Doncaster Rovers: Sean McDaid interview

After an injury-plagued couple of years, you wouldn't blame Sean McDaid if he came across as slightly downbeat, but the 24-year-old defender is quite the opposite.

A dislocated knee during a training match in May 2008 proved the beginning of a torrid time for the Leeds United academy graduate, but there's light at the end of the tunnel.

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Fit again and ready for action, McDaid is determined to force his way back into a Doncaster side that may yet claim an unlikely play-off spot.

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He has proven his worth before, earning player's player and young player of the year awards in his first season with the club before going on to play a key role in their League One promotion season.

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A brief cameo in the 4-1 home defeat to Middlesborough in January is all the first-team action that McDaid has seen this term, but the amiable Harrogate-born youngster is eager to step into the breach once more – he just wants to be given the chance.

"I've played in a few practice games, including one against Hull when Jimmy Bullard was playing as part of his recovery," he said.

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"I'm trying to get back into the side, but the team is doing really well at the moment so I've just got to get my head down and try and earn my place back.

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"There's no substitute for playing for the first team on a Saturday, I've been available since October and I've just had to be patient."

Even for a man whose every pore exudes positivity, the journey to recovery has been a torturous and unforgiving one.

Rovers boss Sean O'Driscoll showed remarkable faith in his talented

left-back, offering him a further one-year deal last summer despite the fact that the defender had not played for nearly a year.

McDaid admits it was a timely boost during a period of considerable uncertainty.

"It's been the worst time I've ever experienced," he confessed. "It was bad enough when I was injured and couldn't play, but now I can play but I've not been able to get in the team.

"I've been through a fair bit over the past two years, but you just need to take what you can from that and hopefully get stronger as a result.

"It's your family who help you through. When you're at the training ground you've got stuff to occupy you, but when you're at home and the lads are on an away trip that's hard.

"But your family are there to help you through the dark days and mine have done that.

"In addition, physio staff John Dickens and Ross Burbeary have seen me day in, day out and have been a huge help.

"To be offered a new deal showed me what a great club I'm at, during a time when so many clubs were making cutbacks.

"They offered me another year when I hadn't played for so long and I now want to repay that faith."

McDaid spent 10 years at Leeds before switching to Rovers and choose his words carefully when describing his departure from Elland Road when the club was under the guidance of Kevin Blackwell.

"I didn't have much to do with Blackwell, we'll put it that way," he said.

But McDaid's lasting impression of the club he joined as a nine-year-old is a good one and he has no regrets about leaving, despite admitting that at the time he would gladly have stayed.

He said: "I couldn't have asked for a better upbringing in football, even with all the changes that were going on at the club at the time.

"I had some great coaches there and that makes a big difference. If you get the right coaches and have good players around you it sets you up well and it certainly worked for me.

"In the end, Doncaster came in and I realised it was time to move on. looking back on the first season I had there it's the best thing that's happened to me.

"It shows you how strange football is, Doncaster go and beat Leeds in the play-off final and yet if Leeds had offered me a two-year contract I almost certainly would have taken it – it's Leeds United, they're a massive club, I supported them but I moved to Doncaster and we overtook them."

Rovers' rise has been masterminded by O'Driscoll and if you needed proof that he's a man who keeps his feet firmly on the ground, it came when he announced that his side would need 50 points to stay up – it's a target they've already passed.

McDaid is quick to praise his manager's approach and acknowledged that the frequent speculation linking him with a move away from the Keepmoat Stadium was testament to his high calibre.

"He's very thorough in what he does on the training ground and the results speak for themselves," said the defender. "He's won the Johnstone's Paint Trophy and a promotion – the club is progressing every year. He's done an unbelievable job, he hasn't got the biggest budget but you can't argue with his achievements.

"Of course you hear about these links to other jobs like the one at Burnley, but that's going to happen now – anyone who is doing well is going to get linked with a move.

"We're not the kind of team to come out and say 'we're going to finish in the play-offs', the league is so tight and you can go on a good run and easily follow it up with a bad one.

"What helps us is that we've got such a good group of players and we're all pushing in the right direction.

"We've got some big games coming up and with some good results then, yes, the play-offs aren't impossible."

And should McDaid get his wish and be given the chance to play his part, he insists that the injury will not affect him.

He said: "You can't let it prey on your mind, when you have an injury like that you can't be thinking about it.

"When you see the ball you've got to go for it, I haven't held back from anything, even in the first week of getting back.

"I wouldn't play if I wasn't 100 per cent and right now I just want to get back playing .

"I want to get my career back on track, I've had a lot of bad luck over the last 18 months and I'm determined to put that right."