Tying up his Caley Thistle future early will allow Aaron Doran to go full steam ahead for his first pre-season in three years.
Injury has blighted the last three years for Doran and he feels he has constantly been playing catch-up, in a bid to make an impact before the season finishes.
Doran has had operations on both knees to try remedy long-standing problems and came back in the second half of last season, scoring five times in 22 games as Inverness fell just short of the play-offs.
His contract was due to expire in the summer but he penned a two-year extension, taking him to the summer of 2020, and it will allow him to relax over the summer before hitting the ground running in pre-season.
Doran said: “I spoke to the manager for a couple of weeks and I wasn’t wanting to leave. I didn’t want it to drag on over the summer, so I wanted to get it sorted before I went on holiday. The last two summers I’ve been injured, I’ve been physio and I haven’t had chance to get away with my girlfriend and my child. I’ve not been able to relax.
“I haven’t really stopped since the end of the season. I’ve been in the gym and out on the bike. When I go on holiday I can relax, knowing I’m going to be here next season. I haven’t had a pre-season in two years and have been playing catch-up. I played my first game in January this season. I’ll be on par with the other players and hopefully I’ll be able to show what I can do this season.
“It takes a lot of games to get match-fit. I was in and out but I felt I did well in the games I played, scored a few goals. I look forward to being 100 per cent match fit and hopefully show what I can do. If we can carry the momentum from the end of last season, we’ll be in the mix. It’ll be a strong league, with Ross County and Partick coming down, but we can only focus on ourselves and I’m sure we’ll be up there.”
Getting the Highland derby back is an added incentive for Doran, who has five goals in 14 games against Caley Thistle’s neighbours. The former Blackburn Rovers midfielder has fond memories of facing the Staggies and hopes the two sides will be fighting it out for the Championship title next season.
Doran said: “Hopefully I can get a few more goals in the derby games. I don’t really know why – when Ross County came up last time, the first one was on the Friday night. I scored in the last minute to make it 3-1 and got a few more goals after that. There’s a good atmosphere in those games – their stadium was sold out under the lights and it was a great night.
“I like playing at their ground and I like them coming over to play us. I think this season will push both of us on. It’ll be competitive and it can only help if they’re closer to us (in the league). We can spur each other on and hopefully we come out on top.
“Hopefully we can bring Highland football back into the spotlight and push to get back in the top flight again, because that’s the aim for both clubs. They’re a big club and unfortunately they came down, but we’re looking forward to the games.”