IT'S BEEN four years since he last played in the League of Ireland, but defender Colin Hawkins is back -- and he's in with a chance of making history this season.
Former Ireland U21 cap Hawkins is now officially a Sporting Fingal player after agreeing a move this week, following a spell with Brighton in England. And the 32-year-old will have little time to settle back into the surroundings of the league as he could be pressed into action immediately for tonight's league game away to Bray Wanderers.
Hawkins is already one of the most decorated players around with four league medals on his CV -- two with St Pats and one each with Bohemians and Shelbourne -- and if he was to land another title with Fingal this season, he would become the first player in Irish football to win titles with four different clubs.
"It would be unbelievable to do it as I don't think that's been done before, league medals with four clubs in Ireland," Hawkins told the Herald.
"I know there was a bit of talk about that when I won the league for the last time, with Shels four years ago as I'd done it with three Dublin clubs.
"I know Paul Doolin won leagues as a player with Derry, Rovers and Shels so people asked me about it at the time. If I can achieve that and help Fingal win the league it would be some achievement, but we'll see how things go.
"I joined this club because I want to win things and we have a decent chance of winning the league this season.
"The league this season is the most open I have ever seen it. In all my seasons in the league before, you had two, maybe three clubs competing for the league, but this season any one of five teams could win it.
"I can't remember it ever being like that before and it's a nice challenge for us here at Fingal to have, to compete for the league.
"Bohs are the champions and still the benchmark for everyone else. I feel that whoever finishes ahead of Bohs in the table this season will win the league
"We have to try and make sure that's us. There's no reason why we can't challenge. We're not too far off the top and we have as much a chance as anyone else in the top five. I have been to Fingal's last three games, they could easily have won all three so I know what we can do here.
"Sporting Fingal are also in it for the long term. I have seen the plans they have and the structures they have in place and that was very attractive," added Hawkins, who has been taking his coaching badges in the UK and is eager to begin working in the coaching field.
"They also have some very good young players in the squad. Lads like Ronan Finn and Shaun Williams weren't really known in the league when I was last here, with Shels in 2006, but they are top-class players and they can make this team very competitive this season."
Hawkins only signed for Fingal late on Wednesday night but he could be pitched into the team away to Bray tonight, as Fingal have injury worries in defence.
"I'm available for selection tonight. I have trained OK for the last few days and I feel fine, so if I'm needed I will play. I have to be realistic and admit that it's been a long time since I played a game -- 11 months now since I played a first team match -- but I am fit and healthy so I'll do a job for Fingal tonight if the manager asks me. It's up to Liam Buckley," he says.
"My last proper game was last August. I've only had bits and pieces in reserve games since then, so it won't be easy if I do play tonight.
"But if I am thrown in at the deep end I'll happily do it."