FRESH from a fantastic holiday in Rome and Amalfi, you might think that Darragh Markey is already pining for an immediate return to the stunning, sun-drenched Italian coastline – but not a bit of it!
Having missed a dozen matches after underdoing surgery on a fractured metatarsal, Markey made an impressive return to the side immediately before the international break, providing the assist for Dean Williams’ late equaliser against Bohemians during a 15-minute cameo appearance.
Now the 25-year-old attacking midfielder comes back into contention for a starting place for Friday’s trip to Derry City at The Ryan McBride Brandywell Stadium – the ground where he suffered that unfortunate injury back in March.
Both from a personal perspective and that of the team - Drogheda have taken seven points from their last three outings – the three-week break since the Bohemians match at Dalymount Park perhaps came at the wrong time.
“You’re right. I wanted the season to keep on going and the break could have come at a better time, but I’m training now and loving it,” said Markey, speaking to the Drogheda Independent this week.
“It takes a while to get back up to match fitness and playing a match is completely different to everything else, so I suppose it’s up to Kevin (Doherty) and the physio whether they think I’m ready to start.
“But there’s no pain and that’s the main thing and I won’t be hesitating going into any tackles.”
Drogheda’s 2-0 defeat back in March came at a heavy cost as it also proved to be the last match of Mark Hughes’ League of Ireland career after he came off worst in a 50/50 challenge, while Derry’s Michael Duffy also suffered a fractured tibia in a tackle with Keith Cowan.
But the incident that led to Markey’s long spell on the sidelines was innocuous to say the least.
“I broke the metatarsal before a few years ago when I was at St Pat’s and I knew straightaway it was that again,” he said.
“I was told then that if you don’t get operated on then it will happen again within three to five years, and that’s how it turned out.
“The foot just twisted and I felt a crack. It wasn’t even a tackle. I lost the ball and jumped over the foot of one of their lads and the way I landed on the Astroturf, my foot just twisted.
“Everyone else knew by my reaction that it was something bad.
“But Drogheda got me operated on straightaway and the operation went great.”
Just over 13 weeks later, Markey is itching to get back in the team and insists the Boynesiders won’t be over-awed by their full-time opponents, who have failed to win any of their last six games.
“We picked up three great results (before the break) and the momentum would have been really there,” he said.
“The break came at a good time for Derry, in contrast to us, and I would expect a reaction from them and I would expect them to be fresh and at it from the first minute.
“They are still in a really good position in the league and have shown before that they’re a really entertaining team to watch, so there should be a big crowd.
“But we’re well rested now and full of energy and we’ll be fit.Hopefully we won’t be down too many bodies and we’ll give it a go.
“The odds were against us at home to Rovers and we got a win, and we’re on a run of three good results. The bookies will have us down as the underdogs, but this squad doesn’t lack in belief or hard work and we are hard to beat.”
Of course, Markey’s last visit to The Brandywell was one to forget and it’s a ground where he hasn’t experienced much joy over the years.
“I’m struggling to remember winning a game at The Brandywell in my career. With Pats we got knocked out of the Cup there before and obviously the last visit wouldn’t be a good memory,” he recalled. “But I don’t really believe in stuff like that. It’s a new game, there’ll be nothing like that (negativity) in the back of my head and there’s a first time for everything!
“Please God we can go up there and give our all and we wouldn’t be surprised if we pulled out a result.”
Whatever happens on Friday, though, Markey is looking forward to returning to competitive action again after being sidelined for so long.
“When you’re not involved you realise how much you miss it. I love my football and I’m so happy to be back. I have my degree from Maynooth and it took me a while to get a job after that, but now I’m working doing admin and accounts for a fire duct company and I’m finding that balance between work and football very enjoyable.”