Written by: Johnny McNabb 02 Feb 2022
Pacemaker Press

Matthew Kirk insists he would love another crack at football in the top flight – but at Dergview he's at the perfect club to continue his development.

The midfielder is currently in top form for the Darragh Park outfit occupy sixth spot in the Lough 41 Championship table.

Kirk, who appeared in the Danske Bank Premiership whilst at Coleraine, admits being a part of that has whetted his appetite for even more.

“I’m playing regularly at Dergview which is what I want as I need to get senior experience in the bank,” he said.

“The quality in the Championship this year is frightening, it’s probably the best it's been in a long time and with our league being cancelled in 2020/21, players have relished getting back and teams have really strengthened.

“When you look at the league table, it is the first time Dergview have been in the top six for a long time and we are sitting just ahead of Ards.

“We are doing well, we are seven games unbeaten at the minute but personally I want to string as many 90 minutes as I can and get into double digits for both assists and goals until the end of the season.

“As a team, I would like to help to get us into the top six at the split and we all want that in the changing room.

“Getting that taste of the top flight at Coleraine, being in that changing room, winning the Irish Cup and everything else, them things don’t leave you and you want to strive to be at that level.

“Even being involved at the last game of the season at Glenavon, I remember standing with Skinner wishing I was playing as there was a lot at stake.

“I’m loving my time at Dergview, Tommy has serious faith in me and plays me every week but I want to challenge myself at the Irish League sometime in the future.

“However, I don’t just want to jump in straightaway and play a few minutes here and there. I want to get regular football in the Championship and I don’t see Dergview as a stepping stone as I love the club.

“I will give my all for the club and if a Premiership team thinks I’m good enough, then we will take it from there.”

The L/Derry native started playing football at the age of five and progressed the whole way through to senior football at Newbuildings United, although he fondly remembers a successful period with Northern Ireland U18 Schoolboys team.

“I started off playing at five-years-old for Eglinton Eagles and moved from there to Limavady United, competing in the National League against the likes of Linfield and Glentoran.

“Following on from that, I was at Maiden City for two years but I wanted a taste of senior football so I moved to Newbuildings United for a couple of years.

“Growing up I played in all the Northern Ireland Elite squads as a right-back but at club level I was a central midfielder.

“When I played for Newbuildings at 18-years-old, I got called-up to the Northern Ireland Schoolboys U18 Centenary Shield squad under Frankie Wilson and Brian Donaghey.

“We ended up winning that competition and we had a cracking team with the likes of Bobby Burns, Eoin Toal, Ryan Waide, Lorcan Forde, Eamonn Scannell, Aaron Donnelly and Declan Dunne.”


© Presseye

Kirk would sign for Coleraine in 2017 and was named in the squad for the Irish Cup final success against Cliftonville.

However, the midfielder realised he needed more game time and departed on loan to Dergview, before moving to the United States on a scholarship.

That venture would end in disappointment as the COVID-19 pandemic meant he had to study from home back in Northern Ireland.

“In 2017, I ended up signing for Coleraine despite having an offer from Derry City,” he said.

“After chatting to Oran Kearney, I felt it was the right move for my career as he’s one of the best managers in the league.

“I played the full year there in a mix between the U20’s and first-team squad, but it was difficult getting game time as that Coleraine team was so strong with the likes of Ciaron Harkin, Brad Lyons and Martin Smith.

“The squad was unbelievable but I was fortunate enough to travel and play in the Europa League.

“I decided to go on loan to Dergview the season after and then Oran left for St Mirren, with Rodney McAree coming in.

“At that point, I was assessing my options and after speaking to people who went to America, they said it was the best thing they’ve ever done and I would be foolish to miss out on that opportunity.

“I got in touch with a few Universities and agents, but to be honest I left it quite late to get over there as Universities start selecting in November and December time, but I left it to late February early March.

“Despite my window of opportunity being small, my CV was helped by playing for Coleraine and Dergview and having senior appearances under my belt.

“Thankfully, I received a scholarship at California State University, Monterey Bay, combining football with business administration.

“Unfortunately, when COVID struck, I had to come back and complete classes online but with having a full-time job, a lot of personal stuff going on and the time difference, I had to call it quits.

“When I was back home, I wasn’t getting financial aid for my school and I told my coach at Christmas time and informed him that I couldn’t continue in Spring 2021.”

© Pacemaker Press

The 22-year-old would make a return to Dergview and helped the club lift their first ever senior trophy - a year after missing a heartbreaking penalty in final of the same competition.

“I signed back for Dergview but our season was stop and start due to COVID and then it didn’t go ahead,” he continued.

“We just played friendlies and Irish Cup games and got through to the quarter-final stage for the first time in the club’s history.

“Ivan Sproule left and Tommy Canning came in and made a whole host of signings and strengthened up the squad.

“The North-West Cup triumph last year was our first ever senior trophy.

“We lost the final the year before and I came back from America to play in it against Ballinamallard United and missed the decisive penalty, which was heartbreaking as we got so close but fell short.

“The year after we played Limavady United in the final and we were behind at the break but we got a good word from Tommy and went back out and implemented our game plan.

“It’s funny how football works out as I scored the first goal, assisted the winner and was named as the Man of the Match.

“That was a massive, massive day for the club, there were huge celebrations in Castlederg and it was nice for all the people in the background.

“We have so many volunteers, supporters and people on the Board who help the club and it was great to reward them for their sacrifice.”