Barnsley’s maverick midfielder and former League of Ireland cult hero Paddy McCourt says that he is not surprised by just how key a player Richie Towell has become at Dundalk.
Towell came through the youth ranks at Parkhead after arriving in Glasgow in 2007. The Dubliner stayed at Celtic for five years and McCourt was a team-mate of his for much of that time, with the duo playing together regularly in the reserves during their careers at Celtic.
After two loan spells at Hibernian, Towell returned home to play with Leinster Senior League side Bluebell United before signing for Dundalk at the start of last season. Since then, he has become one of the Lilywhites’ key players, winning the PFAI Young Player of the Year award and taking Kenny’s side into Europe.
Dundalk fans have taken him to their hearts, adopting a terrace chant that was regularly sung in homage to McCourt during his League of Ireland days.
“Richie was just a young lad at Celtic when we were both there trying to break through. I know him well from that time and it is great that he is playing very well here at Dundalk. The best of luck to him, I hope he can keep it going,” said the ‘Derry Pele’, after Friday night’s game between Dundalk and Barnsley at Oriel Park.
“You could see he had that kind of ability in him at Celtic for sure”, added McCourt. “And he has also trimmed down a wee bit as well since the last time that I would have saw him. He gets around the park a bit more than he would have at Celtic.
“Its nice to see he also has that wee bit of aggression now,” he continued with a smile. “He is a player that definitely has great talent and it is great that he is getting an opportunity to show that here. If he keeps playing well enough, who knows he could earn a move back across.”
McCourt himself has first hand knowledge of making the move from the League of Ireland. He left the domestic league in 2008 after spells with Shamrock Rovers and Derry City and has gone on to become an extremely popular figure across the water. Despite that, he says he always tries to keep an eye on football matters closer to home with his former Derry City manager, Stephen Kenny, and the Candystripes, at the forefront of his mind.
“I always try to keep up with what is going on here at home although obviously I don’t get to see many games.”
“It was great to see Stephen,” said McCourt. “He is a really top manager, which I know from our time at Derry, and it is great to see him doing well here at Dundalk. I also keep in touch with Ruaidhri Higgins a lot. From talking to Ruaidhri he keeps me in the loop,” said the Northern Ireland international.
McCourt’s current side, who left Oriel Park with a somewhat flattering 4-1 victory on Friday, are currently rooted to the foot of the Championship table but he is hopeful that they can turn their fortunes around.
“It was good to be back in Ireland. With us having no FA Cup fixture this weekend it was nice to be back and see familiar faces again and it was good to get that game time under the belt as well.
“I’m committed to helping this team achieve survival which is all we can focus on now.
“We just need to get wins and momentum going and hopefully can drag ourselves off the bottom.”