Second job all part of McMillan grand plan
The responsibility of leading the line for Dundalk in their title defence sits easily on the shoulders of David McMillan.
It helps that he is a player with more than football on his mind. These days, most of the league's top players are either concentrated full-time on the sport or supplement their income with a second job that is ideally suited to their main commitment. Coaching, personal training and working in a sports shop are popular pursuits.
However, McMillan, who has stepped up to take top billing for the Lilywhites after the departure of Patrick Hoban to Oxford, occupies himself with a different type of challenge.
The 26-year-old is a qualified architect and works with O'Brien Finucane on Dublin's Dawson Street, managing to fit in 20 hours per week around his training commitments.
"I only really started this year," explains the UCD graduate. "For me, it's a good experience to keep that side of things up so when football comes to an end there's something else.
"I finished (the degree) two years ago and there wasn't a job to be had, even if I wanted one, so it was great to have football as something to rely on, otherwise like so many others I would have been out of here. It's great to get back working - you've a lot of free time if you're just playing football.
"I do three half days and a full day on a Wednesday when we're not training. I take Friday off for game days so I can relax and be fully focused. It's tough but I can fit around the schedule and, in fairness to the company, they're great. They give me the time off when I need it."
Indeed, they allowed McMillan to walk around the corner to Baggot Street yesterday to collect the SSE Airtricity/SWAI Player of the Month award for March, a compliment to his fine performances at the start of a campaign which he kicked off with a niggling ankle problem.
The Dubliner scored four times as the Lilywhites registered five straight wins to march to the top of the table, but a late concession in Limerick last Saturday which turned three points into one served as a reminder that complacency cannot be afforded.
Tonight's derby with Drogheda at Oriel Park offers the group a quick chance to make amends.
"We won the league by a point last season so it shows you how important every point is," he stresses.
McMillan's confidence was boosted when he was handed the No 9 shirt by Stephen Kenny over the winter and feels it is a chance to prove that he deserved more chances at St Patrick's Athletic and Sligo Rovers. He scored 15 times last year in developing a supersub reputation which didn't quite fit with his ambitions.
"I've been at big clubs before and I haven't been playing every week so it's been good to get that opportunity in a team that is strong," he continues. "I've done it with UCD for a number of years but never got that opportunity to be a No 9 at the top clubs.
"I'm relishing it. I'm 26 and that's where I need to be; I'm not a young kid on the block any more so hopefully my best years will be ahead of me as a No 9 for Dundalk."
Part of that ambition is progress in Europe, with spectacular rewards on offer if Kenny's men can get through a round of the Champions League this summer with UEFA bumping up the prize funds. "You need to have to huge self-belief to compete in Europe," observes McMillan.
The man with many plans should have no shortage of that commodity in his current situation.
Snooker: Doherty survives
Ken Doherty survived a massive scare to edge out Reanne Evans 10-8 in the first round of the World Championship qualifiers last night.
Evans was bidding to become the first woman to qualify for the World Championships and her clash with the 1997 champion was a close battle throughout.
The match looked certain to be heading to a decider from Evans took command of scrappy 18th frame to leave Doherty needing a snooker with just pink and black remaining on the table.
However, the Dubliner earned the snooker and then potted the two remaining balls to snatch a 10-8 victory. Doherty must win two more matches to qualify.
Elsewhere, Crucible regulars Mark King, Alan McManus and Ryan Day all progressed, as did former champions Peter Ebdon and Graeme Dott who remain on course to earn one of the 16 places available to the 128 players who entered the qualification process.
Nigel Bond, however is among the high profile names eliminated along with Martin Gould.