'My Derry City nightmare': Darren McCauley
Darren McCauley has spoken out about his “nightmare” experience at Derry City Football Club, claiming he was in ‘no mental state to play football’ following his short time spent at Brandywell.
The 28 year-old Top of the Hill man, who returned to his hometown club on an 18 month deal last June, failed to make an impact during the final five months of the League of Ireland season and subsequently left the club in the close season.
The former Celtic trainee has revealed he felt ‘disconnected’, fell out of love with the game and quickly realised he had made a ‘professional and personal mistake’ by leaving Scottish club, Inverness to return home.
”When I first arrived at the club I was buzzing but that enthusiasm died and I realised I made a personal and professional mistake leaving Inverness,” said the ex-City winger.
McCauley, who won the Irish Cup with Coleraine in 2018, says Derry fans never saw the best of him as he felt he was being ‘flogged’ given his lack of a pre-season and the arduous training sessions at the Brandywell club.
“It was a nightmare, right back from when we played the Cliftonville friendly (last June),” he said. “I didn’t have a pre-season and then we trained before the game. Combined with the repetitiveness of the gym sessions, I felt we were being flogged. I’m always willing to work hard but when you’re getting diminishing returns in performance, I just wasn’t enjoying it.
“There was no difficulty getting up to pace with the League of Ireland,” he insisted. “I just needed a pre-season under my belt and I don’t think the style of play suited me.
“For the time I was there, I felt we were playing not to lose games rather than playing to win, especially against the big guns, which was frustrating for me as I like a bit of chaos on the pitch.”
However Derry boss, Declan Devine, who fought hard to get McCauley to Brandywell from the start of 2019, regretted the player simply didn’t live up to expectations upon his eventual arrival at the club.
”From my point of view, Darren never really got going,” said the City manager in response to McCauley’s comments. “He’s a good lad but in terms of his football I think he was at a crossroads.
“He came in at a difficult time. It was halfway through our season and he didn’t get a lot of minutes. It was very difficult to get into our team when he came.
“He was always a target to bring to the club but he found it very difficult to get up to speed and didn’t hit the heights that we know Darren is capable of hitting.
“He was also up against Junior Ogedi-Uzokwe who was probably one of our best players last year. Expectations at Derry are quite high and you have to hit the ground running.
“I have a lot of respect for Darren as a person, I’ve known him since he was 12 years of age and wish him every success in the future.”
McCauley had found himself down the pecking order as Junior excelled, finishing as the league’s top goalscorer leaving the Derry man feeling ‘disconnected’ and ‘unloved’ and he realised he had no option but to leave the club.
“I pretended everything was okay because I didn’t want to cause any distractions for the team but that was papering over the cracks,” adds McCauley.
“When you don’t feel wanted or loved as a player, especially at your hometown team, it’s time to go and towards the end I was in no mental state to play football.
“It was heartbreaking to leave a club where I came through the academy at 12 years of age. I was still glad to see the team do well and Decky get the Brandywell back rocking again but, in the end, I felt the best thing for me to do was leave which was a very difficult decision.”
McCauley made a clean break and is currently in Australia where he claims he’s rediscovered his love for football.
And he hopes to get back to his best form at new club, Essendon Royals ahead of the Victorian State League Division One North-West season.
“Essendon are of Italian origin based in a suburb of Melbourne,” he explained. “They have ambitions of getting promoted to the top league in Victoria so it’s an exciting time. They have a very experienced manager and are recruiting well.
“I didn’t miss football at all which was surprising but I’ve got that bit of hunger back now. I had absolutely no intentions of playing on after I left Derry. Word got out that I was here and I was contacted by a few clubs so I decided to have a look and Essendon came out on top.
“I was happy just to move on. Decky understood that I wanted to create a new life for myself here and was very supportive of my decision which I appreciated.
“I’m not sure how long I’ll be in Australia for but I’m giving my all to make it work. It’s been a crazy journey!
“The experience in 2019 has brought me to where I am now and allowed me to have these amazing experiences in this country and beyond so I’m looking forward to what 2020 holds in store.”