As the standard and reputation of the Ferrari Packaging Lowland League continues to rise, it has become a more attractive destination for top-level clubs to send their young hopefuls for some competitive, first-team experience.
St Johnstone’s George Hunter has returned to Spartans on a development loan, while team-mate Aaron Murrell has done similar, immediately after signing a professional contract with Dundee Utd after a prolific first half of the season with the North Edinburgh club. Conner Duthie of Hibs has just ended a six-month stint at Ainslie Park where he featured regularly.
The latest prospect to delve into Scotland’s non-league is Duthie’s Hibs Under-20 team-mate Aaron Dunsmore. The defender has joined reigning champions Edinburgh City, and will be available to Gary Jardine for Saturday’s visit of Preston Athletic. Far from being daunted, the right back can’t wait to get started. “I’m looking forward to it,” he enthused. “Getting to play on Saturdays, with a good team. I know a bit about the club and they won the Lowland League last year so it should be a good test for me. Our opponents on Saturday, Preston – we played them with Hibs in pre-season a couple of years ago and they were a decent team then. The league seems to be a decent set up. We played Selkirk last pre-season as well. It should be a good test for me. I’ve not had a chance to speak to Conner specifically yet but he’s given good reviews of the standard so that made me want to make the move even more.”
Dunsmore was keen to sample a more competitive environment than the SPFL Development league after featuring regularly for Hibs Under-20s this term. Hibs coach Joe McBride agreed. “My development coach had a chat with me last Thursday to say that Edinburgh City had come in for me,” Dunsmore explained. “He just asked if I wanted to go and obviously I was happy to do it. They were training up at Musselburgh [where Dunsmore is from] on Saturday so I met up with Gary for a chat there. We spoke about how I like to play, his philosophy, how the team was doing and it really made want to sign and help make the club even better. It’ll be difficult to get in such a good team but I like a challenge, and that will push me to try and win my place.
“I think this is exactly what I’m needing. Sometimes in the development league you’re playing against younger players, whereas in this league you’re playing against real men. It gets you playing a more physical game.”
Dunmore has been full-time with the Hibees since the summer of 2014. Playing away from East Mains and Easter Road will be a big change for the 19-year-old, but he intends to use the opportunity to return to his parent club a better player.
“It’ll be quite weird pulling an Edinburgh City strip on after wearing a Hibs one for three and a bit years,” he said. “I was always up for a loan deal to get myself out there and playing games in a more physical environment. My first thought is Hibs, but this should make me more prepared if I’m called up for the first team again. The gaffer’s spoken to me a bit, telling me to keep working hard and keep going. Hopefully this loan deal will help me with my development as a player.”