David McDaid insists he would love to finish his career at Larne after capturing the Bluefin Sport Championship title with the Inver Reds on Saturday.
The 28-year-old ex-Cliftonville striker has one year remaining on his current deal, which he signed on November 2017 after joining from League of Ireland club, Waterford but plans to sit down for contract talks with manager Tiernan Lynch when the current season ends.
The Creggan man has relocated to Larne with his young family and, after clinching the league title with a 3-0 victory over Ballinamallard United at the weekend, he’s relishing the prospect of returning to the Danske Bank Premiership next season.
McDaid is enjoying his football more than ever and hopes his journey continues as he looks to help the club make their mark in the top flight.
“I’m 28 now and I think I’ve been at enough clubs in my career,” he said. “I’ve already spoken to the manager and this is the happiest I’ve been playing football in a long time.
“I’d be happy to end my career here, definitely. We’ve started a journey here and we want to keep that going.
“I’ve moved my family up here so we’re up here nine months or so. They love it, which is half the battle.
“My wee boy is at school and the manager is young and understands people with young families and the owner, Kenny Bruce, is fantastic.
“They do everything for you and make you feel like you’re wanted. So why wouldn’t you want to stay? It’s all good times.”
The former Derry City hitman has been in prolific form despite a delayed start to the season due to injury, netting 22 goals so far - the league’s joint top scorer alongside his good friend and strike partner Martin Donnelly.
With five games to go they’ve both got the league’s Golden Boot locked firmly in their sights - but with 19 goals in his last 13 games, including a hat-trick in the heartbreaking Irish Cup quarter-final loss to Coleraine, the momentum is certainly with the in-form McDaid, who would love to pip his team-mate to the accolade.
“I’ve 22 goals in 19 games or something like that so it hasn’t been a bad year I suppose,” he said. “You’re always hoping to get the Golden Boot. Myself and Martin laugh and joke about it now. I came off on Saturday and was saying: ‘I hope he doesn’t score’.
“I would love to win it but, in my eyes, he’s been the best player in the league this year. Maybe he hasn’t scored as many goals as I have recently but he basically carried the team with his important goals throughout the year. So if he won it, I’d still be happy.”
McDaid played a key role in Larne’s opening goal against the Mallards as he dummied the ball into the path of Donnelly, who calmly slotted home from 10 yards in the first half. And McDaid got on the scoresheet himself shortly afterwards and could’ve added his 23rd of the season but was denied after a one-on-one.
Nevertheless, the 3-0 win was enough to see Larne clinch their first league title in 47 years and make a first return to the Premiership since 2008 as the celebrations finally got underway at Inver Park.
Having won the SSE Airtricity League First Division title with Derry City (2010) and Waterford (2017), it was a familiar feeling for the Creggan native.
“It was over really before the game on Saturday but it’s always good to get it mathematically done and we got it done early with five games left to go so it’s good,” he said.
Having missed 10 games this season due to injury he’s made up for lost time. Indeed, he’s finished the campaign impressively and he wants to carry that form into next season.
“It’s been an up-and-down season for me because I was injured at the end of last year and came back in pre-season and tore my groin again,” he said. “So I was out for two months at the start of the year and trying to get fit when I came into the team, it was hard. So I was always playing catch-up but I started playing better towards the end of the year.
“I was working hard but it just wasn’t falling for me. I got a couple of goals and then every time the ball hit me it went in. I suppose that’s the story for strikers.
“I got Player of the Month in January and it’s always good to get recognised but this year it’s been all about the team. We needed to get promoted and we did that comfortably. Obviously, the cup game against Coleraine was hard to swallow but we’ll come back next year and hopefully be stronger.
“For me personally it was hard to take but we win as a team and lose as a team and maybe we were a bit naive but we’ll learn from it.”
While McDaid - and no doubt manager Lynch - will be playing down talk of challenging for a title next season, the Larne striker knows there will be lots of teams out to knock them off their perch as they look at the ambitious Reds with envy.
“Realistically our target isn’t to challenge or win the league,” he said. “In the long-term maybe but we need to walk before we can run and next year is all about staying in the league. But I’m sure there’s a lot of people who won’t want to see us do well.
“There’s a lot of experience but a lot of boys who haven’t played in the Premiership.
“Every game will be a tough game.”