Derry City striker Jamie McGonigle relishing Shamrock Rovers test
JAMIE McGONIGLE is relishing the prospect of testing himself against some of the top defenders in the League of Ireland tonight when Derry City entertain champions Shamrock Rovers at the Ryan McBride Brandywell Stadium.
The ex-Crusaders and Coleraine man has just 30 minutes of action under his belt since signing for the Candy Stripes at the end of last month having come off the bench in the 2-0 home win over Waterford.
It was a promising start to his City career but he was dealt a minor blow when sustaining a thigh injury as the high intensity training at Brandywell following four weeks without football crept up on him.
As a precaution the striker was rested by Ruaidhri Higgins for last Friday night's 1-0 defeat to St Patrick's Athletic in Richmond Park but he's hoping he can return to the fold for the visit of the Hoops tonight.
While Sean Hoare is suspended for the match, McGonigle can't wait to come up against experienced centre half Roberto Lopes, Lee Grace and the rest of the Rovers defence if he's selected.
His goal threat was missing in the defeat to the Saints last week as Derry failed to break down the Dubliners defence in the second half and he's hoping to get off the mark tonight.
"It's definitely a challenge I'll relish," said the Dungiven man. "At the moment I'm just excited to get minutes on the pitch and get playing and hopefully I can nick a couple of goals over the next few weeks.
"Since I've come in, the boys have been brilliant. I'm enjoying the training. It's high intensity and you don't get away with slacking. I felt I was getting sharper and Ruaidhri said that to me as well, he noticed me getting sharper every session.
"It was just frustrating that I picked up that niggle then which set me back a few days."
The 25 year-old is confident he will add to his 97 career goals and has no fears about the physicality of the league having learned his trade in the Irish League.
"I'm well used to physicality. Some of the challenges you get hit with in the Irish League would be questionable to say the least so I would say I'm used to the physicality and should be alright," he smiled when asked about coming up against a battle hardened Rovers defence.
He came so close to getting off the mark against Waterford two weeks ago when he attempted an audacious long distance lob which sailed narrowly wide. But he believes he will prosper in Higgins' Derry team.
"I've watched Derry play and knew it would be good football played," said the striker. "Coming on against Waterford, I enjoyed it. "There's a lot more passes on the ground and it seems to be that if you make a movement, or a run people will give you the ball and you're found with a pass.
"I just wish that lob (against Waterford), I think that was my first touch, I wish that went in."
McGonigle travelled with the squad to Richmond Park last Friday night and he was impressed with some of the passages of play in a game he felt Derry really should've got something from.
"From watching that game, the things I took out of it were I thought we kept the ball well. In the first half we created two really good chances. Junior (Ogedi-Uzokwe) worked a chance for himself and was unlucky to hit it at the keeper.
"And then there was a set-piece where Eoin Toal headed it back across and you just need someone to throw themselves at it and it's a goal. Toal hit the bar in the second half but I thought we had the best chances throughout the game.
"St Pat's scored with their one real chance so it was frustrating in that regard. There's positives to take from it."
Rovers were unfortunate to be dumped out of the Champions League qualifiers after a 2-1 defeat to Slovan Bratislava midweek and McGonigle hopes the exertions of that match have taken its toll on the Hoops ahead of tonight's clash.
"It all depends on how they recover but it will be up to us to take the game to them early I think and keep the ball. The longer we keep the ball the longer they should tire out.
"But Rovers are a top side so it will be a tough game. I just hope we can bring our best game and get three points."