Casement breaks new boundaries

As part of the pre-season experience in Ulster the Blues took in a trip to the Giant's Causeway but for Ulsterman Chris Casement there lays a giant personal challenge ahead.

Derek Davis

AS part of the pre-season experience in Ulster the Blues took in a trip to the Giant's Causeway but for Ulsterman Chris Casement there lays a giant personal challenge ahead.

Casement was handed a new one-year deal at the beginning of the month and he knows he is under intense scrutiny by Jim Magilton and the coaching staff to prove himself in a make-or-break season.

Jaime Peters has emerged as an unlikely contender for David Wright's right-back spot that Casement covets for himself.

With Ben Thatcher in at left-back last night against Donegal Celtic, Casement and Wright had to make do with coming off the bench as competition hots up in the back line.

The 20-year-old said: “I have a new one-year contract which I'm happy with. I know though I have to really push on and this is going to be a massive year for me.

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“I will keep my head down and look to learn and improve.”

His adaptability could serve him well as he has played some parts of the pre-season games at right-half and is used in central defence by his country.

Casement said: “It is good to be able to play anywhere across the back.

“Playing internationals is good experience for me playing against different styles of football.

“I have another year with the under-21s and I will look to push on there too.

“First I have to get in Town's first team squad and stay there.”

Another product of Town's Academy, Casement is well aware of the shifting fortunes of Ipswich and senses a growing belief that the Premiership is achievable. He added: “It is exciting times for the club but as players we don't get involved in all that. Our job is on the pitch and to get results.

“There is a genuine belief among the players that we can go up. But we know we won't get there unless we work hard and keep believing.”

As a Belfast boy Casement has enjoyed pre-season in his home country, even training at the same campus as he does while on international duty, but even he has enjoyed new experiences.

Casement said: “I had never played at Cliftonville before so that was new to me and it was a good game for us.

“My mum and dad are from Belfast but had to ask for directions to Cliftonville because as Protestants we had never been into those areas before.

“In a way that is a bit sad but it is the way it has been.

“It is a good thing for everyone that football can help cross divides.

“As a country we are taking massive steps forward. There will also be that Protestant/Catholic thing but it has definitely come a long way from 20 years ago.

“I don't know what it would have been like to play at Donegal Celtic or Cliftonville 20 years ago but it would have been uncomfortable for someone like myself.

“It has improved massively and is getting better, although there may still be a doubt in some people's minds.

“We can only take it step by step and hope it all pays off.”

A little like the challenge Casement faces in securing a long-term Town future.