For a man who made his senior club debut as a replacement for Thierry Henry and scored on his Republic of Ireland bow, a move to Shamrock Rovers FC could be a comedown. Yet following a catalogue of injuries, Graham Barrett views a move to his hometown club as "great chance to get going again".
Much was expected of Barrett when, a year after playing a pivotal role for Ireland's UEFA European Under-16 Championship-winning side, he made his Arsenal FC debut as a substitute in a 3-0 victory at Leicester City FC in December 1999. He helped the Gunners win the 2000 FA Youth Cup but by the time he made his senior international bow two years later Barrett's career had become increasingly stop-start, disjointed by injuries and loan spells. Nine years on and the Dublin-born striker was at Scotland, and Saint Johnstone FC, when Shamrock came calling – he did not have to think twice. "Some people may have thought it was a strange move for me to come here but it's not a backwards step," said Barrett.
"I had a lot of bad luck with injuries over the years and I need games to get myself fit," added the 27-year-old. "I made my Rovers debut against Galway United FC [winning 1-0 on Friday] and that was my first game in five months so it will take time. The team were doing so well before I came and it will be hard to get into it. But I'm determined to do well here, it's great to be back home in Dublin playing for a big club and hopefully we can win trophies and be successful in Europe." It is almost literally a return home for Barrett, who spent his formative years a stone's throw from the Tallaght Stadium and who is not the first member of his family to turn out in the famous green-and-white hoops. "My dad, Gary, started his playing career at Rovers under John Giles in 1980 and he scored a few goals for them so hopefully I can score a few more."
Indeed, goals have been at a premium at times for Barrett, who mustered just 15 in 111 league appearances for Coventry City FC, Falkirk FC and St Johnstone, his three permanent employers since leaving Arsenal in 2003. Yet Shamrock have a proud history of bringing out the best in players and, though Barrett has not yet set sights on adding to his six caps, the last in 2004, the Hoops have provided more Irish international (62) than any other side. They have also had success with other nationalities – Samir Boughanem and Luke Dimech were capped by Morocco and Malta respectively while in Dublin – and current Northern Ireland keeper Alan Mannus should add to that list after arriving from Linfield FC. "We're delighted Alan's joined," said Rovers manager Michael O'Neill, himself a former Northern Ireland international. "He's very experienced."
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