PREPARING for what’s expected to be the busiest season of his career to date, Mark Griffin, has set his sights on playing as often as possible for his new club.
ARTHUR DUFFY reports
Delighted to have settled in so well since his arrival at the Brandywell last month, the lively striker is confident that Derry City’s ability to prepare players for transfers to full-time clubs has been significant.
“I think that the vast majority of players in the League of Ireland would agree that over recent seasons, Derry City has been better placed than most in relation to transfering players,” said Griffin.
“And like any other player, I have high hopes of attempting to get a chance to get to England. However, as Derry is, in my view, the biggest shop window in the league, I’m delighted to have finally secured a contract at the Brandywell.
“I was also very happy to get a two year deal, as I’m aware that it could take time to get into the first team and get established.
“I’ve now got the chance and I have to take full advantage. I took a chance and travelled up to Derry with Michael (Rafter) on the day he signed a contract for Derry. I was aware that the club also wanted me and I opted to stay and do my pre-season with the club.
“And it’s been great. Top class coaching, not what I had been used to in the past, but I managed to adapt.
“Things have been fantastic and now it’s up to me to impress.”
Brandywell boss, Declan Devine opted to play Griffin in his only pre-season game so far when travelling to Co. Fermanagh to face Ballinamallard United last Monday night.
And while defeated 4-2 by the Irish League Premier Division side, Devine was happy with the overall performance despite having to finish the game with just 10 men as Shane McEleney “felt” his hamstring and all substitutes had been used.
Griffin enjoyed the experience. “It was great to get back to playing a game and having been given a free role, on the left, I enjoyed the experienced but I was disappointed that I didn’t score,” he continued.
“But Derry will be involved in so much football over the season and while I’m looking forward to hopefully be playing in the Setanta Sports Cup, playing in Europe would be a dream come true for me in the summer.
“There’s a squad of 20 or so players in the first team with young players also battling for their places so it’s going to be competitive as far as I’m concerned and so much different to what I was used to in my two seasons at Oriel Park.”
Final Piece of Jigsaw
For Devine, the signing of Griffin was the final piece of his new season jigsaw and he was delighted that the 21-years-old had always made it clear that he wished to join Derry City in the company of his fellow striker and best friend from Dundalk.
“He was keen to sign a two year contract and he’s a lad who clearly wants to establish himself and top class player in the Airtricity League, I believe he can be that type of player, provided that he’s prepared to put in the work,” said the Derry boss.
“The signing had been up in the air for quite some time, so I’m happy that it’s now been confirmed and I can get on with focusing our attentions on the forthcoming season having now completed the panel.”
Happy to have added several new faces in the form of Griffin, Rafter, Sean Houston, Paddy Kavanagh, Thomas Crawley and Joe Coll, Devine noted that Derry could be “extremely busy” with so much football to be played in the 2013 campaign.
“I’m very happy with the first team squad and in the players we’ve managed to attract to the club. I think we’ve assembled a formidable squad and while I’m not going to set targets, we’ll take it one match and a time and, hopefully, remain injury free.
“The players all know what is expected of them and given that we’ve only managed to get one pre-season game to date - which was a good work-out - we will be involved in a very intense camp in Monaghan.
“We leave at 8.00 a.m. on Friday (this morning) with the players expected to take part in three sessions on Friday and Saturday, plus one on Sunday before we return home.
“We then face a three friendly fixtures in seven days with the N. Ireland Junior Interntional squad - Championship and amateur players - arriving at the Brandywell next Wednesday for the first of those games. We will travel to Ballybofey to face Finn Harps on Sunday week, before the match against Institute at the Riverside Stadium on Tuesday, February 26th.
“I would have liked another two or three games, but the poor weather has halted that and we have to get on with it,” concluded Devine.
With the second legs of the Setanta Sports Cup first round games to be completed next Monday night, the draw for the 2013 quarter-finals will be made after those games.
And with the competition still focused on a “north v. south” format, Derry’s quarter-final opponents will not be known until the Setanta Cup qualifiers have been identified.
However, was is known is that Derry will open the Setanta Cup campaign on Tuesday, March 4th next, four days before the Airtricity League opener against Sligo Rovers at the Brandywell.