SHAMROCK ROVERS star Conor McCormack has warned the rest of the league that he's desperate to make up for lost time after a frustrating four months on the sidelines.
Rovers, who bounced back from their 5-1 hammering by Dublin rivals St Patrick's Athletic with a clinical 6-0 dismissal of Dundalk on Friday night, are back in action again tonight against Derry City at Tallaght Stadium in the first leg of their Setanta Sports Cup semi-final battle.
It's the 11th competitive game of the season for the Hoops but for influential midfielder McCormack, the new term is only starting as Friday's win over Dundalk was his first league start of campaign.
The former Manchester United trainee had been sidelined since undergoing surgery on a long-standing calf injury last December and he's been recovering ever since.
But he showed no signs of rustiness with a superb display in a right-back role and is eager for more action against Derry this evening.
"It was very hard being out for so long but I had to get the injury sorted and it was worth it as I am fully fit and feeling great at the moment," said McCormack ahead of Derry's third away game in three weeks.
"The lads have played almost a dozen games now but the season's only starting for me and I want to play as much as I can to get up to full speed, so this game against Derry is a big deal for me," he said.
"It's a big match for the club overall. We were delighted to win the Setanta Cup last year, it's a big deal to be All-Ireland champions and we want to retain that title, so while the main thing is of course to win the league again this season, hopefully we can do well against Derry tonight, get a good result to take to the Brandywell for the second leg and hopefully make it into the final."
The Louth-born player was a key figure for Rovers last season but he missed the final game of the season in the Europa League as he was sent for surgery on that calf problem, and had a few setbacks along the way with his recovery.
He made his first appearance of the new season against Cliftonville in the Setanta Cup last month, then made his first start of 2012 in last week's League Cup win over SD Galway.
And boss Stephen Kenny was convinced of his fitness enough to hand him a starting role against Dundalk on Friday, where he helped keep a clean sheet against a hapless Co Louth side. McCormack said he felt sympathy for the Lilywhites as he grew up playing underage football in the county with Dundalk players such as Stephen McDonnell.
Rovers make one change to their squad as midfielder Chris Turner is suspended, so tonight he will join long-term injury victims Kerrea Gilbert, Ciaran Kilduff, Stephen O'Donnell and Conor Winn in the stands.
Derry come to Dublin with their confidence boosted by Friday's impressive display away to league leaders Sligo Rovers.