Derry City FC sports reporter Simon Collins gives PompeyNewsNow the lowdown on new Pompey signing Ronan Curtis.
The majority of Pompey fans will know absolutely nothing about new signing from Derry City FC Ronan Curtis.
The attacking midfielder is highly rated in Ireland – I had to find out why. Due to our total lack of knowledge on the League of Ireland, we have drafted in an expert. Simon Collins gives PompeyNewsNow readers the lowdown on Ronan Curtis.
Hugh – Can you explain your role at the Derry Journal, for fans who are not familiar with your work?
Simon – I’m a senior sports reporter for Johnston Press NI (who own the Derry Journal) and have been covering Derry City in the League of Ireland for both local and national newspapers and websites for the past 11 years. I also cover a wide range of sports but mainly boxing, MMA and League of Ireland, Irish League and international football.
Hugh – How has Curtis become the player he is today? Did he take the traditional academy development route into football?
Simon – Ronan Curtis rose to prominence through the youth ranks at Derry City five years ago having previously impressed for junior clubs, Kildrum Tigers and Swilly Rovers in Derry’s neighbouring county, Donegal.
He came highly recommended by the Derry City youth coaches as one to watch for the future when he first broke into the first team panel and he registered his 100th senior game for the club last Monday night in the 2-0 win over Bray Wanderers at Brandywell Stadium.
His progression during the past two seasons has been remarkable under Kenny Shiels and he’s never been one short in confidence or self-belief which is one of his greatest assets.
He scored eight goals in 31 appearances last season in the SSE Airtricity League – an ever-present in the team – and he would certainly have smashed that tally this season had he stayed the duration.
With four goals in the opening half of the season, Curtis has made a significant contribution to Derry’s decent start to the campaign and in my opinion, he would’ve had a greater return had he played in his favoured position through the middle as opposed to on the left flank.
Hugh – As a fellow writer, what is the most interesting story you covered on Ronan Curtis?
Simon – My stand-out story regarding Ronan was when Swedish club, Ostersunds came calling last summer before the deal broke down at the final hour. A real progressive club who have big plans, it appeared a great move for the Derry City youngster but it really came from left-field.
Talking to Ronan before he made the trip to Sweden for talks what struck me was his confidence and ambition. He certainly doesn’t shirk a challenge but he travelled to Ostersunds seemingly without any idea of how much they were willing to offer him and quickly knocked back their offer which proved to be little more than he was getting at Derry.
He’s been blinkered in his desire to better himself and make the most of his career but he wasn’t willing to short-change himself. He didn’t let the collapsed move effect him and returned to help the Candystripes secure European qualification and third place.
As an avid Arsenal fan I interviewed him when the Gunners drew Ostersunds in the last 32 of the Europa League and while he found it hard to get his head around the fact he could’ve been involved for the Swedes who went on to beat Arsenal at the Emirates, he was sure he’d get another chance to test himself at the top level at some point in his career.
Hugh – What did the fans think of Curtis? Were you hoping to keep hold of him?
Simon – Ronan is well respected by the Derry City fans who appreciate his appetite to win, his willingness to work hard for the team and his desire to play every minute of every game.
The supporters value him as one of the club’s best players and while they will be hugely disappointed to see him leave, they will be happy for him to better himself and will be delighted he didn’t jump ship to one of the club’s main rivals like several of Derry’s top players in recent years.
Personally I was hoping the club could keep hold of Ronan for another year at least as he could make the difference in a game, and had Kenny Shiels managed to keep hold of the club’s better players in the past two years, Derry really could’ve threatened to break the stranglehold Cork City and Dundalk have on the league at present.
Curtis would’ve been a key player in the upcoming Europa League qualifier which could have significant financial rewards for the club should they progress to the next round. In fact, the reward for qualifying could be worth more or less the same as the six-figure fee paid by Portsmouth for the player!
Hugh – Watching some highlights of Curtis his attacking talent really stands out. What are his strengths Pompey fans should look out for?
Simon – Curtis has lots of great attributes. Technically he is decent and loves to run at defenders. His work rate is unquestionable and he’s just as willing to track back as he is to get forward.
He’s a big physical lad who gets in amongst the opposition and he can provide a good outlet. He’s pretty effective in the air and unselfish when in dangerous areas on the pitch.
Hugh – Does he have any areas in his game you think he can improve on?
Simon – His decision-making at times can certainly be improved upon and I would’ve liked to see more of him playing through the middle.
Hugh – Pompey played a 4-2-3-1 formation last season. Where do you feel Curtis fits into the lineup best?
Simon – I don’t think he’s had enough experience with Derry City playing up top although he’s been extremely effective when doing so. The last time he lead the line was against Shelbourne in the EA Sports Cup quarter-final when he bagged a hat-trick!
However, in a 4-2-3-1 formation, he’ll be perfect to play wide on the left of the three. He loves to get involved in attacks and can produce a decent delivery.
Hugh – Most Pompey fans understanding of the League of Ireland is very limited. How would you compare the standard of the league with League One?
Simon – My knowledge of League One is fairly limited as I would only get to watch highlights of matches but it doesn’t appear to be too far off the standard in the League of Ireland top flight. Certainly, the top teams in the League of Ireland would be well capable of going toe-to-toe with the best in League One.
Recently deposed champions, Dundalk proved a fantastic advert for the league when getting to the brink of the Champions League group stages last summer when losing narrowly over two legs to Rosenborg.
The previous year they made the Europa League group stages when they held their own against Maccabi Tel-Aviv, Zenit and AZ Alkmaar.
Derry hasn’t got the financial resources of both Dundalk and Cork but they are closing the gap. The league has become very technical and the top teams love to get the ball down and play and it continues to get better.
There’s an increasing amount of players making moves from the LOI to English clubs in recent years like Patrick McEleney (ex-Derry City and now at Oldham), Stephen McLaughlin (ex-Derry City and now at Southend via Nottingham Forest), Chris Forrester (ex-St Patrick’s Athletic and Peterborough), Richie Towell (Ex-Dundalk, Brighton and Rotherham) and Daryl Horgan and Andy Boyle (both ex-Dundalk and current Preston players).
They’ve been some of the stand-out players the league has produced and there are becoming more of a trend of U20s and U23 players coming across on loan spells from English clubs to ply their trade in the league which says a lot about how it’s being perceived by English coaches.
Hugh – Is there anything else you can tell Pompey fans about Curtis?
Simon – Ronan is also a U21 Republic of Ireland international and has become a mainstay in the team for their Euro qualifying campaign which is in good hands under boss Noel King who rates the winger very highly.
This has been brilliant for Ronan’s development and he’s growing in confidence. If he can show patience and keep his head right, I’ve no doubt he could go on and have a promising career in the English game with Portsmouth.
Hugh – What are you working on now? Is there anything you would like to share?
Simon – I’m off to Waterford in the south-east of Ireland today, about a six-hour drive from Derry, where Derry City take on Waterford FC who are three points above them in the table in the third spot. It promises to be a cracking game with lots at stake and hopefully, Ronan can do the business. (unfortunately Derry subsequently lost 4 nil)
Hugh Bunce – PompeyNewsNow
Simon Collins – Johnston Press NI, Derry Journal and various others
Main photo by Oliver McVeigh at Sportsfile.