In demand winger, Jamie McDonagh has revealed it’s a straight shootout between Derry City and St Patrick’s Athletic in the race for his signature.
The Lisburn man, who turned down the Candy Stripes’ initial contract offer, held talks with Stephen O’Donnell’s Saints on Wednesday.
Derry have since tabled an improved offer and the former N. Ireland U21 international hopes to make his decision next week.
Danske Bank Premiership title contenders, Crusaders, are also in hot pursuit and have offered the Lisburn man a deal but his preference is to remain in the League of Ireland with either the Brandywell or Richmond Park his likeliest destination.
“I’m just taking my time at the minute and weighing up my options,” he insisted.
“St Pat’s have made me a good offer and the meeting went well with them yesterday (Wednesday). I liked what they had to say.
“They are looking to push the top two next year. They are ambitious and what they are trying to do with their squad is something similar to what Derry did last year.
“From the meeting yesterday everything looks good and I liked what they had to say but I’m not ruling Derry out of the equation because I know what Derry is like. I know everything about the club, what the manager’s about and obviously I know the players but I have to take my time and weigh up my options.
“Crusaders are there as well but I want to play at the highest level. All three teams have made good offers and are hard to turn down. I’ll just have to wait and see.
“I could take the easy option and sign for Crusaders as I would be close to my family but I’m not sure if that’s the best option for me. I want to play at the highest level and many people would admit the League of Ireland is a better league, so, for me I want to play at the highest level.
“It’s probably between St Pat’s and Derry. The Crues are there but, at this moment in time, it’s between St Pat’s and Derry.”
The ex-Sligo Rovers man knows both clubs want to get their squads in place sooner rather than later, so he has to make his decision in the coming days.
“I was planning on having everything done already but the way it’s panned out that hasn’t happened. I haven’t been pressured by either club but I’m sure they’d like it done soon because they want to build a squad.
“I’m really undecided and I’m going to take my time and make sure that I make the right decision for me and my family. By next week I should have a more clearer picture of what I’m going to do.”
McDonagh admits that Derry has become like a second home to him over these past two years.
The 23-year-old also confirmed that text messages from coaching staff members and other people at the club has made his decision to potentially move on from Declan Devine’s side, very difficult.
McDonagh confirmed that first team coach Marty McCann got in contact with him when he heard that the winger had recently turned down the Brandywell club’s first offer.
“There has been phone calls back and forward, but there was a point when I turned them down and I wasn’t going back,” he explained.
“But my mind has sort of changed again when they came back with a better deal and that’s where it’s at right now.
“To be honest once I turned them down I had a few messages from people from Derry. Marty McCann being one of them.
“He found out and sent me a message and I have to admit that made me think about things. A few other people from Derry messaged me and that made me have second thoughts about Derry. Stuff like that makes me think about things twice.
“Derry is a very close-knit community and club and everything about Derry I love and the people in it, so it’s going to be tough for me to make my decision.
“To be honest Derry is like a second home for me and it has been over the last two years so it will be tough for me to turn them down.”
The talented winger, who joined the Candy Stripes from Sligo Rovers in 2018, held talks with St Pat’s and a move to the Saints would also see him linking up with his old Brandywell team-mate Ronan Hale.
McDonagh acknowledged that O’Donnell, who has aleady signed former Dundalk midfielder Robbie Benson, Ireland U21 international goalkeeper Conor Kearns, former Waterford defender Rory Feely and ex-UCD defender Jay McClelland, is looking to challenge Vinny Perth’s title winners and FAI Cup winners Shamrock Rovers.
“If I moved to St Pat’s it would probably be easier for me in terms of travelling up and down with Ronan Hale,” he added.
“Speaking to Stephen, he’s ambitious and he wants to do well and he wants to chase the top two this year. He doesn’t want to be playing for third, fourth or fifth position.
“He wants to sign good quality players and he said that I fit into that bracket and it’s nice to hear a manager saying that sort of stuff about you and have that belief in you. Stephen has been around the league and won many trophies, so for him to want me to sign for his team, it’s nice to hear.”