Under the Spotlight

TIMES Sport's exciting new feature kicks off this week - Under the Spotlight - which delves into the personalities of those you read about in north Antrim's number one paper for local sport.

First up is Riada FC stalwart Declan Hassan who lifts the lid on the biggest poser in the Coleraine league side’s dressing room and reveals where team-mate Dean McLernon got his lovely leather jacket from...


Declan Hassan


33 last month


Centre back and also club secretary.

Home town:

Limavady, but the kind people of Ballymoney haven't held that against me.

I've lived in Ballymoney for the last six years.


Riada FC

What clubs have you previously played for?

Roe Valley, Castlerock, Newtowne and Roe Rovers FC.

Left-footed or right-footed:

Right footed.

What team do you support?

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Liverpool FC. Matthew McDowell, Skinny Duffy and I are completely outnumbered by United fans who are hard to listen to.

What is your favourite away ground?

I don’t really have a favourite away ground. Our home facilities at the Joey Dunlop Centre are excellent. I hate playing on Upperlands pitch; it's easily the worst in the league!

Who is your footballing idol?

Sami Hyypia. An excellent professional, great player and good trainer. He helps and encourages everyone around him. He is a real leader and was never in the papers for the wrong reasons. He is simply a friendly and likeable person.

Any pre-match superstitions?

Not really. I read that Rafa makes his players eat two hours before a game, so I try to do that and also get enough rest. Unlike Johnny Kearns, I don’t believe that putting your right shin pad on before your left one means you'll have a better game.

Who is the best player you have played with and against?

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Some of our players are as good as I've played with – players like Dale Armstrong and Mark McKane. I think Vance Brownlow does things with the ball that others can’t, he's got an unbelievable first touch and great skill.

We beat Lurgan Celtic reserves four years ago in the Irish Junior Cup, and they had four first team players on. They had a midfielder who was probably the best I've played against. 3-2 in extra time, that was a sweet victory! Jerry Parkhill scored a cracker that day though I don’t think he has scored since.

What is the best advice you have been given by a manager?

I can't pin point any single piece of advice, but our manager Peter Cairns is the best coach I’ve played for. Every match or training session he gives good advice. He really knows his stuff, and if you play for him and listen to what he has to say then you will improve. Every single one of our players has improved over the last two seasons, I only wish I’d met Peter ten years ago!

If you could introduce one thing about your sport what would it be?

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I'd like to see goal line technology introduced. Hawkeye works well in cricket and tennis, and also the TV umpire in rugby adds to both the fairness and the excitement of the game. New technologies could make so many improvements, but FIFA and UEFA don’t seem to want to move with the times.

Who do you think will win the league and World Cup?

I think United will, but I hope they don’t! If Torres is fit I think Spain will win the World Cup. He's the best striker in the world according to Ricky Mooney and Willy Smyth.

Who is your ideal WAG?

That’s a difficult one, it's a toss up between my lovely wife Mandy or Megan Fox. Can I have both? That works for me.

Who has been the greatest influence on your football career?

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Myself. I have listened to advice and encouragement from everyone and anyone, but it's my decision what I do with the advice. It's me that has made myself train hard and keep playing, no one else.

If you could invite three players for a pint who would you invite?

Jamie Carragher, he's a fountain of knowledge about the game. He knows all the stats, and I think he'll be a great manager some day.

Messi, simply because he's the best player in the world.

And finally Pepe Reina because I hear he's bonkers, and he'd be a good laugh. I don't know where I’d take them though, the Bush Tavern's a bit too flashy for those boys.

Who is the best dressed in your changing room?

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We are all looking well in our new gear this year. Dale Armstrong and Dean McLernon did a lot of fundraising and we got new Adidas tracksuits, training gear and strips. Away from the pitch, Dean's got a nice leather jacket that he borrowed off David Hasslehoff.

Who does the most moaning on the pitch?

That's a tie between Simon Ryder and Ty Armstrong. I'll regret that, I'll be hearing about it for months.

Who’s your team’s best and worst trainers?

I would say I am the best trainer! I’ve always really enjoyed training and don’t miss it. I've never faked an injury or thought it was too cold like Raymond McCann.

The worst has to be Skinny Duffy - he always has something wrong with him, he's a hypochondriac!

Who is your team’s biggest show pony?

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We have some donkeys, but no show ponies! It's part of the reason we are a good team. We are all at a similar level and are always pushing each other. No one is an automatic choice. It’s a big difference from previous years, because we have strong players like Aron Thompson and Danny McMullan who step in and make a difference.

What has been the highlight of your football career?

I won a cup for Newtowne and Roe Rovers. They were memorable finals, and we did as well as any team from our league has ever done by getting to the quarter finals of the Irish Junior Cup last year. Hopefully that will all be eclipsed by a league win this season. Personally, I have never won a league, and Riada have never really came close to winning this Coleraine Premier League, but it is within our grasp and we have all worked so hard for it. I hope we can continue with the same attitude and quality that has got us to the top of the table. There could be a big night in The Bush ahead, I might invite Carra, Messi and Reina for that one.

What has been the low point of your career?

I don’t like getting beat, but I try not to take it too seriously. Junior football is there to enjoy. As long as I can play I’m happy. I missed over half a season with a broken ankle, and it is a low point when I am injured. I'm grumpy when I’m not playing football!

What's the best team you have played this season?

Upperlands, we won two nil, but we had to perform really well that day. They missed a penalty and Barney Moore made a couple of unbelievable saves. They have signed four or five really good players this year but hopefully we will do enough to bring the cup to Ballymoney!

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