David McMillan knows all about taking opportunities when they come.
Back at the start of July 2016 he was due to be on the bench when Dundalk travelled to the Brandywell to face Derry City but the fact Ciaran Kilduff wasn’t feeling well saw him thrown in rom the start.
He would go on to score the first league hat-trick of his career in a 5-0 win before following it up with another in a 4-3 win over Longford Town at Oriel Park four days later. He would then carry that form into Europe with three goals over the two legs against FH Hafnarfjordur in the Champions League qualifiers before a superb brace in the memorable 3-0 win over BATE Borisov in Tallaght.
It’s easy to wonder would history have been a little different had Kilduff not felt sick that day.
Fast forward a little over four years on and McMillan is back at Oriel Park. Opportunities have been scarce since his return last month but an injury to Patrick Hoban in the warm-up at St Colman’s Park on Sunday meant he was thrown in from the start and would certainly have impressed new interim head coach Filippo Giovagnoli with a superb display that included playing a big part in the opening goal for Dane Massey and sealing the game from the penalty spot with 12 minutes to go.
McMillan admits it has been a bit of a surreal period since his return from Scotland having now played under three different sets of managers but he is hopeful he did enough against Cobh to keep him in the new manager’s thoughts for their next outing against Shelbourne on Friday week.
“It has been a weird spell I suppose and then even the situation today was unexpected,” said McMillan afterwards.
“Pat was meant to play but he had a niggle yesterday. He hurt himself in training a little bit but we thought he was going to be okay. We had done a little test on it and it seemed to be fine but then obviously in the warm up he had to pull out. It was weird because I had in my head that I was going to be on the bench and then to get the start was just a nice surprise.
“It was a tough game to come in on such a bobbly pitch but I thought we managed the game well and it’s always nice to get a goal.
“I think it was a game that sort of suited my style. It wasn’t going to be always pretty. I think we did our best to play as much as we could but at times you just had to take no chances.
“For the first goal I just harried well and chased into the corner and broke well and it was a good goal for us. It was nice then to get a penalty and get off the mark as well.”
The 31-year-old admitted on his return to the club that he would have to play second fiddle to Hoban but with a new manager in with no preconceived ideas on anyone, it is an opportunity for the likes of him to stake a real claim for a starting place.
“Vinny had been in and I was trying to push as much as I can to show Vinny that maybe I should start and then he has obviously left. Then Rennie and Giller took a game and you’re hoping they might see something to give you a chance. Now we’re on our third sort of pairing and you’re hoping the guys will see what you’ve got so it’s difficult,” he said.
“You’ve got to try and keep impressing new people. Hopefully today it was a slice of luck for me that Pat missed a game. Obviously we hope it is nothing too serious but to be able to show the managers what I can do is a bonus because if Pat had played he probably would have only seen me play for 10 or 20 minutes. It’s more difficult to show what you can do in that period so it was nice to be able to show that between the two of us there are good options there.
“For me personally it was just good to get off the mark after coming back.
“I’ve had a couple of games off the bench but when you get a start you feel like you should be scoring. We’re playing First Division opposition so I wanted to try and get on the scoresheet if I could. I was glad I could do that and hopefully now that is that monkey off the back and hopefully I can get a few more.”
The striker said his return to the club has not been how he imagined but he was confident Dundalk could turn things around under Giovagnoli.
“I’ve come in and we haven’t won a league game so I take that personally. I think it’s a mark against me and every other player and I think they feel it.
“I’m not happy because Vinny signed me and he took a leap of faith to bring me back to the club and now he has gone. That’s disappointing for me personally because he was a big part in making sure I could come back but we’ve just got to keep working hard.
“The two guys have come in and they’ve brought a bit of energy about the place so we’ve got to match that as players. The results haven’t been good enough but hopefully we can turn it around from this performance on.
“We’re not giving up on anything. For us personally there’s a lot of pride at stake to keep going in the league and push up as high as we can. Firstly we’ve got to chase down Bohs and then obviously Shamrock Rovers.
“All we can do is win as many games as we can between now and the end of the season. We want to be going into the Europa League and the Cup when it comes around again in good form. We can’t just turn it on and off. We’ve got to be playing well and we want to be doing well in Europe if we can,” he said.