MARC Mukendi is the latest ex-Coleraine player to be on the series as he talks about his career…
The former Derry City and Finn Harps defender joined the club in 2009 and made his debut against Linfield in August of that year as the two sides played out an entertaining 2-2 draw at The Showgrounds.
Mukendi was quick to thank Oran Kearney for rejuvenating his career as he finished his spell at the club as a striker before departing for Australia.
In total, Mukendi made 59 appearances, scoring 9 goals in the process and he caught up with Jonathan McNabb for a quick chat.
Q1. Talk us through your youth career? You played under a strong Derry City Reserves team?
I started playing football at youth level at a very strong Don Boscos team as we were always winning leagues, reaching finals and performing strongly in the Northern Ireland Boys’ Cup.
Then Stephen Kenny asked me to join Derry City and I got introduced to the first team early on.
I was training regularly, participating in friendlies and they made me captain of the Reserves in my first game.
I felt really wanted by Stephen and Derry City.
Q2, You made the move from Derry City to Finn Harps – was it hard to cross the derby divide?
I first went to Finn Harps when I was on loan from Derry City.
I loved my experience at Harps but I always had my eye on making the grade at Derry City. I picked up a bad injury and had a massive set back which meant I had to miss half the season and when I tried to come back, it didn’t heal so I took a year out as it had completely upset me.
Paul Hegarty got in contact with my family and got me involved at Harps again when they were full time and I signed a two-year deal.
I loved Paul and his training everyday but it was a tough league and with the money problems at Harps it became very difficult there.
When Paul left my heart went out of it so I put in a transfer request after a season and half.
Q3. You joined the Bannsiders under Davy Platt – how did he sell the club to you? The 2009-10 season was like a rollercoaster with the League Cup defeat but winning 6-0 at The Oval?
The club had a good reputation.with people I knew and I was advised to make the move.
Derry City and Kenny wanted me back at the time but I had made my mind up and David was willing to pay the money to get me away from Harps, so it was perfect.
I loved the club immediately as the fans took a liking to me and the league suited my game.
We had a lot of good players, some amazing results and I’ll never forget that first season.
Q4. It’s fair to say Oran Kearney’s arrival helped rejuvenate your Coleraine career? How did you find your transition from defender to striker?
Oran was exactly what I needed as he was a good, honest person who knew how to push me and the club forward.
However, by the time he arrived, I already had told the club I was leaving as I wasn’t happy with how things were at the time. I was booked for Australia after my contract had ran out.
I always felt I was a striker as a youth player because I scored a lot of goals in age groups older than me. I was fast and had good feet but felt cause I was big I was always centre half.
I would always play up front in training and mess around and Oran seen that in me and went with it so I was happy and I done well when I got my chance.
That half season when Oran was in charge was my favourite in my short career and my life would be so different if he was there from the start.
I know this because he would have got me fit and scoring goals.
Q5. Was it hard to depart the club? You had a spell living in Australia…what was that like?
It was hard to leave for Australia as I was having such a good time again and enjoying my football, but my flights were booked.
Even though Coleraine offered to reimburse my flights and give me a new contract, the decision had been made so I just went for it.
I loved my life in Australia as I made the best of friends and memories that I’ll never forget. Shortly after I had my son so I wouldn’t change my decision ,although there’s a massive part of me knows there was more in me and I didn’t live up to my talents as I’m reminded all the time.
Q6. Are you still playing football? Do you keep an eye out for Coleraine results?
I don’t play football anymore and I didn’t play for years after I left Coleraine.
When I returned home, I thought I’d jump back into it but I was a mile off the pace, my body was sore and I was frustrated that I couldn’t still do the things i could’ve done in the past.
I always keep an eye on Coleraine as I love the club, the people and memories from there.
It was nice to see the Irish Cup victory, I was up at the parade and even got a run around on pitch after for David Ogilby’s testimonial.
I want to thank everyone at the club for everything they’ve done for me. They always made me feel loved there and I’d always advise a young player from Derry to go there as the fans are fantastic and I’ll always love them and the club.