Wednesday 25 April 2018

McCann's hopes for the season shattered

Austin McCann running in the Boyne 10K. Photo: Colin Bell/
Austin McCann running in the Boyne 10K. Photo: Colin Bell/

A DAY is a long time in football - just ask Drogheda United's Austin McCann.

On Sunday afternoon the Drogheda native was talking to this newspaper about his hopes for the season and possibly working his way into the team during the current busy spell of matches.

Barely 24 hours later playing football in the near future was the last thing on his mind as he suffered a fractured leg against Sligo Rovers and was preparing to undergo surgery on Tuesday morning.

Before the Monday night game the 29-year-old Termonfeckin NS teacher (pictured below) has made only two starts - in the Leinster and EA Sports cups - and three brief substitute appearances since joining the Boynesiders in pre-season from Glebe North.

'Things haven't really started properly for me yet, but hopefully I can feature a bit more in the coming weeks,' McCann had said, speaking as he looked forward to the visit of Bray Wanderers this coming Friday.

'It's natural that players will tire after a while and Robbie [Horgan] will need to shuffle his pack, and if I get in I need to be able to grab the opportunity with both hands.

'It's been a superb start for the team and that has to be maintained, and I think it's down to hard work and good organisation. Other teams have bigger squads and bigger budgets and Drogheda don't have that, but people are all working hard for each other as a unit.

'For me, everything is grand and it's a great bunch of lads here, but I just need to be playing to feel more a part of it.'

McCann played for Monaghan in the First Division under Mick Cooke and also made one brief substitute appearance for the Drogs against Derry in 2009 after then manager Alan Mathews signed him on a short-team deal. However, he subsequently spent four seasons with Glebe in the Leinster Senior League and at that stage his prospects of ever playing regularly in the League of Ireland's top flight looked to have gone.

'It would have been nice to get into the League earlier, but I had to go to college and I was educating myself and didn't have the time to put into football,' McCann responded.

'It's great to be here now. Yes it's late in my career, but it's welcome and fair play to Robbie Horgan for giving me the opportunity to sign for the club on the back of a bit of training and a reference from Glebe. I was delighted when I got the news.'

The dilemma for McCann - and indeed for his manager - will be how best to accommodate him in the team whenever he returns to fitness. The term 'utility man' could easily have been devised for him and unless there is a significant list of injuries and/or suspensions it's going to be difficult for the former Albion Rovers ace to make a big impact.

'The plan is to get a run in the team, but the problem for me is knowing where I'm going to play,' he acknowledged.

'In pre-season I played left-back and right-back where I've not played competitively before, ever. I'd be more used to playing left wing, right wing and centre mid, and I was signed as a centre-half as well.

'I'm trying to nail down a position to get into the team, but it's difficult to make an impression because everybody's doing so well. It's understandable [that I'm not playing] but frustrating as well.

'When you don't play in the League of Ireland you have no football at all and I'll be losing the sharpness that I had from playing regularly with Glebe North before I signed for Drogheda.'

Drogheda Independent