Debutante, Gavin Peers proved a commanding presence at the heart of the Derry City defence on familiar territory at the Sligo Showgrounds on Saturday.
An untimely Achilles injury in pre-season delayed his first appearance for the Candy Stripes and as fate would have it, he was finally handed his chance against the club he spent 11 memorable seasons with, winning three FAI Cups and the 2012 League of Ireland title.
And the 32 year-old rolled back the years with a measured display as he showed exactly the qualities Kenny Shiels brought him to Brandywell for.
He might not have the legs he once had but his organisational skills, experience and his aerial presence proved crucial as City strolled to a valuable away victory which moved them into fifth place.
It was the perfect game for the big centre half to make his Derry City bow though, it must be said, Sligo offered little attacking threat - particularly when top scorer, Adam Morgan was called ashore on the hour mark. Indeed, they mustered just a single shot on target throughout the 90 minutes.
That being said, Peers proved a very capable replacement for the injured Darren Cole as he played his first competitive game since last October when he represented St Patrick’s Athletic against City on the final day of the season.
And he hopes he can maintain his place in the starting XI for the visit of Waterford on Friday night now that he got his first taste of action under his belt.
“I’ve been dying to get in,” said Peers. “I haven’t played a game since last October, in the last game of the season against Derry.
“Unfortunately I was getting fit in pre-season and broke down with my Achilles. I’ve been working hard to get fit and maintain my fitness and as you seen, the old calves were struggling at times on the heavy pitch. But I did my best to last the 90 minutes and hopefully I can stay in the team and keep moving forward,
“Kenny (Shiels) brought me in to organise, talk and be a bit of a leader and that’s my role in the team. It’s a good young squad and they need a bit of leading.”
Peers pointed to the 6-1 defeat against Shamrock Rovers in Tallaght which proved the catalyst for the five game winning run which has followed, claiming the team merely lacked experience on the night. And he hopes he can help the younger players in the squad in similar situations going forward.
“With the Rovers game, we probably needed a bit of leadership on the pitch to keep it tight, put the reigns on and now I’m back fit, hopefully I can help do that. The spine of the team - myself Gerard and Rory - can organise things and the rest of them can do the running for us,” he laughed.
“It’s a good squad and we’ve got two games coming up in a short space of time so I’m sure Kenny will be chopping and changing it and I have to make sure I’m ready to go in.
“It’s a good atmosphere here and there’s a good bond in the team and who knows what we can achieve this year.
Kenny Shiels was delighted with Peers’ contribution and believes the centre half can prove a real asset to the team.
“I thought Gavin was outstanding. He’s got a great heart and desire and all his organisational skills will help as well.”