DERRY CITY midfielder, Stephen Dooley is anxious to make an instant impression for his new club once the domestic season swings back into action on Sunday.
Declaring himself fit and available for selection for the ‘Candy Stripes’ trip to Lissywoollen, the Portstewart man understands he faces stiff opposition for a place in Peter Hutton’s starting XI.
The former Coleraine winger, who became Hutton’s second signing last Friday, has got up close and personal with his new teammates during his first two training sessions at the Brandywell club this week.
And having already watched them in action in that entertaining 2-2 draw with league leaders Dundalk last weekend - his first experience in the Brandywell stands - he’s excited about being part of Hutton’s revolution at the club.
The 22 year-old signed a contract which will keep him on Foyleside until the end of the current campaign, and with so little time from now until the season’s end, he’s determined to hit the ground running.
“This is a great club so I’m excited to get started,” he enthused. “Hopefully it won’t take me too long to get up to speed with the rest of the boys who have been playing the whole year. But I’m excited to get out there and start playing.
“It’s just until the end of the season and then we’ll see where things go from there,” he confirmed. “Hopefully I’ll be able to contribute something to the team and I think I can do that.
“It’ll be a hard team to break into but I’m looking forward to the challenge. I’m an attacking midfielder and the club already has some great attacking young players. So there will be a lot of competition for places and hopefully I can break into the team soon.
“It (Dundalk game) was the first Derry game I’ve ever been at and it’s clear that there is a lot of good players at this club.
“I’ve played with a few of them before and against a few of them so I know a bit about them in that respect, Hopefully if I train hard I’ll play my way into the team.”
A former N. Ireland Schoolboys international, Dooley left Coleraine four years ago to pursue a soccer scholarship programme in Baltimore, United States.
With his BA degree in finance under his belt, Dooley felt it was time for a new challenge and when approached by Hutton - a long time admirer of the winger - he knew instantly it was the right move for him to continue his football education.
“It was good to find out a bit about what Derry is all about and I was delighted to sign,” he added. “I was away for the last four years.
“I loved it (in the United States) and wouldn’t have changed it. It was always something I wanted to do and I’m happy I did.
“It was a good chance to get my degree and play football. They’re full-time out there. They’re athletes and they get you fit and strong and it was a great opportunity to condition myself and get my degree at the same time. which is something I wanted to do. I enjoyed it and would recommend it to anyone thinking about it,
“Four years I spent there and it probably wasn’t as high a standard as Derry but hopefully I can bring my level up to Derry’s standard in the next few weeks.
“I wanted to try something different when I got back and the full time aspect at Derry City was appealing to me.”
While his move to the ‘Candy Stripes’ came too late to be registered for last night’s Europa League first round qualifier against Aberystywth Town, he’s hoping to be involved in Sunday’s away trip to Athlone.
“I couldn’t make it in time for the European game, I think you have to register two weeks beforehand but I’ll be available to play in the league from Athlone on Sunday potentially if I can break my way into the team after a few weeks of hard work.”
Following his second training session with the club on Wednesday morning, Dooley was still getting to grips with his new working practices.
“It was tough and I’m not used to some of the stuff the coaches put us through. so that was good. It wasn’t too strenuous a session today obviously because of the match tomorrow but it was a really good session so far.
“I’ve been training with the tea, but I try and keep myself in good shape so I shouldn’t be too far off the pace.”