Saturday saw the 32-year-old complete 90 minutes of a League Two game on what was his first start in the competition since September 2022, helping the Sulphurites to a 1-1 draw against Swindon.
Having joined on a free transfer from Rochdale that summer, Dooley began last term as a regular in Simon Weaver’s team, making eight appearances before his season was ended in mid-October.
Suffering with both a hernia issue and a severe inflammatory pelvic condition at the same time, the Northern Irishman did not feature in a competitive fixture for Town again until last month’s EFL Trophy defeat to Accrington Stanley.
He subsequently appeared in cup ties against Marine and Carlisle United, building up his fitness to a level where manager Simon Weaver felt he was ready to be thrown in at the deep end against the Robins at the weekend.
And although he admitted he was feeling fairly sore after playing two full matches in the space of five days, Dooley insists that he is just happy to be able to contribute again.
"It’s been a long time coming, so it feels great to play 90 minutes in a league game, and to pick up a point from being 1-0 down makes it even better,” the former Cork City man told the Harrogate Advertiser.
"Playing a couple of cup games and a couple of friendlies have helped, but it’s not quite the same, so being back at home in front of a big crowd for a league match was brilliant.
"I’m tired now, but you’re always going to be after being out for so long, and I felt okay during the game, so getting 90 minutes in was great.
“Hopefully I can keep progressing, but week on week, I’ve been getting fitter and stronger and I’m feeling like I’m back to my old self, which is really positive and I want to try and build from here."
Reflecting the extended period that he spent on the sidelines, often training alone and with no concrete return date in sight, Dooley added: "Injuries are the worst part of the job, by far. I think every professional footballer will tell you the same thing.
“It’s been tough and it has taken me a long time to get back, but I’m really happy that I am, and hopefully the injuries are behind me.
"I was struggling with my groin and with my foot as well, kind of a multitude of things, which can happen. When you get one injury it can lead to another and it was just kind of a spiral of things.
"It was definitely the worst period of injury of my career and unfortunately it came right at the start of my time at Harrogate Town and wrote off almost the whole of my first season.
"But I just have to focus on the positives, I’m back now and we’ll see how I do between now and January and then from January until the end of the season.”
Town had more than enough chances to have won Saturday’s clash with Swindon comfortably, but eventually had to settle for just a point after Jack Muldoon’s 66th-minute strike cancelled out Jake Young’s first-half opener.
Asked whether he and his team-mates deserved all three points, Dooley said: "I think that the performance was decent. We had a few chances, Sam [Folarin] went through, we had a few shots and I think we could have pinched it.
“We were maybe the better team, but they had a ‘goal’ ruled out at the end and maybe could have won it themselves, so possibly a draw is the right result.
“On another day we could have maybe scored two or three, but it just wasn’t meant to be, so we will take the point.
"It would have been really disappointing to have played as well as we did and not come away with anything. We played okay against Carlisle in midweek but got beat and we didn’t want another one of those situations.”