MARK TIMLIN is the latest in a long distinguished line of footballers from Buncrana to represent Derry City Football Club.
The Inishowen town has a long-standing connection with the Brandywell club which dates back to the pre- World War II war period when the late Celtic legend, Hugh ‘Dick’ Doherty (1939) - probably Buncrana’s most high profile footballer - represented the ‘Candy Stripes’.
In fact, before that John ‘Teddy’ Smith had played for Derry in 1933 and finished as top scorer with 12 goals in his only year at the club.
And the late Danny ‘Tinney’ Doherty was another City legend who hailed from the West End area of town, playing under former Derry boss, Billy Gillespie as goalkeeper from 1937 for 10 years.
Frankie ‘Mousey’ Murphy continued that tradition when the former Sligo Rovers man moved from the banks of the Swilly to join Derry in 1962 while Republic of Ireland schoolboy international, John ‘Speedy’ O’Loughlin signed from Middlesborough in 2000 when his scholarship at the Riverside Stadium came to an end.
Most recently Buncrana native Johnny Bonner, who signed for Wexford Youths this season, represented Derry City’s underage squad while both Declan Fullerton and goalkeeper, Rory Kelly, played in the ‘Candy Stripes’ U21s or reserves teams.
So Co. Donegal and, in particular, the Inishowen Peninsula has always been a hotbed of footballing talent - providing a steady production line of players for Derry City over recent years.
And to continue that link between Derry and his hometown of Buncrana is a proud achievement for Timlin, whose family regularly attended matches at Brandywell last season.
For Timlin, who joined the club from Ipswich Town in 2014, it’s an exciting time to be playing for Derry City. He enjoyed his breakthough season with the club during last year’s tumultuous campaign, netting just twice in 26 appearances - a disappointing statistic from his point of view and one he’s keen to rectify this season.
I only scored two goals last year so that’s an area of my game I want to improve this year. I see myself as a player who can create and score goals and I wasn’t happy with that side of my game last season.Mark Timlin
Indeed, this term, he’s determined to make his mark on the team and he believes he can fill the void left by the departure of Michael Duffy who joined Celtic last January. He will, however, miss the first game of the season due to a one match suspension.
The versatile former Buncrana Hearts man has been deployed on the right wing, left wing and at left back but he feels he can make the left side of midfield his own this season. “I’m really looking forward to getting started,” enthused Timlin. “I’ve had a good enough pre-season under my belt and I’m looking forward to pushing on this year.”
Timlin was the first out of contract player Hutton re-signed for the club for the 2015 campaign, just one week after the 2014 season drew to a close.
And he’s already making his mark on the international front, recently playing for Rep. of Ireland U21s in a Home International friendly against an Ireland Amateur side, so big things are expected from him this year and he’s up for the challenge.
“It’s obviously nice to have a manager who believes in you as it gives you more confidence in yourself when you’re going out to play a match. So it’s good that he believes in me.
“Last season was a bit up and down for me. It took me a while at the start to break in but once Peter Hutton took over I seemed to play a lot more and had more confidence and I got my spark back and was feeling good going into games.
“All in all, it was probably an up and down season so, hopefully, this year can be a lot more consistent.
“With Mickey (Duffy) having gone, it opens up the wide left position. Last year I played a bit on the right of midfield and a bit at left-back so hopefully I can make that left wing spot my own this year and do really well.
“My family enjoy coming up to watch me play. When I was England they wouldn’t have got to see me that much so they enjoy coming up to Derry to watch me play.”
Timlin has no fears over the size of the Derry City squad and he isn’t worried about the loss of key personnel, in fact he’s optimistic about the role the current crop of Under-19s can play this season.
“I think we have a close knit group and everyone seems to be pulling each other along. There are a few of the under-19s that seem to be ready to make the step up as well.
“So I think we’ll be grand going into the season and I don’t think the size of the squad will be an issue to be honest.
“I think this year we are a younger, locally based team and we probably work better together. Even in training sessions so far, the atmosphere is a lot better and everybody seems to be getting on a long better.
“I only scored two goals last year so that’s an area of my game I want to improve this year. I see myself as a player who can create and score goals and I wasn’t happy with that side of my game. So hopefully this year I can fill that gap and do what Mickey did last year and get a lot more goals to add to the assists,” he concluded.