JOSH MAILEY HAS COME back into Ollie Horgan’s plans at just the right time.
The Letterkenny man played a part in each one of Harps’ first 23 games of the campaign, only four of them as a substitute, before a red card against Athlone Town resulted in a suspension that ultimately lost him his place in the team.
A shoulder injury to Damien McNulty meant the door was ajar and Mailey stepped into the breach again.
“I had a bit of a slump in the middle of the season, but I’m picking up a bit of form now again,” he said after a solid night’s work against UCD in Friday’s 1-0 win at The UCD Bowl.
“I’ve played the majority of the games. I missed a couple of games with suspension and the team was going well I came back.
“I knew I had to dig deep and wait for my chance. I wasn’t going to get in with the team going well.
“I was fortunate Dee got the injury because that was my way back into the team, but now the two of us are in the side.”
Picture caption: Josh Mailey has this situation under control as he prepares to clear his lines against UCD. Picture courtesy of Gary Foy, newsandsportfiles
Mailey was a highly-rated prospect at Letterkenny Rovers who was first recruited by Harps in 2011, when he played in the ‘A’ Championship and sat three times on the first-team bench.
After returning to Rovers, Peter Hutton coaxed him back to Finn Park.
One weekend in May 2013, Hutton told Mailey to ready himself for his debut – against Derry City in the EA Sports Cup.
“The crowd, the occasion, the lead-up – everything is buzzing,” he recalled of his debut.
“Before you know it you’re out on the pitch playing. It goes so fast. Once you get settled in the game’s over. It was a great game to make the debut in.
“I was thinking at the start that I’d be nervous playing a home in front of big crowds. But, the crowd spurs you on and gives you that extra piece of energy if you’re tired. You really get energised with the roar of the crowd.”
Mailey has had only flashes of what Finn Park can be like on the big nights since, but the old ground will return some of its old charm on Friday night when UCD roll down Navenny Street for Friday’s play-off second leg.
“It’s one that’ll bring out the crowd and we definitely fancy the chances because we’ve only lost once at home all year,” Mailey said after Ciaran Coll’s precious goal on Friday night handed Harps the advantage.
“The plan was to go up to UCD and get some sort of a result. Everyone would have been happy to get a draw, but we probably out-did ourselves getting the win. We could have made it two and we looked threatening.
“We sat in a wee bit in the second half because we had the lead to defend and we had to weather a bit of a storm. They were dangerous on the counter, but we’re over the moon with the result.
“We’ve taken a lot of confidence with the result. The performance could have been better, but it’s a results business so we need to go now and finish it.”
Mailey is comfortable in any number of positions as his history at Harps has shown, but he is being used these days on the right-hand side of a 3-5-2 formation favoured by Horgan.
“Places are hard to come by,” the 24-year-old Mailey said.
“I was even thinking for UCD that it would be a toss-up between myself and Damien McNulty. I was surprised that he went for both of us. I was delighted and I hope I’ve done enough to get the nod again for the next game.
“When you get in now you have to give it your all every single week because other players are big time knocking on the door. We’re all pushing each other on and I’m just glad to be in the mix.
“It takes a squad effort and we showed with the subs we took on that we have players who can do the job. No-one in the squad is out of place now.”
Mailey came through the ranks at Letterkenny having graduated from the Ballyraine Schoolboys.
In 2010, he was the Donegal Schoolboys League’s Player of the Year after captaining Rovers to a League and Cup double.
Last year’s run to the FAI Cup semi-final had been the highlight until now.
“It’s been very enjoyable,” he said of their promotion tilt.
“In the other years I’ve been here, the season was over by this stage of things.
“Bar the Cup run last year we had nothing to play for. We were stuck at mid-table, going nowhere. You weren’t going up and you weren’t going down so this gives us something to play for.
“There’s a great buzz around the place now – we want to keep that going for as long as possible.”Tags: