Since he spent the last two years kicking and heading every ball from the terraces, Packie Mailey was delighted to re-sign for Finn Harps.
Twenty-five-year-old Mailey didn’t have to mull too long after receiving a phonecall just before Christmas from new Harps manager Ollie Horgan, who was putting the pieces of the jigsaw together.
“When Ollie rang me I had no hesitation in coming back,” Mailey says.
The Convoy native was club captain last time he lined out at Finn Park back in 2011.
When that season wound down and the gates were locked up for winter, Mailey mulled over an offer from Derry City.
“When I left, there were certain reasons why I left,” Mailey says of his decision at the time. “I took a break then in the end-up.”
Mailey was training with Derry but when a move never materialised, Harps’ director of football Felix Healy closed the door in Ballybofey as well.
Many felt at the time that Harps had lost more than a talented centre-half - a young man who had come from a professional background at Hibernian in Edinburgh, where he never ultimately made the breakthrough but gained experience and a dozen first-team appearances on loan at Third Division Stenhousemuir.
Harps had also cut off someone who continues to carry the club close to his heart and a person who carries himself commendably both on and off the pitch. It was to prove the club’s loss.
Twelve months passed and Mailey’s situation didn’t change but Healy’s did.
He stepped aside in May 2012 and Peter Hutton, who had been manager in any case, took complete control of first team matters.
As Hutton was preparing an assault for his first season in total control this time last year, Mailey’s name interested him. He made contact.
Mailey, though, as a keen Gaelic footballer with his local St Mary’s, was also in Jim McGuinness’s line of sight. And the call was too good to turn down. In an experimental Dr McKenna Cup panel, Mailey played his heart out to gain a stay of execution into the Allianz League.
“I stayed fit and played a bit of Gaelic,” he adds. “I was happy there and ended up training with Donegal and playing McKenna Cup last year.
“It was good training and a good set-up. I was omitted from the panel before the League started.
“Peter Hutton was the manager of Harps then and he asked me back but at the time I felt it wasn’t the right move for me so I opted to take a break.
“I had no problem with Peter - he’s a good professional and a good manager. I’d decided to take time out of the game and, for different reasons.”
Last year, Mailey was part of Drumkeen United’s team as they embarked on their most successful campaign to date in the Ulster Senior League.
He spent his Friday evenings at Finn Park.
“It was hard to watch on sometimes,” he says of being an overly-active supporter. “It was different going up as a supporter and standing there watching in, kicking and heading every ball from the stands or terraces.Now, it’s good to be back. I supported Harps from a young age and was always going up to Finn Park.”
One senses that Mailey will be going up to Finn Park for quite some time yet. He’s already made 82 first-team appearances and is understandably stirred when he thinks ahead to Waterford United’s visit on March 7 - opening night in the Airtricity League.
“There’s nothing better than running out at Finn Park,” Mailey says. “And when there’s a good crowd there they can create a great atmosphere - you could see that in the first couple of home games last year and the team really responded. We’d love to get that going this year.”