James Costello says he’s ready to make a “big, big impact” as he returns to Rathfriland Football Club, his boyhood side, to bring his footballing career full-circle.
Having turned down offers from Championship One clubs, Costello made the surprise choice of signing for the club where he began playing, completing a move from Loughgall last week, and is determined to make a big impact at Iveagh Park.
The powerful striker says he knew the time was right to rejoin the Amateur League outfit and now can’t wait to get back into the white Rathfriland shirt.
“I started out here - it’s been eight years since I played for Rathfriland - and I’ve now learned my trade at different clubs and progressed,” Costello said.
“I’m only 28, I’ve still got plenty left in my legs, and hopefully now that I’m back it’ll be time to help kick this club on.
“I’m a local lad, lived in Rathfriland all my life, all my friends are in Rathfriland, so to play for Rathfriland, it makes sense now.”
After leaving the club as a 20-year-old to move to Newry City, Costello went on to star for Carrick Rangers, setting club goal-scoring records that have yet to be broken. His efforts there earned him a move to the Irish Premiership with Glenavon, and a switch to Ballymena United followed, where a rich vein of form in front of goal earned him the Football Writers’ Player of the Month award in April 2012.
The following January he moved to Dungannon Swifts, before joining former Rathfriland manager Brian Adair at Loughgall at the beginning of 2014, scoring 13 goals in 13 competitive games during his time there.
Despite having reached the top level of the domestic game in Northern Ireland, Costello says there is nothing quite like coming back home, and insists he has his sights set firmly on driving Rathfriland forward both on and off the field.
“When you play for your home club it matters more - it matters more on the pitch, around the town and for your friends and family because the likelihood is they’ll come and watch,” he said.
“I’ve enjoyed my football since I’ve left Rathfriland, and I’ve been lucky enough to have played for some brilliant clubs and been involved with some brilliant managers and players.
“But it’s time now to come back and play for Rathfriland and I’m certainly ready to make a big, big impact.
“On the pitch I have got huge aspirations for what we want to do. It’s time we kicked on out of this league and had a decent cup run, and hopefully I can be part of that. And I want to encourage people to be more professional and help some of the younger lads along the way.”
Rathfriland manager John Kernaghan - who also added former Banbridge Town winger Stevie McArdle to his squad last week - was understandably delighted to have secured Costello’s services.
“It’s great to have a player of James’ stature at Rathfriland Football Club,” Kernaghan said. “I think he’ll not only perform very well on the field but he’ll raise the club’s level of professionalism, and he’ll also help me to attract other players.
“I think that’s a big one - if I can bring James Costello to Rathfriland there’s no reason why other players can’t follow.”
Costello won’t be making his debut for the Whites just yet though – that will have to wait until after he returns from honeymoon, having got married to his girlfriend of ten years Victoria on Saturday.