Tony McNamee admits that the Swilly Rovers manager’s job didn’t have much appeal, but now he feels a ‘buzz’ again as he seeks to take some giant steps with the Lennonsiders.
Two weeks ago, McNamee was appointed as the new manager at Swilly Park, taking over following Gerry Crossan’s departure.
Swilly completed the 2017/18 season with only two points and a goal difference of -64.
And yet there is an excitement – and dare it be suggested expectancy – about McNamee’s tone as he prepares for a return to the dug out after a decade-and-a-half away.
“It’s probably about taking baby steps at the minute – but I want to take a giant step,” McNamee says.
“I want to win. I know how difficult it will be. I just want to be really competitive. The last few years, Swilly were at stages wondering how many they were going to get beat by.
“There had been rumours that Swilly would go back to the Donegal League and I would have been one of the people for that. But you want players to play at the highest level and we want to play and to compete in the Ulster Senior League.
“Swilly Rovers were dying. Swilly had a big name from 1958 and 1962. I played with some great players at Swilly Rovers and Swilly were always able to get footballers.”
McNamee had charge of Swilly’s youth team a couple of seasons ago and led them to the Colin Breslin Cup.
A conveyor belt of young talent would ultimately prove their undoing, he feels, with too many of them blooded at times in recent seasons.
He says: “I felt Swilly had too many kids. They’re good players at their own level, but Swilly lost a lot of local players last season, for one reason or another.
“I didn’t really want the manager’s job, but I thought then that I might be the one to get those players back. I have 99 per cent of them back. All of them bar one at the moment.
“I want to get the ball down and play out from the back and be good to watch.”
Laurence Toland, he feels, will remain at Cockhill Celtic, having been the catalyst for their League and League Cup double. It was Toland who provided the telling moments in the Cup final and the League play-off against Letterkenny Rovers.
McNamee says: “I can’t blame Laurence. Cockhill had a great season and they’re in the FAI Cup.”
McNamee, though, says he has recruited well over the last fortnight and is set to welcome some familiar faces back to Swilly Park.
He says: “We’ll have young boys at 17 or 18 who’ll be involved in the panel. At the minute I have three in from Rathmullan – Dylan Hegarty, Brandon Toye and James McCahill – and I have Tony (McNamee), Daragh Black and Jordan Toland from Fanad.
“I have another couple that I don’t want to mention yet. You get promises sometimes, but a player can change his mind again!
“There is a big buzz in the town again because the local players are coming back. One man rang me last week saying he can’t wait for the season and this man hasn’t been in Swilly Park in 14 years.”
McNamee had success as a player at Swilly Park and has retained involvement at schoolboy level since his last stint as USL team manager.
His sons Barry – now at Cork City and Tony came through Swilly’s production line while Shane made his Derry City debut against Shamrock Rovers on Friday night.
He says: “Swilly, going back as long as I remember, always had players going to senior football. Ramelton has a good tradition of that.
“Even at the moment, Barry is playing at Cork and Kyle McFadden is captain of Sligo Rovers. You have a lot of players at underage level in senior football too who started off at Swilly Rovers.
“That puts you back at schoolboy level, but you don’t stop players from playing at a higher level.
“The standard is high in the Ulster Senior League. Cockhill would do fairly well in the First Division of the League of Ireland.
“There are a lot of players in the USL who could step up to the First Division, but some of them don’t seem to want it. The USL is very competitive.”Tags: