BY CHRIS MCNULTY
DRUMKEEN United manager Mickey Rodgers is hoping the signings of Ronan Coyle and Packie Mailey can help take his side to a first-ever Ulster Senior League title this season.
Drumkeen have the chance to go top of the table tonight when they take on Letterkenny Rovers at St Patrick’s Park. They have six games to play this season – and in a two-horse race with Cockhill Celtic Rodgers is hoping that these two stellar signings will make the difference.
The shock signing of Coyle from Kildrum Tigers was confirmed on Monday.
Coyle has had a difficult season, with just two goals to his name, but in the last decade he has been the top marksman in the USL. Since joining Kildrum from Quigley’s Point Swifts ahead of the 2004/05 season, Coyle netted 209 goals for the St Johnston side. He was the USL Player of the Year in 2007 and was top goalscorer for five seasons.
“Ronan is a top striker and I’ve known him for a while, I’m absolutely delighted that he has signed with us,” Rodgers said.
“He is a genuine football lad and he feels like this is a new challenge.”
Coyle won two USL titles with Kildrum as well as two Knockalla Caravans Cups and a League Cup. He’s now hoping to become the first player to win the USL with four clubs, having topped the pile with Finn Harps Reserves and QPS, as well as Kildrum.
Centre-back Mailey has been out of football since leaving Harps. The Convoy man is a former Harps captain who was the club’s player of the year in 2009. After a proposed move to Derry City didn’t work out, Mailey decided to concentrate on Gaelic football and he played in the McKenna Cup for Donegal in January of this year.
Rodgers said: “Packie keeps himself in good shape and he’s been playing Gaelic football with Convoy, so his fitness certainly isn’t an issue. I’ve been speaking to him for a while now and I’m delighted that he’s going to give it a go. He’s a senior football and we’re delighted to having him.”
Drumkeen are in the hunt for their elusive first USL crown – and Rodgers, in his first season at the helm, smells it now.
“It’s there to be won,” he said.
“If we can show the right attitude and work ethic we’re in with a chance. Cockhill are the favourites and rightly so.
“For me, it’s all about building to compete and down the line we want the right structures here to be competitive every season.
“I’m trying to build a team with Drumkeen. No matter what happens now I’d like to see it (the title race) go to the wire because it has been a very good, competitive League this season.”
Elsewhere, Kildrum have compensated for the loss of Coyle by giving ex-Harps midfielder Thomas McBride a path back to competitive football. The Derry native’s transfer to Maurice Toland’s side was completed this week. McBride is a former Derry City and Institute player who signed for Harps in the 2012 season. He hadn’t been on form and was released by Peter Hutton a couple of weeks ago. He made just six starts this season and was restricted to two substitute appearances since April.
McBride played for Kildrum during their brief time in the Donegal Youth League and will fill the central midfield void left by the banned Darren McCready, who fell foul of the USL’s clampdown on players playing outside the FAI’s jurisdiction.
Meanwhile, Bonagee United have confirmed that Gerard McGuinness with assistance from Gerard Boyce will oversee first team affairs until the end of the 2013 season.
Last week, Sean Sandilands confirmed that he was stepping down as manager of the struggling Dry Arch Park side who have just four points from their ten games. McGuinness and Boyce will take interim charge with an appointment of Sandilands’ successor not made until the closed season.