DERRY CITY: Defender McDermott shines against France

Derry Citys Conor McDermott (front row, on left) pictured ahead of N. Ireland U21s European U21 Championship qualifier against France. 
Picture by Reece Harrison
Derry Citys Conor McDermott (front row, on left) pictured ahead of N. Ireland U21s European U21 Championship qualifier against France. Picture by Reece Harrison

Derry City’s Conor McDermott says he’s hungry for more international football, after shining on his Northern Ireland U21 debut against France on Tuesday night.

Although the French side, which featured the likes of Celtic striker Moussa Dembélé and Monaco midfielder Thomas Lemar, ran out comfortable 3-0 victors at National Stadium, McDermott wants to progress and hopes to be in next year’s squad.

“The French side were very good, they were the best team I have ever played against. They had the ball for the majority of the game,” he said.

“It was full of stars, like (Adrien) Rabiot, Dembélé and (Corentin) Tolisso. They are all big names and they are all playing first team football at top professional clubs, so yeah, they are definitely the best team I have played against to date.

“We were two goals down at half-time and we never really looked like we were going to come back after that. They scored a late goal to make it three, so yes, it was a tough game, but it was a good experience for me.

“I have another year at it next year and the campaign starts in September, so hopefully I’ll be involved.

To start was unbelieveable and it was something that meant a lot to me as well, as it was good to get on the radar on the international scene.

Conor McDermott

“I think it will be the 96/97s age groups and that’s my age, but I know the only way I’ll be in the squad is if I’m playing well at Derry City.

“Hopefully I can keep playing the way I’m playing and that will be enough for me to make the squad.”

Only a few weeks ago Dembélé was scoring against Manchester City, while also in the Champions League, Lemar scored at Wembley against Spurs, so the former St Columb’s College pupil knew the type of standard he was up against.

In fact McDermott is striving to reach that same level some day in the future.

“Dembélé is a top player and he’s only 19 as well,” he added.

“He’s miles above players from our team but that’s the standard you want to get too as well and playing against him and his team-mates has given me a bit of a drive to get there and that drive to be the best that you can. Whether that’s in League One, Championship or Premier League, it’s something that I’ll be looking to try and push myself forward to.”

The 19-year-old, who was one of four lads from Derry who was in Jim Magilton’s U21 squad, said having the likes of Michael Duffy (Celtic), Mikhail Kennedy (Charlton) and Conor Quigley (Dundee) and former City boss Declan Devine helped him settle in.

“It was good to be away, but it was hard to get used too and I had not met most of the players before, so it was nice having the other three Derry lads in the squad, but overall it was a good experience,” he said.

“Decky was talking to me quite a bit and Jim (Magilton) was also a big help, he gave me a bit of confidence to go and play.

“He trusted me to start and that gave me a lot of confidence.

“I was shocked to play, I never really expected to be in the squad in the first place and then once I got the call-up I thought I was there as cover, but to start was unbelieveable and it was something that meant a lot to me as well, as it was good to get on the radar on the international scene.”

The new look Windsor Park is a state-of-the-art stadium and the Derry youngster was impressed.

“It’s some stadium and we were there on Saturday night watching the San Marino game and the whole stadium is really, really changed compared to what it looked like,” he added.

“It’s brand new and it was good to get to play in it for the first time and hopefully there will be more games to come.”

City boss Kenny Shiels, who attended Tuesday night’s game, was delighted by McDermott’s performance.

“He was one of the standout performers in the N. Ireland team against top, top players,” said the Derry gaffer.

“He’s had the advantage of having played against Daryl Horgan for three of his last four games and he’s been brilliant.

“I have to say he’s a lad who has got the mental strength to pursue a good career in the game.”