GAA Football

Loss of third top talent in space of a year 'tough to swallow' admits Derry boss Damian McErlain

Callum Brown, who starred for Limavady Wolfhounds in their Ulster JFC quarter-final win over Down's Teconnaught last weekend, has agreed a contract with Aussie Rules outfit Great Western Sydney Giants. Picture by Margaret McLaughlin
Neil Loughran

DERRY boss Damian McErlain has backed Callum Brown to rise to the challenge of Aussie Rules football, but admits it is “tough to swallow” losing a third top talent to the AFL in the space of a year.

The 18-year-old was yesterday announced as Great Western Sydney Giants’ first-ever Irish recruit, following in the footsteps of fellow Derry men Conor Glass and Anton Tohill by heading Down Under.

Glen powerhouse Glass, who was county minor captain under McErlain, departed for Melbourne-based Hawthorn in 2017 while towering Swatragh midfielder Tohill – son of Derry legend Anthony – was snapped up by Collingwood earlier this month.

With the Oak Leafers facing up to life in Division Four of the National League next year, they can ill afford to lose men with such potential as they bid to climb back up the ladder.

And McErlain admits the combined talents of Glass, Tohill and Brown would be a loss to any county.

“Absolutely,” said the Oak Leaf boss, “and those three men you mention, Derry hasn’t really produced men even of those physical capabilities in the last 20 years.

“They’ve been few and far between, and they’re the sort of men you need to actually build a county side, so that is a bit of a blow.

“I suppose it also demonstrates the good work that’s going in Derry, in the clubs and development squads, that players are actually at that level when these scouts come looking.

“Physically they’re developed to the right level, and the Australians look into the mindset as well, the attitude, so that’s obviously a factor too.

“It speaks well of Derry but yes, it is a blow. We are getting hit hard and it’s tough to swallow, but you have to run with it and let it go.

“At the same time, we played Kildare in the Championship last year and three or four of the lads were back playing for them [Kevin Feely, Paddy Brophy, Paul Cribbin and Daniel Flynn] – they were excellent players, physically developed specimens altogether.

“Hopefully it becomes a career for the boys, but you just never know. I have to just work away with what I’ve got and if they come back, it would be a bonus.”

Read more: How young Derry star Callum Brown caught the eye of AFL scouts

Brown, who will be remaining on Irish soil until the end of Limavady’s junior championship campaign, was largely used as an impact sub by McErlain during Derry’s run to the 2017 All-Ireland minor final.

Kerry golden boy David Clifford grabbed all the headlines that day with a remarkable 4-4 haul, but Brown also served notice of his huge potential with an awesome second half display.

“Athletically, there’s probably no equal in the country at his age,” continued McErlain.

“He has pace, he’s really strong and it’s all natural. Those are the kind of attributes you need, and the Australians will have tested him to see all that.

“It’s a great challenge for him and a great opportunity, and Callum’s physical attributes are that of somebody who deserves to test themselves professionally, so fair play to him.”

Read more: Callum Brown named Ulster's EirGrid U20 Football 'Player of the Province'

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