Derry City's Mark Connolly signing not about getting one over rivals Dundalk - says Ruaidhri Higgins

DERRY BOSS Ruaidhri Higgins insists Mark Connolly's arrival on Foyleside wasn't about getting one over the Brandywell club's league rivals Dundalk.
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Connolly is the latest former Dundalk player to make the switch to Derry since Higgins was appointed manager, following in the footsteps of Patrick McEleney, Michael Duffy, Will Patching and Cameron Dummigan.

Lilywhites manager Stephen O'Donnell admitted defeat in the race to bring the Dundee United man back to Oriel Park when announcing the arrival of Robbie McCourt from Sligo Rovers to replace the Monaghan native.

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However, Higgins, who was left with a void to fill at the heart of his defence following Eoin Toal's move to Bolton Wanderers, felt it would be 'foolish' not to explore the possibility of bringing Connolly to Derry.

Derry City boss Ruaidhri Higgins and new signing Mark Connolly at today's press conference. Photo by George SweeneyDerry City boss Ruaidhri Higgins and new signing Mark Connolly at today's press conference. Photo by George Sweeney
Derry City boss Ruaidhri Higgins and new signing Mark Connolly at today's press conference. Photo by George Sweeney

"It's not about that for me (pipping Dundalk) and people are jumping on that because a few have come here from Dundalk but I have the utmost respect for the club and Stephen O'Donnell is one of my best friends in the world never mind football and it's not about that for me.

"It's about what Derry City needed and we worked extremely hard. I know we only had our initial conversation towards the back end of the weekend and early Monday but from that moment on we worked extremely hard to bring him here and thankfully he's here.

"It actually happened very, very quickly. Friday night it was public knowledge his loan had ended at Dundalk and with Eoin leaving we were in the market for a centre back," he explained. "It would've been foolish if we didn't explore the option and we've managed to secure his signature.

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"We're delighted because after one conversation with Mark I wanted him even more. He's got an infectious personality. He's got a serious drive to win. I've gone on record and said that unless you're from Derry I probably wouldn't consider singing someone over 26 years old but that changed instantly after one conversation.

"During that period where we were struggling to win a game that maybe changed my mindset slightly in the sense we needed another experienced one. We've managed to bring him in and we're thrilled. I think he will bring so much to the club on and off the pitch and our young players will learn so much. He's a natural leader and I'm absolutely delighted to secure his signature."

For Connolly, he enjoyed his time at Oriel Park but said there was only one club he wanted to sign for once Derry came knocking.

"It was a big decision," he said. "I came back on loan to Dundalk and with a loan you're not fully committed in the long term. This had to be the right decision for me. I spoke with Rosa, my wife, and it was a quick turnaround. I came back from Dundalk, not speaking with any other club in the league and it came out Friday evening that my loan was recalled. After the weekend I had a few phone calls and a decision to make. Once I met with Derry City, it was something I wanted to pursue straight away.

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"A big thing was the quality of players in the dressing room. It's a young dressing room, There's players there who are extremely talented. You look at Will Patching and boys Ruaidhri has brought in and see the development already. He's one of the best players in the league and is progressing so you can see under the management and staff that they're bringing players forward.

"I'm older but I would like to think I can learn and hopefully progress myself with the staff and hopefully help out the younger lads.#

"That's another thing for me I enjoyed that role, trying to lead by example on and off the pitch. There's some very talented boys and the way the club wants to push forward you can see that.

"It's not going to be an overnight job, it will take time to build a culture and build togetherness. You can see that's what they're trying to do and I'm delighted to be a part of it."