Gary Hamilton has moved to secure the services of several players by agreeing contract extensions with Aaron Harmon, James Taylor, Jordan Jenkins, Daniel Larmour, Ross Hunter and Oisin Barr.
Speaking about the players, Gary said “James has been at the club quite a few years now and he’s never let us down when called upon. He and Johnny (Tuffey) get on well and work well together. I was delighted for him last year when he got the opportunity to captain the team in the Mid-Ulster Cup. He’s a great lad who comes in, is professional and when called upon he’s always done very well for us. He’s a valuable member of the squad and one who I appreciate a lot.
“Aaron came in at the start of the season having come back from a cruciate injury and he took a chance as we couldn’t guarantee him anything. He showed he was back to full strength and fitness and he’s what you would classify as ‘Mister Dependable’ – you know what you get from Aaron Harmon every single match he goes out on the pitch. He’s very, very versatile and he’s played in a lot of positions which is important for me as we can’t carry as big a squad and I think he was a very good signing for us last season. When he got in the team he usually kept his place the following week because he performed and the team won – that’s what we want about the place.
“Daniel has come in last year from Carrick and I’ve been really impressed by him. There’s so much potential in Daniel that it’s scary and he has a lot of competition against good players and this is a big year for him. Last year he stepped in at left back in games and was tremendous and any game he played at centre half he was excellent. He’s still young and one of the positions it probably takes a bit longer for a player to break through is centre half. He’s still at that 20 year old stage and it’s probably difficult to be a week in, week out starter in that position but when he has come in there he’s looked very accomplished as if he’s played there for years. He’s brilliant to have about the place and his attitude is everything we look for in a player.
“JJ is somebody I think very highly of. He’s a goal scorer that is in the right place at the right time and he can finish with both feet and with his head. He’s probably the one player who’s been unfortunate in a way because, where the other young lads got to go out on loan and experience first team football, every time the window came around, we had a shortage of strikers through injury or whatever reason and we never managed to get him out to get that men’s football. That’s probably held him back a little bit but I thought, towards the end of the season, he was making an impact off the bench and he started a couple of games. He’s got an eye for goals and he’ll always score goals but he has shown an improvement in his hold-up play and his link play. If we can get that clicking, we’ve got a top striker on our hands that will score goals at any level he plays at.
“Everyone around the club knows what I think about Ross and Oisin. Oisin has potential to be the next Mark Sykes. The way he plays, he glides with the ball; he’s quick over the first few yards carrying the ball. He’s got a trick or two in the locker as well and he’s a very similar type of player to Sykesy. He’s obviously not at that level yet but he has all the attributes to his game that Mark had and if he keeps working as hard as Mark did, there’s no reason why he can’t get to that level because he’s certainly a very, very talented wee boy. Talented players don’t always work as hard as the others but Mark went away and worked on his game and it made a big difference and that ended up with him getting a move across the water and that’s what I feel for Oisin as well. If he keeps his feet on the ground and listens to the advice from first team players, coaches and management, he has all the attributes and potential to become a first team Irish League player and maybe even again go further afield. It won’t be easy for the young lads to get into the team because it’s a strong team but they know, if they’re good enough they’ll play.
“Ross is a lad that I’ve so much admiration for. Everyone knows that he went through a heart operation last January and the passing of his father the January before that. He’s been through a tough year and a half so for the lad still to be able to go out onto a football field and perform the way he has done shows how talented a boy he is – not just talent but he’s driven and he’s been somebody who since 14 years of age I’ve had high aspirations for. If he’s lucky and he doesn’t get any injuries and he keeps working hard at his game I genuinely feel he has the potential to be as good as, if not the best, player that the Academy has ever produced. We saw him in the last game of the season against Cliftonville in the league, he scored one and could have had a couple more. Last season in the 20’s he’s scored in every game and he did the same in the Under 18’s. He has great vision and awareness and his hold up play, his touch, his link up play, he’s got everything that you need as a centre forward. We will be working on improving him physically as he’s still a wee boy in terms of his build but we’ll get him into the gym over the summer and get him working hard. If we can add all that, it’s scary what he could reach.”