It has been quite a few days for Derby County Under 21s forward Shaquille McDonald.
The weekend just gone saw the 20-year-old complete a childhood dream as he stepped off the substitutes bench to help FC Halifax Town to reach the FA Trophy Final and with it, a date with Wembley.
An indicator of how big the feat can be seen by the fact that it is the first time they will be the grandest stage in England in the club’s history after they defeated Nantwich Town over two legs in the semi-finals.
En route to the final, where the Shaymen will face Grimsby Town in May, McDonald netted on two occasions.
Reflecting on a ‘special’ and ‘emotional’ moment in his early football career, McDonald told dcfc.co.uk: “I can’t really explain the feeling.
“As a kid, playing at Wembley is something that I have always dreamed of from the times that I used to watch England on the TV, so to be able to go there and possibly play for Halifax in a cup final is unbelievable.
“The full time whistle was a special moment, my family were there and I genuinely feel like I have contributed with scoring in two of the previous rounds. I feel part of it.
“At the end of the game, we all celebrated together with the fans and it was great to share that moment with my mum, my niece and nephew. That was emotional.”
Whilst playing at Wembley is a huge factor, McDonald says his loan move at FC Halifax is proving to be fruitful.
To date, he has made five appearances in the Vanarama National League and been a regular feature in the side’s FA Trophy campaign this season.
Reserving praise for Derby County, McDonald insists the temporary switch is the best thing that could have happened.
He added: “I have been on loan at a few clubs before this and it has never really worked out as I wanted it to.
“I’m older now, I feel I have progressed as a player a lot at Derby County and they have given me another opportunity to go out and play first team football.
“I have scored a couple of goals, I have played games and now I am in the final of a cup competition.
“I owe a lot of thanks to Derby because this loan move is the best thing that could have happened. I’m really enjoying it.”
From the elation of securing a date at Wembley, McDonald has linked back up with Rory Delap and his Under 21s squad for their five-day warm weather training camp in Lisbon.
After flying out yesterday and completing his first training session this morning, McDonald is looking forward to testing himself against a Sporting Lisbon side tomorrow afternoon (3pm BST KO).
Speaking on the Lisbon trip, he added: “It's going to be a great experience to play against Sporting Lisbon tomorrow, but these trips are all about bonding and spending time together as a group.
“For myself, I have a very strong bond with the group and players that I have played with and have moved on since. The lads here are an unbelievable group; they are all great characters.
“Wednesday’s game will be a great experience for all of us, staff included.
“They are a very prestigious academy so as young players it is going to be a great test for us and one that we are not used to coming up against.”
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