McDonald relishing Premier Division Campaign

McDonald relishing Premier Division Campaign

Waterford FC midfielder Rowan McDonald has more reasons than most to look forward the coming Premier Division campaign.

While some people talk about their Annus Horribilis, for McDonald it wasn't so much one bad year but almost three years that saw him question his future in professional football.

The 22 year old was touted as one of the great prospects at Manchester City, joining their academy at ten years of age before working his way through to become captain of their Under 18 Premier League winning side in 2019. The Oldham born player suffered a serious injury when he was 20 and subsequent setbacks saw him unable to play for two years. Such was his talent, City offered him a new one year deal despite the injury setbacks as he moved to their under 23 squad but when Pep Guardiola named him on the release list last summer, McDonald decided to move on.

He had trained with Derry City on their January 2023 preseason tour of Spain, playing in their defeat to Swift Hesperange in Alicante but no move materialised and he joined the Blues last summer.


He made his debut at Bray Wanderers and quickly announced himself in the centre of midfield. However, an injury in the next game kept him out for the next month.

"I came on at Bray , it was my first proper minutes really. Obviously picked up that injury and then it took me a few games to really get going. But then I thought going in to the playoffs I felt in a good place and I thought I did my bit for the team and it was good."

McDonald developed an exciting partnership with Fleetwood Town loanee Barry Baggley, who also missed six games through injury around the same time.

"Yeah, I enjoyed playing with Baggsy. We have that connection – he’s left footed and I’m right footed . I think we understand each other really well and I enjoy playing with him."


That partnership really blossomed through the playoffs, culminating in that promotion win in Tallaght against Cork City. And when Manager Keith Long touched base with him immediately afterwards, the decision to return to the Blues was an easy one!

" It was quite easy to be fair. I had a few things but the gaffer contacted me a few days after the season and it’s nice to know that you are wanted. I enjoyed last year so it was quite an easy decision really."

And the midfielder believes this is the season that can make a difference - to himself as well as the team.

"Yeah, I think it is.  Obviously going into the Premier Division, getting better games, better competition, hopefully I’ll get that run of games I need. Like you said, I’ve missed two or three years of football though injury so it’s exactly what I need.

There was[sic] times when I thought I was never going to get back and what’s the point. But the staff at [Manchester] City, the physios, kept me going and to come here and get the promotion was what I needed to, not get the love back for the game, but to get like – this is what you can do!

A run of games is what I need. Towards the end of last year I got a run of seven or right games and the season probably ended at the wrong time for me personally. But once I get that run of games again is what I need."

McDonald is also pleased with the signings that Long and Alan Reynolds have made and believes that Waterford FC can hold their own in the Premier Division.

"I think we’ve got a good platform to have a good go. The players that have come in - a few good signings, the lads that are here from last year so I’m really looking forward to it to be fair."

And he believes that Blues' fans will see a lot more from him this season.

"Yeah, I feel I am quite good on the ball, like quite intelligent, little fouls here and there, breaking the game up and stuff. That’s what the gaffer wants from me. To get on the ball with Baggsy in midfield I like to try and play some football."

Having missed some of pre-season with another niggle, McDonald isn't too worried and is pleased that the injury isn't as bad as first thought and is hoping to make the starting eleven for Friday's opener against Shelbourne.

"It’s not good to say but I’m kinda of used to it. I know what I want and my body missing so much football is different to other lads, so I need to manage myself better. The most important thing for me is playing games. Training is all good but match day is what it’s all about. I had a scan that’s come back quite positive so hopefully next week I should be fit, touch wood."

With Friday's game already close to being a sell out, McDonald is really up for it!

"Buzzing for it and can’t wait.  Like Friday with 4000 people is what you miss about playing football."

Waterford FC kick off their Premier Division campaign on Friday night at home to Shelbourne FC. Follow updates live on WLR