HARRY Monaghan admits he’s ‘desperate’ to win his place back in Derry City’s midfield after a promising start to his career at Brandywell was curtailed by a knee injury.
The 23 year-old Scot spent eight frustrating weeks on the sidelines and surrendered his spot at the heart of the City midfield after an untimely injury to his medial ligament in Longford on April 16th.
That injury came at the worst possible time for Monaghan who had scored a bullet header - his first for the club - in the 3-0 win against Shamrock Rovers the previous weekend.
The robust midfielder had played in eight straight matches for the ‘Candy Stripes’ and was emerging as a pivotal player in Kenny Shiels’ team at the time.
Shiels admits he has needed to curb Monaghan’s enthusiasm during his prolonged injury spell and the Glaswegian claims he was even dragged from the training pitch as he tried everything in his power to return to full fitness.
He’s never been far from the training ground as he went about his rehabilitation. He travelled on the team bus and listened in to pre-match teamtalks to ensure he remained heavily involved.
The boys have done brilliant but I’ve every intention of making sure I get back in the team and the starting XI - that’s why I’m here!Harry Monaghan
Now fully fit again after a four day ‘training holiday’ in Portugal, Monaghan is desperate to make up for lost time and is expected to play some part in tonight’s friendly against Glenavon at Mourneview Park tonight. (Kick-off 7.45 p.m.)
“It’s been a long eight weeks especially after the first eight games went so well for me,” said Monaghan. “I was heavily involved and the injury came at the worst time.
“I’m desperate to get back! The injury has healed well and the break has been a blessing in disguise so I’m just desperate to get some minutes under my belt against Glenavon. I can’t wait to get going again.”
Monaghan’s run in the team, which began against Cork in the second game of the season, coincided with an eight match unbeaten run which saw Derry flirt with top spot in the Airtricity Premier Division table.
And so his despair was understandable when he was told of the full extent of his injury sustained just eight minutes into the 1-1 draw with Longford at the City Calling Stadium.
“When it first happened in Longford I thought I just jarred my knee and tried to run on,” he explained. “But I told Mickey (Hegarty) the physio that something wasn’t right and after the game I was expecting him to tell me I’d be out for a couple of weeks maximum. But I could tell from his face and the gaffer’s face that it wasn’t good.
“When they told me it would be six to eight weeks it was such a blow. But that’s in the past now. I’ve worked hard to get back and the physio has been absolutely brilliant to me. He’s been on my case and I’ve been training constantly, trying to get fit and in preparation for getting back in the team. It’s been a long eight weeks but we’re over it now.”
The former Hibs man’s enthusiasm to get back playing has to be admired and after turning a pre-booked, relaxing holiday in the sun into a mini-training camp in the Algarve, he’s ready to hit the ground running as the midseason break comes to an end.
“I went home the Saturday after the Galway game and then flew over to Portugal for four days to get some sun. It was originally supposed to be a relaxing holiday when I booked it but because of the injury it turned out to be a training holiday.
“The last thing you want to do after being involved in the team so much is to take a backseat. I made sure I was involved every game and always about the team to take everything in and be involved in all the team talks just so I didn’t miss anything. So when the time comes to go back in I know everything that’s gone on and I’m up to date with the changes in the team. Staying involved is very important,” he stressed.
“I’ve been to the stadium every day training. So even though I’ve not been training every day with the rest of the team I’ve always been there.
“The amount of times I’ve been pulled off the training pitch and told to just go and rest and take it easy.
“Tuesday was the first time I’ve done contact stuff in training with the team. We had passing and possession drills. I told the gaffer to get the boys tackling me so I can be ready for the match.
“I’ve worked hard and Mickey and Eddie (McCallion) have helped me get back. I was well ahead with my rehab programme so when I joined back up with the team I was up to pace with the boys. So I feel good to go.
In his absence, Monaghan has been hugely impressed with the form of both Aaron McEneff and Conor McCormack - his direct competition for the two central midfield berths.
And while he welcomes the ‘healthy’ competition, he’s got his eyes firmly fixed on winning back his spot.
“I’m thinking if I’m to get back in this team I need to do everything possible. I need to get back in the team.
“Glenavon will be a good test for us. The aim is to get everyone a run out and get some minutes. That’s the most important thing and hopefully we come through it unscathed with everyone fit and ready for Wexford.
“Competition is healthy,” he continued. “Aaron and Conor have done brilliantly. Whether it was myself and Conor or Aaron, the partnership in there has always been strong. “The boys have done brilliant but I’ve every intention of making sure I get back in the team and the starting XI - that’s why I’m here!
“It’s not going to be easy but I’m confident in myself and hopefully I can get some minutes under my belt tomorrow and I’m looking forward to the Wexford game and we’ll see how it goes. But I want to get back in that team - that’s my sole aim right now.”
While Monaghan is primed and ready for a return to action, Rory Patterson, Gareth McGlynn, Lukas Schubert (all hamstring injuries) are unlikely to feature. However, Barry McNamee is set to play some part in the game against the Lurgan Blues after recovering from illness.