Darragh Lenihan hopes to be in Owen Coyle’s starting XI for the opening game of the season – and he’s prepared to put in the hard yards in order to get there.
The Republic of Ireland Under-21 international was a regular starter during the second half of last season after breaking into the team at the turn of the year.
The 22-year-old is determined not to rest on last season’s success and insists he will work hard in pre-season to ensure that his name is on the team sheet when Norwich City come to town on Saturday August 6th.
“It’s going to be a big season for me,” said Lenihan. “I’m 22 now and I’ll be 23 at the end of it. I just need to push on and cement my place in the starting XI.
“That’s what I’ll be looking to do between now and the start of the season, and I’ll just keep working hard to try and achieve that.
“We can only take it one game at a time and I’m thinking about Norwich on August 6th. That’s the game we’ll look to kick-start our season and hopefully we can get the three points.”
The midfielder made his second appearance of pre-season against Morecambe at the weekend, featuring for the full hour as Rovers were held to a goalless draw by the tournament hosts.
Lenihan came as close as anyone to breaking the deadlock, blazing over the bar in the first half, before seeing a top corner-bound effort superbly saved at the start of the second, as Rovers peppered the Shrimps’ goal.
The Irishman insists that getting match minutes under their belts is more important than results at this stage and he hopes to step up his fitness levels further against Rochdale tomorrow night (kick-off 7.45pm).
“I’m feeling better,” he added. “I ended up playing nearly 90 minutes in Austria, which I found very tough. It was tough conditions, in terms of it being nearly 28 degrees, but now I’m gradually feeling a lot better.
“We’ve got another game on Tuesday and hopefully I can keep improving my fitness and that’s not just me, that’s for the whole team.
“That’s our main objective and then you get that match sharpness and fitness ready for the new season.”
After an uneventful first half at the Globe Arena, Lenihan insists that Rovers’ second-half performance was much improved.
“The gaffer just said that we needed to up the tempo, because the game was too slow and you could see we created more chances and had more shots at goal, the keeper pulled off a few good saves, so on another day any of those could have gone in and we could be talking now about a 1-0 or a 2-0 win, but it wasn’t to be.
“But, like I said, the main thing in pre-season is match fitness and the sharpness that we’ll look to keep improving in every game.”
It's pay on the day at Spotland, with tickets priced at £10 for adults and £5 for juniors (16 and under).