DARREN McCauley has described the past seven months as the most difficult of his career but he’s determined to end 2019 on a high with Derry City.
The 27 year-old City winger has spoken out for the first time about speculation suggesting he was on his way out of the Brandywell, less than a month after signing an 18 month contact.
Explaining that a troublesome ankle injury sustained in the scoreless draw against UCD had stopped him in his tracks and left him frustrated, he praised the trust placed in him by Derry boss, Declan Devine as he spent three weeks on the sidelines.
After starting games against Dundalk and UCD, he was suddenly left out of the Sligo Rovers, Finn Harps and Waterford games which had raised questions.
Rumours circulating on social media about a fall-out and potential exit were rife and then put to bed by Devine who described the conjecture as ‘absolute nonsense’, explaining that McCauley was working his way back to full fitness.
So, eager to make an impression in the team, McCauley admits his frustrations got the better of him, describing himself as ‘my own worst enemy’, before Devine agreed to grant him some time out to fully recover from his injury.
And he now wants to repay Devine for having patience and confidence in him, having got himself back in contention for a place in tonight’s FAI Cup squad as Derry welcome Wexford Youths to Brandywell.
“Being left out of the games was simply due to the injuries I picked up against UCD at home,” he explained. “I got very frustrated with myself as I wanted to help the team progress and it’s hard to do that when you’re carrying knocks. Sometimes I can be my own worst enemy but Decky was great with me. He recognised I was frustrated and gave me a few days off so that my ankle could heal and I could come back into training with a clearer perspective. I think that’s where the rumours stemmed from.
“We have good lines of communication and it’s great to have that trust and understanding from your manager.
“It helps massively, any player will tell you that confidence is one of the biggest factors in playing well. Knowing Decky has my back and trusts me, motivates me to do well.”
It has been a whirlwind past seven months for the Top of the Hill native having left Coleraine to join Inverness in the Scottish highlands last January before finally getting his dream move back to Derry City where it all began for him back in 2008.
However, the 2018 Irish Cup winner believes he’s a stronger person for all the upheaval in recent months and is ‘feeling great’ as he concentrates on getting back into the Derry City fold.
“The last seven months have easily been my most difficult in football but I have learned so much and I’m coming out the other side of it a stronger person and once I hit top gear, a better player.
“I kind of knew what to expect from the League of Ireland as I knew it well from my days coming up through the Academy at Derry. I had no expectations coming into the team as I just take things as they come and try and do my best.
“If there are any shortcomings it won’t be through lack of effort as the staff and players work very hard and do their best for the club and the city.
“I’m feeling great and can’t wait to get back playing. Of course it takes a few 90 minute games under your belt to get up to full speed, but I’ll get there in time.
“I felt I was getting into my stride after the Dundalk game but then the UCD game hampered me. But that’s football, it’s never straight forward and you have to be patient to be successful.”
Available for tonight’s FAI Cup first round clash at home to First Division side, Wexford Youths, McCauley is hoping to play some part in the match.
With Derry pushing for Europe and hoping for a prolonged run in the Cup, the ex-Celtic youth hopes he can make a significant impact from now until the end of the season.
“Absolutely, be it an assist or a goal, I’ll be making a solid contribution on the pitch before the season ends and helping the team push for European qualification and a trophy,” he said.
“I’ll be available for Friday night and we will have to be right on top of our game to beat Wexford.”
Having won the Irish League’s Blue Riband cup with the Bannsiders at Windsor Park last year, he’s allowing himself to dream of an Aviva Stadium showpiece in November.
“Yes, I always look at what the best possible outcome of a season would be and winning the FAI Cup is right up there. Stephen Dooley played with me at Coleraine and has both winners medals, so why not?”
For now, McCauley is just eager to get back playing football and he says he’s been ‘humbled’ by the support of Derry supporters since making his return to Foyleside.
“I’ve been humbled by the support given to me by coaches and fans across the town so in that sense, it was a bit of a nice surprise. It has helped motivate me to get over the injury, take a breath, and start playing again.”