Daylight Robbery at the Brandywell

Daniel Lafferty recently joined English Championship outfit Burnley from Derry City in a deal thought to be in the region of £150,000-£200,000. The move is a great loss for Derry City, both in terms of the loss of Lafferty’s talent and the pittance which they received for his services.

Here is a left-footed 22 year old former under-21 international who has proven himself at the highest level in Ireland. In fact, his tremendous form in the 2011 season saw him nominated for the PFAI young player of the year award and he was included in the same League of Ireland squad as James McClean and Daniel Kearns that took on Celtic and Man City in the Dublin Super Cup. He has an abundance of potential, a fact which has been recognised by new Northern Ireland manager, Michael O’Neill who suggested he could receive a call-up in the near future, regardless of where he’s playing. £200,000? Derry were robbed.

Some might say that Irish clubs have little choice in the matter. British clubs tend to hold all the cards when it comes to setting fees and the best thing that an Irish club could hope for is a few add-on fees based on potential appearances and so-forth. Being a “small” club, they probably feel a burden of not wanting to be an impediment to the player’s move to the “big-time”. But clubs must ultimately act in their own interests, after all, one player is not bigger than the team.

Irish leagues have been exporting an increasing number of talented individuals as English clubs look to snap up bargains. Over the past year, several players have secured moves to top British clubs from Irish clubs: Enda Stevens went from Shamrock Rovers to Aston Villa, Rory Donnelly signed for Swansea from Cliftonville, Derry’s James McClean and Daniel Lafferty went to Sunderland and Burnley respectively, Daniel Kearns left Dundalk for Peterborough and Graham Cummins recently signed for Preston from Cork City.

Older cases, such as Kevin Doyle, Shane Long, Seamus Coleman and Keith Fahey are all current Ireland internationals a short period after having played in Irish leagues. Each of them cost around the same amount as Lafferty, but after just a few short seasons, their worth has multiplied considerably. Indeed, some players’ worth has multiplied after only a few games: take the case of another Derry City export James McClean, for example. However Derry City fans will tell you that while McClean’s fitness may have improved, he is pretty much the same player that he was when he was at the Brandywell – fast, direct, fearless, with an eye for a pass as well as a goal. He didn’t magically become 10 times the player he was overnight.

The relative success of the aforementioned players should give Irish clubs the right to demand more for their most talented players. If Irish teams lose these players for such low fees, the standard of the Irish domestic game will struggle to progress. Say the fee for Lafferty was doubled: Derry could then invest some of it into improving their facilities as well as having the option of investing in a replacement. In Daniel Lafferty, Derry City have lost arguably the best left back in Irish football and a dedicated professional who has many years ahead of him in the game. £200,000 is an insult of a fee for a player of his calibre.

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