It’s almost a year to the day since Tiernan Mulvenna, frustrated by lack of first team opportunities, left Dundalk FC by mutual consent.
On Friday evening he will line up against his hometown club in the Louth derby as he leads the line for a resurgent Drogheda United team who have been steadily climbing the table after a dreadful start to the season.
Mulvenna is quick to credit Drogheda manager Mick Cooke with his new club’s recent change of fortune.
He said: “In fairness to Mick, since the window has opened and he’s got the players he wanted in, I think our form has really turned around and we’re doing pretty well at the moment.
“We’re only four points off UCD, so we’re looking in front rather than looking behind us at the minute.”
As fate would have it Mulvenna made his Drogheda debut against Dundalk back in June. An experience he admits was quite strange for him.
“It was funny how it worked out as I only signed for Drogheda on the Thursday and we played Dundalk on the Friday.
“It all happened really quickly and it was pretty hard because Dundalk had been the only team I’d ever played for and obviously being a Dundalk lad as well, it was tough but I got a nice reception from the crowd and we actually won that night. I think that was the turning point for us and we started to believe in ourselves after beating a good Dundalk side.”
Mulvenna was just 17 when he was given a senior contract by then Dundalk manager John Gill in 2006 and was touted by many as the next big thing in League of Ireland soccer.
‘T’ as he was affectionately known by the Dundalk faithful announced his arrival to the first team with a deadly brace against Monaghan in a League Cup match in March 2008 and from that point, he became a regular for John Gill’s men as they finally returned to the Premier Division after a six year spell in the doldrums of the First Division.
However, the following two seasons would prove disappointing for him, with Sean Connor’s insistence on playing him on the wing and a serious knee injury in 2010 hampered the Muirhevnamor man’s progress at the club, something that still rankles with the striker.
“I feel that during my time at Dundalk, I never really got a full shot at striker”, he said.
“Maybe in my first year, but every manager that came in used me on the wing or behind the strikers. I just wasn’t given the opportunity that I am now at Drogheda up front under Mick Cooke.
“I was actually enjoying playing with Sean (Connor). I was getting my game and because it was my first year in the Premier Division I just wanted to show people I could do a job. We got into Europe that season as well for the first time in a long time. That was an enjoyable experience. I played a few games up front when strikers weren’t there and when my form picked up.
“I got a few games and a few goals and then unfortunately I was put back on the wing again which was disappointing. But I was young at the time as well and I just put my head down and tried to get on with it.” he added.
Having left Dundalk last August, Mulvenna was ready to start a new chapter in his career and prove to himself that he had what it takes to make it in League of Ireland football.
He signed for Shelbourne at the start of this year, took part in pre-season and was all set to go until he received news that there had been a problem with his registration.
“We went down for a game against Longford and I was told the registration didn’t go through and by that stage the window had already shut.” explained Mulvenna.
“That meant I would have had to wait six months to play and I wasn’t prepared to do that as I was itching to get back playing again. So I signed for Woodview Celtic in the Meath and District League instead.
“That was just to keep my match sharpness and fitness more than anything else. At the end of the day I’m a lover of football and that’s all I really wanted to do.
“Alan was keen to sign for me for Shels when the window opened again but when I heard of Drogheda’s interest the opportunity to play in the Premier Division was too hard to resist and Mick Cooke said he would give me the opportunity to play up front.” he added.
Mulvenna is happy with his form at the moment and feels settled at Drogheda under Mick Cooke. Despite his setbacks at Dundalk he has always believed in himself and never doubted his abilities as a striker.
“No, I don’t think I ever had doubts. I think other people, even certain people in Dundalk may have. Some fans might not think I’m good enough, but I’ve never doubted myself”, Mulvenna argued.
“I’ve always thought that I’m good enough to play with anybody in this division if given the chance. It’s all about getting that chance to show what you can do. Look at Eoin Doyle at Shamock Rovers. He wasn’t given a chance and then he moved to Sligo and he’s top scorer in the league. That’s what I need and thankfully Mick is giving me that chance at the minute.” he added.
“I think I’m a clever front man, I’d like to think I have a bit of everything. Pace, through balls and technique would be my main attributes I suppose. At the minute I know that I’m an awful lot better than I was a couple of years ago. My finishing has definitely improved.”
So will the ex-Dundalk striker be getting a hard time from his friends as he lines up for rivals Drogheda on Friday evening?
“No not really. I think they realised I had to do it to get back in the frame and to get back playing again. I’d always love to get back playing with Dundalk at some stage but at the minute I’m a Drogheda player and I just want to do the best I can for them and myself at the minute.”