Most young players are in a rush to reach senior county level but not Gareth McKindless. He is prepared to sit back and wait. Of course, whenever he gets the call to serve Derry at senior level he will jump at the chance.
And that call may come sooner, rather than later, if the form he is currently showing continues.
“It is the aim, naturally, to make the county senior team at some stage,” he agrees, “but if I get the call I get it, if not it can’t be helped.”
What is uppermost on Gareth’s mind just now is next month’s All-Ireland Club Senior Football semi-final with Ballinderry, against St Vincent’s, after the Shamrocks ousted Glenswilly in the Ulster final and Kerry Kingdom Gaels in the national quarters, last month.
In both those games teenage defender McKindless shone and for those displays he has earned the Ulster GAA Writers’ Merit Award for December, ahead of Derry senior Crissie McCaigue, who was outstanding during the O’Fiaich Cup, and Glen minor Paul Gunning who starred in Ulster Minor Championship.
“Last month was certainly a big month for Ballinderry and this award makes it special for me. Conleith Gilligan, who has won it a few times, was telling me all about the award and he really appreciates the ones he got. I appreciate this one very much, too,” enthused Gareth.
Usually lining out as a corner-back, the 19-year-old is more often than not found in other pivotal positions, curbing the talents of established players with years of experience. He was one of the rocks on which Glenswilly perished during the Ulster final when an astute switWch sent him into the centre to handle Michael Murphy.
The comment from a high-ranking Derry official was: “Gareth made a very good job of marking Michael, something not very often achieved.”
There is one fly in the ointment, however, for McKindless. If Ballinderry reach the All-Ireland final, he will miss out on helping Derry in Ulster U21 Championship, a scene he has graced in the past but the off-campus UUJ undergraduate is not too worried.
“I have two years left at U21 level; the club championship is more important” he insisted.
The winner puts his award alongside two Derry and one Ulster medals, Derry and Ulster League awards and is looking to the All-Ireland semi with St Vincent’s which he describes as “a big task for us,”
Gareth received the inscribed Belleek Living Vase, special designed and engraved silver cufflinks from Omeath jeweller Garrett Mallon, a sports good voucher from the UGAAWA and training gear from the O’Neills International trange as well as tickets plus overnight accommodation to November’s plush annual UGAAWA Banquet.