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Donegal boy McNamee dedicated to Derry dream

IF LIFE had taken a different turn, Barry McNamee could have been part of the Donegal side which came to Dublin and took home the biggest prize in Gaelic football a few weeks back.

Instead, the youngster is spending this week preparing for another big day out in the capital but with another big piece of silverware at stake, as the 20-year-old has emerged from the fringes to become a key player for the Derry City side which is aiming for FAI Cup glory on Sunday.

Most of the Candystripes' players are Derry boys, born and bred, but McNamee is one of those who is from across the border.

His home place is Ramelton in Donegal. While growing up in Donegal, GAA was a passion before association football took hold.

"I played against a lot of the Donegal senior side at underage level. I had trials for the county U16 team and I played GAA for my club up to minor level but decided to pack it in and stick to soccer and I have no regrets," says McNamee, a full-time student in Letterkenny IT.

"It could have gone the other way for me but I decided to stick with soccer and it has worked out so far.

"There's a strong Donegal connection in the team, we have three of us in the first team but a batch of Donegal lads in the Derry City reserves, there's some talent there.

"Winning the All-Ireland in September was some achievement for Jim McGuinness and the Donegal boys. At the start of the season no one gave them a chance but they stuck to their task and did the business, hopefully we can emulate them on Sunday in the final.

"With the way the season started I never dreamed I'd be playing in a Cup final for Derry but here we are."

McNamee made his Derry City debut last season but had been a squad player until forcing his way into the side in mid-season. His form, including goals against Shelbourne in the Cup semi-final, have sparked cross-channel interest so Derry fans are relieved to hear that he is signed up on a two-year deal.

McNamee was only coming onto the scene with Derry when James McClean left for Sunderland but the Donegal lad still sees McClean as an icon.

"You see with James McClean, if you get the chance you just have to show that you're good enough and I'd love to get that chance. I didn't get to play with James that much, just in training really," McNamee says. "He's the one that everyone aspires to be, he has gone to England and taken his chance. He lives his life the right way and does the right things and it's brilliant to see his success. We have five or six young boys in the squad who hope to do what James does."