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McBride's defensive partner continues to pay tribute after departing Derry for Cork

“Every time I’ll wear it now, I’ll look down and it’ll be in my head,” says Cork City’s Aaron Barry.

20180113 CCFC Vs Cobh Ramblers - Preseason Friendly Aaron Barry in possession for Cork City during Saturday's pre-season friendly against Cobh Ramblers. Source: Doug Minihane

HIS TIME AT Derry City may be over, but Aaron Barry will still be thinking of the man he played alongside for the majority of his time with the club when he resumes his career elsewhere this season.

Barry, who joined Derry from Sheffield United, left the Brandywell outfit following the end of last season when he signed a two-year contract with Premier Division champions and FAI Cup holders Cork City.

The Wicklow-born defender enhanced his reputation as one of the SSE Airtricity League’s top defenders last year, but 2017 will be remembered in Derry as the year in which the club lost its inspirational captain, Ryan McBride.

Back in March, just hours after helping Derry to a win over Drogheda United, McBride died suddenly at the age of 27. His passing broke up a formidable partnership, as the Derry native had played alongside Barry at the heart of the Candystripes’ defence since the latter returned from England in January 2014.

Speaking to The42 about his late ex-colleague last month, Barry said: “I played alongside Ryan for the majority of my time at Derry. He was just brilliant to play with, so easy to be alongside. I think we had one of the top partnerships in the league, for sure. When it’s taken away so suddenly it’s probably hard to adjust.

“I went through about five other centre-half partners after that until Darren Cole came in later in the year. There were young lads coming in and people being played out of position just to sort it out for the team.

Aaron Barry congratulates goalscorer Ryan McBride Aaron Barry (right) and Ryan McBride celebrating a Derry City goal. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

“Sometimes you don’t know how easy you’ve got it when you’re playing alongside someone like Ryan. I probably became a better player for it because it was then up to me to be the leader of the back four, alongside Ger [Doherty] in goal. He was brilliant as well.

“On the pitch Ryan was such a hardman — he’d go through a brick wall for you — but off it he’d be the quietest person in the dressing room. He commanded so much respect that no one would ever bother him when it came to banter or anything like that.

“As quiet as he was, he was actually a very funny guy as well. He used to come out with some brilliant one-liners. Ultimately he was just a gentleman, which was a reflection of how he was raised by his mother and father.”

Following his recent move to Cork, Barry begins a fresh chapter in his career this year. He made his first appearance for City in Saturday’s 1-0 win over Cobh Ramblers in a pre-season friendly at St Colman’s Park. It’s a new club for the 25-year-old Arklow native in 2018, and also a new squad number.

Instead of sticking with his favoured number 30, which he wore for his four seasons in Derry, Barry has opted for the number 5. The shirt was available in Cork after Ryan Delaney (now at Rochdale) returned to Burton Albion having spent 2017 on loan at Turner’s Cross.

It might be a common number for a central defender to choose, but it’s particularly significant for Barry as 5 was the number worn by Ryan McBride prior to his death. Ireland international James McClean, who was also a team-mate of McBride’s during his time at Derry City, paid a similar tribute in last March’s World Cup qualifier against Wales.

Aaron Barry, Karl Caulfield (Cobh) Barry wearing the number 5 at St Colman's Park. Source: Doug Minihane

“Every time I’ll wear it now, I’ll look down and it’ll be in my head,” Aaron Barry explained to Denis Hurley of the Evening Echo. “I pay a little homage to him [Ryan McBride] before every game, just in my own mind. If I can go out and do the stuff that he did, I’ll be happy.”

Meanwhile, as he settles into his new surroundings on Leeside, Barry believes he’s capable of establishing himself as a regular starter in John Caulfield’s side this season.

Alan Bennett, Conor McCarthy, Sean McLoughlin and Danny Kane — who’s expected to complete his move from Huddersfield Town this week — are also likely to be in contention to start at the heart of Cork City’s defence when they bid to retain the President’s Cup against Dundalk at Oriel Park on 11 February. Johnny Dunleavy is also due to return from injury later in the campaign.

Barry said: “I’m confident that I can come in and improve on what’s here. You just have to rise to the standards and maintain your own standards. I like to think I’ve very high standards myself so I believe I can do my bit.”

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Paul Dollery

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