IRISH LEAGUE: Larkin’s rapid rise offers Portadown a welcome lift

Portadown manager Niall Currie celebrates with Ross Larkin following the 1-1 draw with Linfield. Pic by Pacemaker.
Portadown manager Niall Currie celebrates with Ross Larkin following the 1-1 draw with Linfield. Pic by Pacemaker.

Ross Larkin’s role as the only Portadown player with an unbeaten record in the senior side may prove a short-term situation but the teenage defender appears set for a bright future.

A rise by Larkin up the ranks has led to composed first-team appearances in the Irish Cup defeat of Loughgall and Friday’s draw away to Linfield.

In a season to forget for everyone connected to the club, Larkin may also stand alone as having happy memories from the current campaign.

The former Armagh City centre-back signed for the Ports at the start of the season following a progressive summer SuperCup NI tournament in County Armagh colours.

A first-hand witness to Larkin’s development as part of the Orchard County panel was current first-team assistant manager Jay Willis.

Willis considers the Shamrock Park environment an ideal arena in which Larkin can continue his progress.

“I knew of Ross from working with the County Armagh set-up but could also see when I joined Portadown last December how much he had moved on even in those few months,” said Willis. “Gary McCullough worked on helping Ross develop with the reserves and Trevor Williamson also deserves a lot of credit as first-team coach.

“Niall Currie is keen to promote younger players and we are excited at the potential of people like Ross, Zac Wilson, Jackson Holmes and Luke Wilson.

“A real strength for Ross is his attitude, he is a great lad and has just stepped up from the reserves and never looked out of place.

“Initially we were maybe looking at Ross and thinking the physical side may have been a problem but he has just been so assured and is a great defender with the ball at his feet.

“He had Ken Oman helping him out on his debut against Loughgall and Brendan Shannon was always talking last week in the Linfield match.

“You look around and there are so many people around the first-team squad ready to help Ross and the other young players.

“In terms of pure defensive advice, you have a former Portadown captain in John Convery on the coaching side, plus current club captain Keith O’Hara, who knows what it is like to come up into the senior squad from the reserves.

“I am not surprised at Ross’ progress as it comes down to a brilliant attitude overall on top of his ability.”

Willis singled out Larkin as a player of potential from the early says of the SuperCup NI trials.

“We had Ross and Eoin Toal both playing together for a successful Armagh City side as a defensive pairing,” said Willis. “Eoin and Ross formed a really strong partnership as they have different styles.

“But Ross really got stronger as the SuperCupNi went on and finished at the end of the week as one of our most consistent players.

“Of course, with any young player you eventually expect ups and downs as part of that development process.

“But Ross’ great temperament, along with support from everyone around him, will help deal with everything as he is always keen to listen, learn and work hard.”