Caolan McAleer is just glad to be playing regularly again – and the Omagh man has certainly been making the right noises so far at Finn Park.
McAleer was snapped up by Ollie Horgan in pre-season after impressing the Harps boss.
The 23-year-old winger returned from a frustrating spell in Scotland and following a trial at Derry City in January.
McAleer looked set to sign for Derry having lined out for the Candystripes in a friendly against Letterkenny Rovers, but Ollie Horgan already had him in his sights.
“I played against Harps in pre-season too and Ollie watched me against Letterkenny and he came to Omagh for a chat,” McAleer says.
“After I got talking properly to Ollie, I decided that it was Harps that I wanted to sign for.
“I’ve been enjoying my football here so far. It’s a good set-up at Harps and it really helps when I’m playing regularly – compared to when I was at my previous clubs.
“I knew a bit about Harps, but not too much. They appealed to me being in the Premier Division and they’re quite local to me; they’re about the same distance away as Dungannon really.”
McAleer has moved to Donegal and is living in Letterkenny with team-mates Danny Morrissey, Ethan Boyle, Kilian Cantwell and Ciaran O’Connor.
McAleer came through as an underage prospect at Irish League side Linfield before being snapped up by Partick Thistle.
Airdrieonians, East Fife and Greenock Morton are all listed as former employers and McAleer decided in the winter that he’d had enough and came home.
McAleer says: “It wasn’t that tough of a move because I had decided that I was coming home anyway and I wanted to play in the League of Ireland more so than the Irish League.
“It was tough in Scotland. You need a lot of mental strength when things aren’t going right for you at times.
“Teams across the water have a wide variety of players at a good level. If you don’t get in or don’t play well in a game, it could be weeks before you get a chance.
“It was still a great experience to get to play across the water, though, and it was a good learning experience for me.”
McAleer scored his first Harps goal on Friday in the 3-2 defeat by Shamrock Rovers and he has certainly endeared himself to the Finn Park faithful with his eye-catching displays so far this season.
“I remember just sprinting past Sean Houston who was driving forward with the ball,” he says of his goal, Harps’ first, against Rovers.
“He played me in and I just hit it with my left foot.”
Rovers had raced into a two-goal lead and the night looked like being an ordeal for Harps, but they hit back in the second half. McAleer’s goal was quickly followed by a Paddy McCourt goal from a free-kick.
Harps were in the ascendancy, but they were gunned down as Simon Madden netted a last-minute goal for Rovers.
“We were gutted,” McAleer says.
“We fought so hard to get it back to 2-2 and it looked liked we’d actually go on and get the winner.
“When they scored you could see how devastated we were, but that’s just football. We’ll take the positives from the game and just move on. We had plenty of positives so it’s not all down for us.”
It has been a big adjustment for McAleer, but he’s been pretty impressive so far.
He could have added to his goal tally on Monday night, but fired a late effort wide as Harps overcame Ulster Senior League champions Cockhill Celtic in the EA Sports Cup.
McAleer says: “So far, I think I’ve done okay. Getting the goal against Rovers will hopefully build my confidence so I can keep putting in good performances for the team.
“We’ve battled well and played some very good attacking football so far, but for us it’s just one game at a time. You can’t look any further ahead in this League because it’s so tough.
Harps have always had a close affinity with Tyrone – and McAleer wants to become the club’s latest star from the O’Neill County.
The likes of Jonathan Speak and Gregory Kearney have already earned their places in the folklore of Harps, who boast a big following in the county.
Since making his Harps debut on the season’s opening night against Cork City, McAleer has been impressive and Soccer Republic commentator Stephen Alkin labelled him one of the signings of the season on Monday night.
He says: “I’ve got in and I know what I want to do myself,” he says.
“We work hard in training – that’s what it’s all about. We’re all in this together.
“Every game is going to be tough. We know what we have to do. We just have to keep battling away.
“A lot of people in Omagh are watching out for the scores and are keeping an interest. A few of my friends and family have already been to games so it’s been good.”Tags: