Ruaidhri Higgins 'excited' after completing signing of Jamie McGonigle from Crusaders
DERRY CITY boss Ruaidhri Higgins has made his first signing of the summer transfer window by capturing top rated Crusaders striker Jamie McGonigle on a three and half year deal for an undisclosed sum.
The in-demand 25 year-old Dungiven native has been subject of approaches from several Irish League clubs, including Larne and Coleraine in recent weeks, and so Higgins was delighted to agree a long term deal with the former Northern Ireland U21 international.
The City boss was in the twilight of his hugely successful playing career at the Showgrounds when McGonigle was breaking through the ranks as a top prospect with the Bannsiders and Higgins claims he could see McGonigle's potential at an early stage of his development.
"I'm delighted," beamed Higgins. "I played with Jamie back in 2015/16 when he was only breaking through really at Coleraine and I could see then what a bright talent he was and a lethal finisher even back then.
"Obviously his all round game has developed over the last number of years and I think he's still got the best years ahead of him. He's only 25 but he's very, very experienced for his age and someone I'm absolutely delighted to bring to the club for a lot of reasons. The main one is he's a really, really good player. He's got a good age profile and he lives quite local.
"I always said I wanted to bring someone from Limavady to the club but there's not many around so we had to go to Dungiven," he joked.
"He obviously fancies a different challenge and he said that himself, Derry City is a big club and we're going to improve and get better and attract better players to the club and build the club and he wants to be a part of that."
McGonigle, who made 66 appearances for Crusaders scoring 30 goals, rejected a lucrative offer to move to Larne and with other top clubs circling, Higgins was delighted to get the backing of Derry's Chairman, Mr Philip O'Doherty and the Board of the Directors as the Brandywell club swooped to get their man this afternoon.
"I think everyone was aware there were clubs interested and I want to personally thank Philip, Sean and our Board for backing me to bring him to our club and I'm sure the fans will be excited going forward.
"The club have been great to me and I think everyone understands that to build a club and to be successful long term, this is the way you have to go. Jamie fits the age profile and the all round profile of the type of player we want to bring here."
McGonigle became the most expensive Irish League player following his move from Coleraine to Crusaders for a fee understood to be in the region of £60,000 back in 2019. And less than two years later he made the switch to the League of Ireland as Higgins first new signing as Derry boss.
Higgins is delighted to increase his striking options and has no doubt McGonigle, who has scored 97 senior goals, will make the transition from the Irish League to the League of Ireland with relative ease.
"I've absolutely no doubt about it otherwise we wouldn't have gone after him the way we did," added Higgins. "Jamie will score goals! He's quick, he makes good runs off the back of people and uses his body well and can finish off both feet.
"I don't care what league it's in, if we create enough chances then he's going to score goals no doubt about it."
The former Dungiven Celtic player will be expected to bring additional firepower and competition for David Parkhouse, James Akintunde and Patrick Ferry in the striking department.
Indeed, Derry have netted just 19 goals up to the midpoint of the current season and with top scorer Will Patching (six) returning to Dundalk, defender Cameron McJannet is currently leading the club's scoring charts with four.
Higgins expects the player to take time to 'get up to speed' with the rest of the squad in terms of match fitness after four weeks without a competitive game.
"I don't think you can achieve anything unless you have competition throughout the pitch," said Higgins. "We've added Jamie to a real key area of the pitch for us and don't forget he hasn't played now for four or five weeks so we have to be careful in how we introduce him to the team but he's a fit lad. I think over the next week or two we will bet him up to speed and get him ready to play."
Will he be in contention for Derry's home fixture against Waterford at Brandywell this Friday night as the Candy Stripes attempt to bounce back from a narrow defeat to Dundalk.
"We'll see. We will do everything we can obviously. If he is brilliant but if he's not we won't lose too much sleep over it, we'll get over it. He's going to be available for the next three and a half years which is the most important thing for me."
For McGonigle, the striker insists once Derry came to an agreement with Crusaders on the transfer fee, the move was a 'no-brainer' and he believes his time at Crusaders, where he netted 10 times last season, will make the transition into Derry City's full-time set-up that little bit easier.
"It's a massive club," said McGonigle. "I've been to see Derry City games before. I've played along with Ruaidhri before and it was a chance to work with again so I thought 'why not?'
"I cant wait to get started. I know some of the players already here, the likes of Ciaron Harkin, we would be very close so I'm looking forward to getting started. Ruaidhri is good to work with so that definitely did play a part.
"Once the clubs agreed what they had to agree it was a no brainer to be honest. Going full-time from part-time obviously improves your fitness and your in the gym more and working on yourself more so you're fitter, stronger, better and that's been a help that I've been in that environment these past couple of years in a full time setup (at Crusaders) so that should make the transition into Derry City's full time set-up easier."
Having recently bought a house, McGonigle felt a move closer to home made sense but he's experienced sitting in a packed Brandywell Stadium before and always had a desire to play at the Lone Moor Road venue in the red and white candystripes.
"I've just bought a house and I'm moving into it at the end of the summer so it worked well to stay local travel-wise and stuff Derry City is probably the biggest club in the area so it was a no-brainer.
"Sitting when the Brandywell was packed I was sitting thinking I would love to get a chance to play here and now I've got this chance it's up for me to take it."