Dundee United defender Mark Connolly understands the irony of tonight’s Dundee derby potentially being his full return from injury.
He also knows football is a short career and plans to savour every bit of this evening’s clash at Dens, however much he is involved, as he aims to complete his road back from the hamstring tear which cut short his first derby.
Exiting the field with the score tied at 1-1 on 25 minutes was tough for the popular Irishman, even with his team-mates running out 6-2 winners on that night at Tannadice back in August (see video below).
After a longer-than-expected rehab, the centre-half made his first appearance since that night in last Saturday’s 3-0 win up at Inverness, coming on for the final five minutes.
Now, Connolly wants to follow that up with a win over city rivals Dundee to strengthen their position at the top of the Championship.
“My hamstring was a little bit sore before the game but I couldn’t miss being involved in the derby,” he said of the 6-2 game.
“Unfortunately, the injury occurred there so it’s funny now the next full game back could maybe be the derby. Whatever it is, I’ll be ready in whatever aspect.
“It was a tight game. I think going forward we took our chances and, obviously, defensively I think we did quite well.
“It was probably tighter than 6-2 but I think that last result to us is irrelevant.
“We need to make sure we’re focused tonight and are ready for whatever happens.
“They’re going to be up for it, losing the first derby, so we’ve just got to be prepared for that and I know the boys are raring to go and looking forward to the challenge.”
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Connolly played 45 minutes in a 1-0 reserve win on Tuesday as he stepped up his recovery with a view to being involved in a fixture he fully appreciates being a part of.
The 27-year-old understands the hype around the derby, the tradition and considers it one of the most intriguing in Europe.
From the proximity of the grounds, the walk up or down the street before the match and the passion of the fans, Connolly can’t wait to play his part.
He added: “I think tonight will be a brilliant game, not just for us, but for the whole of Scotland and Scottish football.
“Seeing two teams like us in the Championship, I think it will be great for Scottish football to show what we have in a huge derby up here.
“I think you’ve got to take it all, especially when you get older, because football is a short career and you’ve got to enjoy it.
“You’ve also got to have those little bit of nerves that everyone does and use them in the right way and not let the whole occasion overcome you.
“I think, me personally, I’ll be excited and looking forward to the game. Walking up to the ground and being involved in the atmosphere I just think I’ll look back in years to come and say you were involved in that game.
“I think that’s the biggest thing, it’s one of the closest in Europe if not the world. It adds a little more tension to it but we’re excited and you’ve got to enjoy these games and enjoy them while they’re here.
“Hopefully, this is a successful year where we can look back and think ‘I was involved in that’ so it’s exciting.”
Like United, Dundee have won their last three in the Championship but Connolly insists they are only focused on themselves.
“We’re focused on ourselves and what we can do because I feel, as a team, when we’re on our game we can beat anyone.
“They’ve done well like us recently and it’s going to be a very good game.”