Top-flight experience across an Irish League career with clubs such as Coleraine, Glentoran, Dungannon Swifts and Ballymena United has left Darren Henderson in the ton-up strikers’ club with over 100 goals.
The Bushmills man started his career with the Bannsiders after being given his debut by Marty Quinn in 2005, before going on to impress on the right-hand side of midfield.
“Marty gave me my debut at 18 against Ballymena and I came on as a substitute for Bryce Moon,” Henderson said.
“We lost the game 2-0, but it was a great feeling making my debut for the club I supported as a boy.
“Marty always told me that he seen me as a striker in the future. The financial difficulties were hard for the club at the time, but it definitely helped me and a few other players make the breakthrough to the first team.”
Henderson’s form alerted the attentions of other clubs both North and South of the border, but the attacker penned a deal with Glentoran in January 2008.
“I started the season well with Coleraine and Alan McDonald must have seen something in me at the time,” Henderson added.
“Marty came to me one night at training around December and told me that the club had received a letter from Glentoran.
“I was shocked and after speaking to Alan, I couldn’t see myself turning down the move. Coleraine did everything they could to keep me, but I just thought it was the right move for my career.”
The 31-year-old would only spend a year at The Oval after a frustrating spell in East Belfast, before returning to the Bannsiders under Davy Platt and forming a deadly partnership with Rory Patterson.
“I scored a few important goals for Glentoran, but we had such a great squad that it was going to be hard for the manager to keep everyone happy,” Henderson continued.
“At the time, I felt I didn’t get a fair chance at the club, but I still enjoyed my time under Alan.
“I knew Davy Platt wanted me back at Coleraine and there was no way I was turning it down as he was a big help in my career.
“The partnership with Rory during 2009-10 was brilliant as we just seemed to click. A lot of people say that Rory made me that year, but I disagree as we had a lot of attacking talent on the pitch.”
Henderson would repeat the cycle of moves as he joined Glentoran under Scott Young in 2011, but returned to Coleraine a year later under Oran Kearney.
“I left for Glentoran in 2011 as I felt I had unfinished business at the club,” Henderson revealed.
“I had a good relationship with Scott Young, so the move seemed like a no-brainer.
“Unfortunately, Scott left and Eddie Patterson arrived but I didn’t enjoy it under his management and I wanted out.
“Thankfully, Oran showed interest and I started well at the club considering I didn’t have much pre-season training at Glentoran. To be honest, I don’t know why I found myself out of favour under Oran after Christmas time.
“We played a lot of games with Curtis Allen upfront on his own and he was first choice, so I didn’t play as much as I’d have liked.”
Henderson was placed on the transfer list with the Bannsiders, but agreed a loan switch with Dungannon Swifts in August 2013 and hit 12 goals by Christmas.
“I knew that if I played games that I’d score goals,” the striker said.
“My problem was that I didn’t have a manager who believed in me the same way Davy Platt did, so it was great to get that management under Darren Murphy.
“I enjoyed every minute at Dungannon and it’s a club I have a lot of respect for.”
Despite enjoying three spells with Coleraine, Henderson completed a move to derby rivals Ballymena United in January 2014 and finally won a major honour in Irish League football.
“Winning the League Cup final last season was really good and it was nice to be involved in winning a major trophy for the club as it had been a long time since they achieved that,” Henderson added.
“My spell at Ballymena was my most enjoyable in football as I loved every minute of it.”