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Sean Welsh targets more Caley Thistle starts after making injury return

The Inverness midfielder played 89 minutes of the 2-0 Scottish Cup win against Cowdenbeath - and impressed his manager Duncan Ferguson.

Caley Thistle midfielder Sean Welsh.
Caley Thistle midfielder Sean Welsh is a target for Queen's Park. Image: SNS

Caley Thistle midfielder Sean Welsh is fully focused on getting fitter and sharper in a bid to play a big part in the Highland club’s season.

Welsh, who has a track record of battling back from injuries, started his first match for the team since July 18, aside from last month’s North of Scotland Cup defeat to Nairn County, which put him on the sidelines again.

The 33-year-old, whose captaincy has been passed on to Billy Mckay at least until he becomes a regular starter, played 89 minutes of Saturday’s 2-0 home Scottish Cup third round victory over Lowland League visitors Cowdenbeath. 

Manager Duncan Ferguson, who has yet to taste defeat with four wins and three draws since replacing Billy Dodds in September, made seven changes, including bringing Welsh in, from the side which drew 1-1 against Dunfermline in the Championship. 

It was a tough encounter against their well-drilled opponents from three tiers lower, but late goals from substitutes David Wotherspoon and Billy Mckay took ICT to victory.

Sean Welsh is pressing for a regular start – but admits he has to build up his match sharpness further. Image: Alan Harvey/SNS Group

Long start wait ‘frustrating’ – Welsh

The former Partick Thistle playmaker explained how being out of the picture when Ferguson got the Inverness job made his challenge doubly difficult.

He said: “My career has not been too kind to me in terms of injuries. I have always fought back and it takes mental strength.

“This one has been very frustrating, because it has been a lot longer than I anticipated.

“It’s never nice when a new manager comes in and you’re not fit.

“The gaffer came in and things happened right away and you’re not there for him to see.

“When you do come back, you’re not up to speed and you have missed months. He sees you at rusty spells.

“You have to build the momentum and catch back up. That’s where I’m at the at moment and hopefully I will get more opportunities to build momentum and get back into the swing of things.”

Midfielder welcomed cup game-time

It was a tough shift for Welsh, but he welcomed the chance to play as long as he did against the Blue Brazil.

He said: “I didn’t want to come off when I’m playing, but you could see I was getting tired.

“Sometimes, it’s better when someone takes that decision out of your hands.

“I was delighted to play as long as I did, because it’s important to get as much as you can in the tank when you get the opportunity.

“I wanted to get rid of some of the rust and build some momentum again.”

Sean Welsh made his return in October’s North of Scotland Cup semi-final defeat at Nairn County, but sustained a back injury, which put him out of action until last week’s game against Dunfermline. Image: Jasperimage

Three set-backs for ICT star Welsh

And Welsh explained the types of injuries he’s had to content with this season along, starting in the Viaplay Cup loss at Dumbarton in July.

He added: “I broke my nose against Dumbarton. Concussion protocol rules you out for 10 days.

“I came back from that, then the day before the Dundee (Viaplay Cup) tie, my groin goes.

“I played through a groin injury towards the end of last season, and I was hoping it would just disappear, but these things tend to catch up with you and that’s what happened.

“It has been a lot longer than I anticipated or wanted. It was frustrating.

“I then came back against Nairn County (in the North of Scotland Cup semi-final) and I got a dull one in the tail-bone. You can’t write that stuff. When your luck’s out, it’s out.

“That ruled me out for another month. The fitness levels I reached had gone again and you’re back in the gym.

“I do work hard, and I always will do that. You have to keep working and hope you’re finally going to get a break.

“I am back on the pitch now, but there is still a long way to go.”

Inverness manager Duncan Ferguson was impressed by Sean Welsh against Cowdenbeath, as the captain’s armband has passed on to Billy Mckay. Image: Craig Brown/SNS Group

Welsh is ‘great player, a soldier’

Ferguson, meanwhile, was happy to clarify why Welsh, for the time being, does not have the responsibility of being captain, and praised his complete professionalism.

He said: “Sean hasn’t been playing because he’s been injured for the last four or five months.

“Billy Mckay will be the captain right now, with Danny as his vice-captain, just because Sean hasn’t been playing.

“When Sean gets himself involved and back in the team for a little while, that will be reviewed.

“There are no problems, Sean is a great player and he was a soldier for me against Cowdenbeath. I was only going to play him for 60 minutes, but I ended up keeping him on for nearly the whole match.

“It shows what kind of condition he is in, because he has been off for a long time. He’s a great professional and that showed on Saturday.

“We do weights and body fat, and Sean is a total professional. To go through that game against Cowdenbeath after only playing one bounce game and having a few days of training in four or five months, I was really impressed.”

Raith Rovers test next for Inverness

Caley Thistle are gearing up now for Saturday’s home Championship clash against second-top Raith Rovers, having moved from bottom place to seventh under Ferguson.

They are four points behind fourth-placed Airdrie, with a game in hand over the Diamonds.