CENTURION… Ciaron Harkin is closing in on 100 appearances for Derry City. Photos: Ben McShane/Sportsfile
Ciaron Harkin is set to reach 100 appearances for Derry City against Sligo Rovers in two weeks’ time.
The popular midfielder, who epitomises everything a fan could wish for in a player, has been reborn under Ruaidhri Higgins, missing just two of 32 games since the new manager took over last April.
Harkin’s passion for the club is evident with every performance he puts in, and should he feature in the first three games of the new season, he will reach a special milestone of 100 games, a target which seemed well out of reach when he first appeared in an FAI Cup tie at Edenderry seven years ago.
“I look forward to getting that,” he said. “For me personally it’s about playing as much football as I can for Derry City.
“I want to be in the team every week. I work hard in training and in pre-season obviously to be in that position, so hopefully I can now and get as many appearances as I can over the next few years.”
“If you look at the squad I am probably one of the more experienced ones. I know we brought in a bit of experience this year. I won the Foyle Cup a few years ago for Derry U19s and I played under 17s and 19s with Derry and back then if you had told me I would play for Derry 100 times, obviously it looks far out.
“That’s obviously something I have dream of when I was younger coming to the matches. I’d never thought I play 100 times, hopefully I will play 500, that’s the main thing now, just hoping that I can get as much football as I can over the years.”
Harkin is as excited as any fan about the prospect of battling the big teams for honours this season, but he knows full well that a good start is essential, both in terms of belief and in terms of points.
“It’s an exciting feeling,” he admitted. “There’s some buzz about it; obviously we’ve a good squad here and we’re all training hard in pre-season and we’re all looking forward to it.
“You have to play the bigger teams at some stage and obviously we have pre-season to prepare for them. It is a tough start and we’re playing some good teams and we need to make sure we’re prepared better and we’re ready to go and on the day we need to make sure we’re all at it.”
It was Harkin’s one goal last season that paved the way for that win at Dundalk which secured European football, and as important s that strike was, he is hoping to chip in with more goals this time around.
“It was an important goal but that’s not something I’d be telling people, that I got Derry into Europe,” he laughed.
“The main thing is to do better this year than the year before as a team and for me personally. Last year I didn’t do well enough in terms of goals. I had a lot of good performances, personally and the confidence is up, but I need to add more goals and more assists to my game this year and that’s my main aim.”
“We worked hard all year and we finished strong in the season and we got ourselves in a good spot to get there so that’s another thing we’ve to look forward to this year. Obviously we are in Europe and hopefully we get a good draw but now we’re looking forward to the start of the season and hopefully we’re in a good position when we get to that stage when we’re going into Europe.”
There were a lot of important changes at the club last season, particularly in mentality, with the first victories over Dundalk in several years important steps to giving the players the belief that they can compete at the top. Harkin has been right in the thick of it during that time, and with his manager backing him completely, he feels he and his team mates can make even more progress this year.
JUST IN TIME… Ciaron Harkin celebrates his first goal of the season in the last game of the season at Dundalk. The goal helped Derry City come from a goal down to win at Dundalk to secure fourth place and European football in 2022.
“Since I’ve been with Derry, we’ve never beat Dundalk until the two times we beat them at the end of the season there. It meant a lot,” he stated.
“Obviously to be the best you have to beat the best and Dundalk have been over the past few years so, we’ll go on this year and hopefully we can beat the better teams and the rest will look after itself.”
“There are a lot of good players, and I’m training with better players and there is a lot of competition. When Ruaidhri came in obviously he played me and gave me a role and I enjoyed that role and obviously I did well in here.
“This year is the same; when I am asked to play, and I get my spot, I am going to do my job, do my best and hopefully it is good enough and I can keep my spot.”
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