“We need to give back to the fans” | Treaty defender Darren Nwankwo has high hopes for the season

Nwankwo made his first start for Treaty in the loss to Waterford in April, and has featured in nine games in total this season, scoring a goal in the cup.

Darren Nwankwo only turned 18 in March, but the youngster has featured in every single Treaty United game since making his full debut at home to Waterford in April. One of the youngest players to play in the League of Ireland First Division this year, Nwankwo has high hopes for his season, both individually and collectively, as well as his career long-term.

Nwankwo made his first start for Treaty in a 4-1 loss to Waterford, and has featured in nine games in total this season, scoring a goal in the cup.

26 May 2023; Darren Nwankwo of Treaty United in action against Filip Fjeldheim Da Silva of Finn Harps during the SSE Airtricity Men’s First Division match between Treaty United and Finn Harps at Markets Field in Limerick. Photo by Michael P Ryan/Sportsfile

Coming into a senior side shortly after turning 18 is always going to be tough, but the young defender has had a lot of help to ease his transition into men’s football. He cited Tommy Barrett as a “role model,” stating that the Treaty boss “was always minding” him when he first started training with the senior side aged 16.

The Castletroy native spoke exclusively with Sporting Limerick on his breakout season and help from elder statesmen in the squad.

“I’ll be honest, back then I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go pro, sometimes I would miss training without an explanation. He (Barrett) had a lot of faith in me and kept me around. He has helped me every step of the way. Enda Curran and Marc Ludden are like father figures. Every training session Enda came up to me, telling me I was flying it and I’d be in the first team before I knew it, he was right! He made my life in the senior team easier and still to this day he gives me advice. The two of them have helped me a lot along the way.”

While captain Marc Ludden was injured earlier in the season, Enda Curran has been bang in form for Treaty, and is the Shannonsiders top goal-scorer this year. The Limerick outfit will be hoping to get back to winning ways, losing successive games 3-0 following four wins on the trot. Yet, they are just one point outside of the playoff places ahead of their clash with Waterford FC this evening.

Crowds have been increasing as of late, with hundreds coming down to the Markets Field to cheer Nwankwo and his teammates on. The young defender feels that his side “need to give back the fans,” and is hoping the side can put some wins together.

“That’s what we should be aiming for this season is to get into the playoffs, last few years we got into the playoffs so I don’t see why we can’t this year. We need to give back to the fans, we have to give them a reason to come to the game, playoffs should be number one priority. Hopefully we could go on another cup run in the FAI Cup and I could be involved a lot more in that this year too.”

Nwankwo, who sits his Leaving Cert next week, also has high hopes individually for the season. The defender comes across very humble, and you can tell he is the type of person that would the team’s success ahead of his own. But nevertheless, a player has to have aims, and Nwankwo’s are ambitious.

Despite his fantastic performances, he is yet to be included in the Team of the Week this season. He also harbours ambitions to become one of the youngest ever inclusions in the Team of the Season.

“Personally, I’d like to cement myself properly week in week out. I’d like to get into the Team of the Week, Team of the Season too. I’m not sure if there is a Young Player of the Season Award, but if there is, I’d love to get that, I should be aiming for that.”

Long term, Nwankwo sees himself in England. The Irishman spent a week on trial at Championship outfit Blackburn Rovers in January, and although he didn’t secure himself a deal, he is hungry to learn even more and get a chance to play in England.

The defender described it as what he would want to do full time and thought he had done enough on trial to earn a call back, but unfortunately it never materialised.

Nwankwo still has so much time on his side though, only turning 18 in March, he has seen first-hand this season just how quickly things can develop. Should Treaty get up to the Premier Division, the youngster would undoubtedly receive a lot more exposure, and opportunities for a move.

“It was a full training week at Blackburn, it was so good, it’s what you’d want to do full time professionally, you had three training sessions a day and a game Friday. I thought I did well over there, I was hoping to get some sort of call back. I’ll still take what I can from that experience. Obviously I’m enjoying my time here in Ireland, but long term that’s where I want to be, maybe when I’m 20/21, moving over to England, full time professional football. It’s very doable. Maybe I might have to join a Premier side first, get a few games in the Premier, and then go over. I think definitely within the next few years I could see myself living in England playing full time football.”

Treaty United sit sixth in the League of Ireland First Division, and travel to face second place Waterford on Friday evening. Nwankwo will miss the game through injury, but the tough-tackling defender will no doubt be back soon to help in Treaty’s bid for the playoffs.

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