In this week’s Ulster Gazette, Philip Donnelly discusses the team’s aspirations to make the top six before the Championship split, as well as his personal efforts to keep improving and lift City’s form. Get your Ulster Gazette every Tuesday morning for all the reports, interviews and analysis from Holm Park!
Donnelly ready to go above and beyond
By Sam Gamble
City attacking midfielder Philip Donnelly admitted that he turned down opportunities to make the step up to the Premier League last summer to stay faithful to Armagh City and manager Marty Rice.
“There was a few clubs in contact with me over the summer about playing in the Premier League, but I was really enjoying my football under Marty at City. He spoke to me and told me to give him another year and I thought about it and sometimes the grass isn’t always greener on the other side.I am really enjoying my football at the club and we play the game in the right way, with the ball on the ground and sometimes you maybe take that step up and the play can be a bit more direct in some of the games.”
Donnelly, who joined the club in January 2014 following the demise of Newry City FC said he has loved every minute of the last three seasons.
“I have loved it at Armagh City. Marty has made me one of the main men in the team and he is a great man-manager. At the same time if he thinks you aren’t working hard enough or playing to your potential he will let you know!”
Donnelly was one of the in-form players in the league in the early stages of the season and he picked up the Northern Ireland Football Writers’ Championship Player of the Month for August and it looked like City were set to continue from where they had left last season.
However, injuries and suspensions robbed City of several key players and they went six games without a win in the league.
“Marty spoke to us at the start of the season and we fancied ourselves in being in contention for the league title and we had a reasonable start,” said Donnelly.
“Then it was one bad thing after another, Ciaran Murray left and we had a few injuries to a few key players and I was out myself for three weeks. We were down to bare bones for a while and Marty kept at us to get back and get fit and we’ve slowly started to get people back and thing started to look up.”
Donnelly admitted that some words of encouragement from an Irish League legend helping spur him on to go above and beyond at the start of the season.
“We played Crusaders in July at Holm Park and Stephen Baxter came over to me after the game and was very complimentary about how I played. It is always nice to get compliments and that inspired me to go and do a bit more outside of training. All of the players know that we need to go away and do our own stuff away from training and doing those wee things like ice-baths and coming to training early or doing your own stuff can make a real difference. You can’t expect to do two sessions and play a match and think that it will be enough any more!”
While Donnelly acknowledged that another Irish Cup run would be a real boost to the club, he stated that their immediate focus is on climbing the league table.
“Our goal is to make sure come the split that we are in the top six. We should be getting into the top six and Marty has told us to do what we can before January and then come the opening of the window he is going to look into getting a few players in to give us a boost.
“Cup runs can be fantastic and there can be a real buzz around the club, but they can be a distraction at times. The league is our priority and earlier on this season we lost to some of the teams below us and that shouldn’t happen. We seem to really lift ourselves for the bigger games, but we know that we need to be winning those sort of games and picking up a few more points on the road. Our home record is brilliant and playing on the 3G pitch seems to really suit us, but it is the away games that seem to do the most damage to us and we need to win more of those games,” concluded the Monaghan native.