insight on what it was like to be involved within the senior leagues Corrie-Lee Bogan, currently playing with Finn Harps under 17’s and their reserve Ulster senior league side detailed how “it gives you a taste of what it’s like to play senior football” emphasising “how at times it can physically be tough but very beneficial when you return to 17’s “.
Capped twice for Ireland, the promising young midfielder was eager to point out “moving the ball fast against more difficult opposition really can improve your game.”
The other end of the spectrum is that there’s a team within their own system or within the league you can send players on loan to. Worldwide , players are sent on loan to clubs should they not be getting game time or even if they need to find their feet again.
In my opinion with having a team you can monitor the progression of players is a great way to give game time to younger players who aren’t yet ready for senior football but gives them that extra degree to their game which could prove to be valuable in the near future.
A potential downside to the reserve team is the cost of running it, for a club like Finn Harps who are cash-strapped as it is, it means they have to allocate additional funds to this team.
Let’s hear your thoughts on the topic.