Derry City will benefit from Jamie McGonigle's best years: insists Ruaidhri Higgins
RUAIDHRI Higgins is confident Derry City Football Club will benefit from Jamie McGonigle’s best years in senior football.
The former Crusaders and Coleraine striker has bagged an incredible 97 goals in 255 appearances in the Irish League and Higgins expects a seamless transition into the League of Ireland.
Higgins was delighted to make the 25 year-old Dungiven man his first new signing as Derry City boss, describing the former Northern Ireland U21 international as ‘an exceptional finisher’.
“He gives you versatility,” said Higgins after McGonigle put pen-to-paper on a three-and-a-half year deal with the Candy Stripes on Tuesday afternoon.
“I played with him when he was very early in his career. He was an exceptional finisher then and he’s developed and his all round game has improved. I think we’re going to get his best years here and I look forward to working with him.”
McGonigle, who was being hotly pursued by both Larne and his former club Coleraine, said it was a ‘no-brainer’ to join Derry and Higgins believes he was attracted by the challenge and bought into his long term vision for the Brandywell club.
“I suppose when you’re a player and he’s used to a league, he obviously fancies a different challenge and he said it himself, Derry City is a big club and we’re going to improve and get better and we’re going to attract better players to the club and build the club as well. And he wants to be a part of it.
“He lives locally which is a huge thing. The best Derry teams that I played in were very much locally based. Obviously you can’t have everyone from the area, it’s impossible but I think having a large percentage of the squad based locally is very good for a lot of different reasons and I think our supporters can really relate to that.”
His addition brings competition for places up front with David Parkhouse, James Akintunde and Patrick Ferry all vying to lead the line.
It’s a welcome headache for Higgins and gives the City boss options going into the second half of the season.
When asked if he had any reservations about McGonigle reproducing his best form in the League of Ireland Higgins said he wouldn’t have signed him if he had any doubts over his goal scoring ability with his stats speaking for themselves.
“I’m delighted to bring him to the club and he’s someone who I think the big pitch in the Brandywell will suit. He makes good runs off the back of centre backs and he’s a good finisher.
“I think he’s got 97 goals in all competitions and for a 25 year-old, that’s a phenomenal return. We’re bringing someone to the club who knows how to score goals.”
McGonigle joins Derry for an undisclosed fee but it’s understood to be a significant sum, further evidence that the Derry City chairman, Mr Philip O’Doherty and his Board are backing the new boss financially.
The length of the contract is another positive as Higgins attempts to bring stability to the club and he’s grateful for the support.
“It’s brilliant and Philip (O’Doherty) and Sean (Barrett) and the Board have been brilliant. We had the same ideas of how we wanted to go about it when I came in and we think long term is the best way.
“It’s important when we do bring players to the club, obviously you can have a loan signing here and there, I’m not ruling that out either but for the bulk of your squad having them on long term deals you can build continuity, you can build spirit and then you can build a team the supporters can relate to as well.”
Cliftonville keeper Aaron McCarey and Dundalk’s Patrick McEleney have also been linked with a move to Brandywell but Higgins continued to play his cards close to his chest.
“I said we weren’t going to do loads of business in this window and we won’t. I just needed to give the squad a boost and an attacker was important. I don’t think we’re finished yet. We’ll do one or two bits more and we’ll see where it goes.
“There’s nothing as we speak,” he continued. “We’re working away on a couple of different pieces in the background so we’ll see where we go.
“As I said before, this window is a very difficult window. We’re off to a good start with Jamie but I wouldn’t be getting carried away at all. We’ll see how things go but there’s nothing to report as we speak.”