Derry City hitman Jamie McGonigle has ambitious goals for 2022

JAMIE McGonigle believes his performances with Derry City last season were merely ‘scraping the barrel’ and with a full pre-season behind him he’s got his eyes on clinching the League of Ireland’s golden boot in 2022.

By Simon Collins
Saturday, 22nd January 2022, 11:21 am
Updated Saturday, 22nd January 2022, 11:22 am
Jamie McGonigle has his eye on the League of Ireland's Golden Boot this year as he feels better than ever going into Derry's pre-season campaign.

The ex-Coleraine and Crusaders hitman, who reached the impressive milestone of a century of career goals in the thrilling 3-3 draw with Bohemians last September, finished his first campaign with Derry with eight strikes from 12 starts!

Described by Ruaidhri Higgins as ‘one of the best finishers on the island of Ireland’, McGonigle showed real potential with some stunning strikes as he finished as the club’s leading scorer after just five months at Brandywell.

Four goals during the final month of the season, including that winning strike against Dundalk at Oriel Park which ultimately secured European football on the final day, and McGonigle looked like he didn’t want the campaign to end.

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The 25 year-old Dungiven man reckons the adrenaline was getting him through his initial games with his match sharpness naturally lacking but as pre-season kicks into gear with a trip to Drogheda this afternoon (k.o. 2p.m), he’s feeling ‘better than ever’ and has big expectations for the upcoming season.

“It was a short break,” he said. “I only had a week or so off and then started on an off-season programme which I probably need to get me as fit as I can be with four sessions a week over the month of December.”

“Hitting that goalscoring run at the end of November came at a good time for us with some many important games but I was probably only scraping the barrel in terms of being fit. Having a stop-start beginning made it hard to get up to speed fitness-wise.

“I was out of the team for two to three games prior to that run and Ruaidhri was spot on for doing that. My performances had dropped off slightly as if I was hitting a bit of a wall but that came with not being fit. It gave me a couple of weeks to recharge to go again for the final push.

Eoin Toal, Patrick McEleney and Jamie McGonigle are put through their paces during preseason training. Photograph by Kevin Morrison.

“Overall, I got huge satisfaction in finishing as top scorer for a club like Derry City. My performances I’d say were mixed. I started off well but I would say that was mostly adrenaline, then hit a bit of a dip before finishing strongly on the goal scoring front.”

McGonigle likes to set personal targets at the beginning of each season and he’s confident he can lead the way for the club in the goalscoring charts. Initially priced at 16/1 with Paddy Power to finish as the league’s leading marksman behind Eoin Doyle (4/1), Pat Hoban (7/1), Jack Byrne (14/1) and Junior Ogedi-Uzokwe (16/1), McGonigle soon went into 11/1 when the market opened.

“I’m just really looking forward to the season starting now. There’s new faces in, we’ve really grafted over the off season so hopefully we’ll get some reward for that. Personally I want to be the club’s top scorer again and be pushing for the golden boot. I just want to score goals and help the team achieve whatever we can.”

The addition of creative talent like Patrick McEleney, Michael Duffy and Brandon Kavanagh has excited McGonigle who believes the new signings will take his own game up a notch.

Jamie McGonigle pictured during preseason training at Brandywell. Photograph by Kevin Morrison.

“Having players of that quality come in is exciting. I know if I make runs they’ll find me with passes. That alone should improve my game as if I know to make a run and I’ll get it, I’ll just do it over and over again. With players like that coming in means I should be getting more chances which hopefully will lead to more goals, exciting times.

“With those players now available I would expect to get more chances. In terms of personal targets I always have a goal tally. So far each year I’ve set 20 as a target and I’ve mostly been there or thereabouts. So this year will hopefully be no different.

“I’m 25 now and arguably should be going into my ‘prime’ years so it’s up to me to push and be the main striker, and hopefully I can do that with performances and a good goal return.

Derry has been installed as 4/1 second favourites to bridge a 25 years gap and bring the Premier Division title back to Foyleside this season but McGonigle insists the players have blocked out that outside noise and are keeping their feet firmly placed on the ground.

“Playing for a club like Derry City there is always going to be pressure and expectation, but that’s where you can either thrive or crumble. I like the pressure and the expectation, it helps to drive me on and it makes me want to score more goals.

“In terms of a title challenge, it’s an old cliche but for us as new players gelling together we’ll take one game at a time. There is no point believing all the hype as once you start to do that you’re beat. It’s all about us sticking together and trying to do a job each game as it comes.

“Talking about personal targets I always have a goal tally. So far each year I’ve set 20 as a target and I’ve mostly been there or thereabouts. So this year will hopefully be no different.

McGonigle insists the ‘new faces’ around the training ground have bedded in seamlessly and the arrival of the talented reinforcements has raised excitement levels among the squad.

"They’ve all bedded in well,” he said. “We have a really good changing room. The lads were brilliant with me when I came in and it’s been the same for everyone else. I couldn’t really pick out one player who has impressed me most as they’re all top players and have all been doing well. Having players of that quality come in is exciting.

“I know Cameron (Dummigan) first from the (Northern Ireland) U21 set up and then I played with him for a few months at Crusaders. He’s a great lad and in terms of playing ability he’s top drawer. He’s good off both feet and versatile. He could literally play anywhere across the back or in midfield. He’s calm on the ball and a great passer.”

In terms of his own fitness, with the help of strength and conditioning coach, Kevin McCreadie, McGonigle’s hitting peak condition going into Derry’s pre-season fixtures. And while he has set big goalscoring targets for himself this season, he’s not overly concerned about finding the back of the net during the six pre-season fixtures.

“Pre-season is going well. I’ve put in the effort during the off season and I’m feeling better than I’ve ever felt. With the help of Kev I’ve improved all aspects from training to diet to sleep quality. I’m looking forward to the Drogheda game now to start getting a few minutes and gaining that bit of sharpness.

“Everyone looks fitter and stronger than last year. Furthermore with the addition of the players, that alone would improve any team. It’s really exciting times for the club.

“I’ve never had a goal filled pre-season. For me it’s more about getting those minutes under my belt, gaining sharpness and mixing it with the new players to try and develop an understanding between us. A few goals would help the confidence but if I work on the fitness side of things first, the goals will follow,” he added.

Next Tuesday night’s Billy Kee Memorial Cup clash with Institute offers Derry fans a first chance to see Higgins’ new look team at Brandywell and McGonigle is looking forward to playing in front of what’s hoped to be a bumper attendance.

“It will be good to play in front of fans again. During Covid I didn’t like not having any fans there but once restrictions started lifting and we eventually saw a packed Brandywell, I loved it. I thrive on the energy from the crowd. The atmosphere is electric and something I’m very much looking forward to this year.”

McGonigle has a ruthless streak in front of goal and is keen to establish himself as the club’s leading marksman and won't apologise for his selfish nature in front of the posts which has reaped its rewards wherever he's played.

“I’ve always been like that,” he said. “I remember for the majority of my youth years I was always labelled as ‘greedy’ but if I gain a yard and fancy it, I’ll have a go. When I get that half a yard all I envisage is the ball flying into the corner. Even if it sails well wide it won’t stop me from trying again. If you don’t shoot you don’t score, so I make sure I shoot at half a chance," he smiled.

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