After a season away from Finn Park to complete his business degree, Mark Forker is back at Finn Harps and looking forward to the new Airticity First Division season which kicks off this weekend.
Forker, who is 24, was part of the set-up at Finn Park in 2011, but the demands of his business course in NUI Maynooth prompted the Burtonport man to pack his kit bag and take a year away from senior soccer.
He also had a desire to give his other sporting love Gaelic Football one more go and play a full season with Dungloe in Division One of the Donegal All- County Football League.
“I was in the final year of my course in Maynooth and with all the travelling in the league, I just decided that I was not able to juggle everything,” he said. “I had played a few games of Gaelic the year before for Dungloe, so I wanted to give that a go too.”
Mark had spent the previous three years with Finn Harps after signing from Institute in the Irish League. Prior to that, he spent three years in Scotland on the books of Hearts.
Last year, as well as playing with Dungloe, he lined out for Letterkenny Rovers in the Ulster Senior League.
“The Gaelic did not go all that well,” he reflects. “We beat Glenswilly in the championship but we had a poor league campaign and were relegated which was very disappointing.
“Overall the Gaelic was not a good experience and to be honest, it left something of a sour taste. We had played something like 12 of our league games by the end of May and then sat around for the rest of the summer waiting to play the championship.
“I found it very frustrating training away every week and having no games and not knowing when we were going to have a game. I enjoyed Donegal’s success last year and I’m a big Donegal fan, but I felt club footballers in the county were poorly treated last year.”
Mark enjoyed a better season with Letterkenny Rovers and ended up with a Donegal News League Cup winner’s medal in his trophy cabinet.
“The Ulster Senior League did not go all that well for us. Derry City Reserves more or less ran away with it. But we had a very good League Cup and ended up winning it. Overall I really enjoyed my season with Letterkenny,” he said.
“They are a good club and have a lot of good people involved. But I was only going to be with them for the one season. It was always my intention once I finished college and had my degree, to go back to Finn Harps and play senior football again.”
Mark is now back by the banks of the Finn and hopes to make it back into the senior team again and to become a regular on manager Peter Hutton’s weekly team sheet.
“I’m really delighted to be back at Harps. I have had a good pre-season and I have really worked on my fitness. I’m in good shape and now the plan is to make it into the senior team.
“I have played a couple of games in the pre-season and I feel they have gone reasonably well for me. It’s a matter of building up my match fitness now and biding my time.
“I’m in the squad going to Waterford, but I don’t expect to be in the starting 11. Peter has assembled a very good squad of players and the competition for places is pretty fierce, which is good.
“We’ve had a very good pre-season. We’ve played something like ten friendly games and the only game we lost was to Derry City at home.
“We beat Dundalk and drew with Sligo Rovers and we had a good win last Sunday away to the Mayo League in the EA Sports Cup.
“There is a very positive attitude at the club and in the squad and we are really looking forward to the start of the new season. We’re aiming to be in the top three and hoping to be in the push for promotion at the end of the season.
“Waterford and Longford are two of our first three games and they are the two big teams.
“They are two big games and we will be hoping to take something out of both games because the important thing about the First Division is that you get off to a good start, otherwise you could find yourself left behind and chasing the leaders.”
Harps make the journey south to Waterford this evening ahead of tomorrow night’s game and Forker is expecting a stern test.
“Waterford is a difficult opener as they are seen as one of the favourites. But we have a good record against them in recent years and we will be hoping to take something from the game.”
He may not be on the team for now but Mark Forker, after his year out, is glad to be back at Finn Park, and also in the travelling party and on the bus to Waterford.
And if he is called upon by Peter Hutton, Forker is ready to answer the call as he embarks on his second stint at Finn Park.