PENDING international clearance, Owen Morrison, will return to the Brandywell for the third time in his career to assist Derry City in the battle for the Premier Division title.
ARTHUR DUFFY reports
The 29-years-old midfielder has returned home from the USA having represented FC New York in the USL Professional Division, the second most prestigious league behind the Major League Soccer.
Morrison who made his Derry debut back in December 1997 subsequently returned to the Brandywell club in 2008 under Stephen Kenny, who also managed the player when at Dunfermline.
He has made 24 appearances for the “Candy Stripes” scoring a total of four goals.
It’s understood that the player amicably had his US contract cancelled before the end of July as he wished to return home and while the Airtricity League Transfer Window closed on July 31st, Derry can sign him as he is now an out of contract player.
Confirming the news last night, Kenny said Morrison had already put pen to paper on a short-term contract - until the end of the current campaign - and he felt the local man would give him options over the final 10 matches of the season.
“We’ve signed Owen, pending international clearance, and I believe he will give us options in the title run-in if things work out,” said the Dubliner.
“We haven’t signed anyone following the departure of Stephen Parkhouse (Coleraine), Thomas McBride (Institute) and recently James McClean (Sunderland), so we’re a bit light and need back-up,” he added.
“Owen will certainly give us options as he’s a versatile midfielder and he can prove a big player in big matches. He played for me in Scotland in the 3-2 cup victory over Rangers and again at Hampden Park in the semi-final win against Hibs, so to have a player able to stand up to the pressure of the league run could prove invaluable.
“He’s a very experienced player and we’ve agreed terms on short-term deal until the end of the season.”
Acutely aware of the difficulties which could arise due to injuries and suspensions, Kenny also held the view that Morrison’s versatility was a key factor in the decision to offer him a short-term deal.
“Owen either scores or creates goals and the fact that he can play in a few positions gives us additional options which is what we need. There’s no doubt that we will have injuries and suspensions before the season ends, so I think it’s important that we guard against that. He’s a quality player as he has shown and I think he will prove a good addition to the panel.”
Meanwhile, reflecting back on Derry’s victory over St. Pat’s on Friday night and, indeed, on Bohemians 2-1 result at the Sligo Showgrounds - a game Kenny attended - the Brandywell boss was quick to point out that the league race was far from over.
But he was impressed at the way his side dealt with St. Pat’s despite the absence of his two first choice wingers last weekend.
“It was a very important win for us and it was interesting to note that St. Pat’s were six points ahead of us a few weeks ago, now we are seven ahead of them so it just goes to show that quick turn-arounds are possible in this league.
“So it was a very good win for us. Due to absentees, we had to play a different way but the players passed the ball really well on the night and continued to create scoring chances.
“What was also important was the fact that we didn’t allow ourselves to become frustrated having failed to break the deadlock in the first half. We were persistent in our play and we also believed in ourselves, knew that we would score and, thankfully, we did,” continued Kenny.
And having watched Pat Fenlon’s side defeat Sligo at the Showgrounds on Saturday night, Kenny was in no doubt that the men from Dalymount Park would prove a stern test this weekend.
“They deserved to defeat Sligo on the night despite falling a goal behind. So Bohemians will certainly take great confidence from the victory as they prepare to host us on Friday night.
“We’ll certainly get it tough, I’ve no doubt about that, but we’ll prepare well as usual, continue to believe in ourselves as we’re on a terrific run and we want to keep that going.
“Our playing staff have continued to put in a exceptional team effort this season and while we face two very tough away fixtures with trips to Bohemians and Sligo Rovers, we’ve got to keep to the standards we have set and continue to improve,” he concluded.