Football/Soccer

Glentoran's Robbie McDaid hoping to enjoy home comforts against Dungannon Swifts

Robbie McDaid in action for Glentoran at the Oval against Ballymena United in this season's Danske Bank Premiership.
Photo Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press

HOME is a happy place for Glentoran but striker Robbie McDaid knows he’s likely to have to move away sooner or later.

The Glens have impressed at the Oval this season, losing only once, to current league leaders Cliftonville, with eight wins from 10 matches there in all competitions.

The attraction away for McDaid is his long-term girlfriend Sophie, who lives and works in Leeds. McDaid was with the Elland Road Whites as a teenager, before moving to Lincoln City on loan, then on to York and Chorley, before returning home.

Glentoran IS arguably home for him, given that his dad is a former player there, even though the McDaids are Omagh folk.

Yet although he travels plenty, from west to Tyrone to east Belfast to west Yorkshire, Robbie knows he and Sophie will have to make a home together – and the likelihood is that it’ll be in England.

“After the game I usually fly over to Leeds to see the missus for the weekend, so it’s a lot of travelling.

“She’s a schoolteacher now, got an apartment. It’s hectic but I’m well-drilled in it now."

That situation cannot continue, though, he accepts: “It weighs on my mind, I’ll have to make a decision, I can’t keep doing this for the next 10 years, it’s not sustainable.

“Possibly in the next two or three years I’ll have to come to a decision, either Soph to come over here or me to go over there.”

He admits he hasn’t been pushing the claims of Tyrone or even Belfast too hard: “It’s not the easiest, I wouldn’t even try… It’s a 90 per cent chance that I’ll go over there. Sometimes you have to do what’s best for yourself – but I’ll worry about that down the line.”

He’s had to divert off one career path because of his involvement with Glentoran: “I was due to my physio degree this year but with the Glens going full-time I couldn’t commit to that…

“Big Ronnie [McFall] had arranged for me to do the physio degree, through the PFA, travelling back and forth to Salford. The change in scenario up at the Glens meant I had to sit down and re-evaluate.”

He’s keeping himself busy, though, doing some coaching of children with disabilities in Omagh, through Gary Wallace’s coaching company, Core NI, and also taking a sports massage course in Belfast.

Ideally, he’d make it as a professional footballer back over in England, saying: “You always have to have that belief in yourself. When I came home I felt I’d had a raw deal. I still have that sense of unfinished business across the water.”

Although he only turned 23 last month he says with a laugh: “I feel the best part of 27, 28, because I’ve experienced that much. If it happens, it’s a bonus, it it doesn’t I’m not too bothered.

“The league has grown here, the standard of football is good, and there’s a bit of money around.

“You can have the best of both worlds here. You can put blocks into place for life after football whilst playing, whereas that’s difficult in England because you’re full-time.”

For now he’s content to lead the line for Glentoran, hoping to help them continue decent recent form in the Danske Bank Premiership and recover from the disappointment of the midweek County Antrim Shield semi-final by the Reds. The last four league games have brought 10 points, and a move clear into fifth place, despite only drawing at lowly Institute last weekend.

This afternoon the Glens host Dungannon Swifts, the only team not seen as one of the current big guns to have beaten Mick McDermott’s men this season.

Even though that 3-1 loss at Stangmore Park came in mid-August, McDaid remembers it well: “That was a big turning point for us. We decided we could either learn from that defeat and it would drive us on, or you can lie over and feel sorry for yourself. We’ve gone on a decent run of form since then.”

Still despite that, and the Glens’ good home record, there’ll be no complacency: “You just have to look at Warrenpoint and Coleraine last weekend – we’d played both recently and thought there was a large gap between them, but then look at the result [Warrenpoint won 3-1, Coleraine’s first league defeat].

“The league is really tight this year and unpredictable… The gaffer talks about ‘one in a row, one in a row’: the next game is the most important one, it doesn’t matter who it is.”

“I think we’ve got the second best home record in the league, so the Oval is a bit of a fortress for us again, which it hasn’t been in recent years. If you’re winning your home games and getting points away from home as well, you’ll not be too far away”.

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