ROCKMOUNT’S Kevin O’Connell hopes to make history tonight and help his side capture the Munster Senior Cup title for the first time.
It’s a title I’m sure manager Billy Cronin would only be too thrilled to add to his collection, and O’Connell and his team-mateswill do everything to make that happen when they face Cork City in Turner’s Cross tonight, 7.30pm.
A 1-0 victory over Carrigaline in the semi-final saw Rockmount advance to the final, which O’Connell admits will be a tough test, but one which the entire squad are looking forward to.
“Reaching the final is great for the club, but it’s no good if we don’t go onto win it,” said the 24-year-old striker.
“We know we all have to raise our game and give it absolutely everything against Cork City and we are all ready for that challenge.
“These are the games you want to be part of. These are the games that make the difficult pre-season all the more worthwhile.
“The semi-final against Carrigaline was so tough, but we expected nothing less.
“They battled hard and they have a good team, but luckily we came out on top and we are delighted to be playing in tonight’s cup final.”
City had a 3-2 win over Midleton in their semi-final. A game that started at a blistering pace with City leading 2-0 in the early stages. However, an experienced and physical Midleton side battled hard and made it difficult for City at times.
The on-watching Billy Cronin must have had mixed feelings after this game and I would imagine he is confident that if his side perform tonight, they are in with a great chance.
O’Connell began his schoolboys soccer with Rockmount and played up the age of U16s before he made the move to Mayfield where he began his senior career.
He gained a lot of experience as a young teenager playing at senior level with the club, but when the opportunity arose to return to his boyhood club in 2017, he jumped at it.
“I played with Rockmount up until the age of 16. I then moved to Mayfield and this is where I began playing senior.
“It was great to be playing every week aged 17 at senior level and it made me grow as a footballer and I’ll always thank them for that.
“I then moved back to Rockmount in 2017. Billy Cronin was essentially the reason I moved back, his ideas and enthusiasm for the game are brilliant and it pushes every player to give everything during the game.
“I have loved every minute with Rockmount, there is a real winning mentality within the club.
“Playing in tonight’s final is a huge occasion for everyone involved and probably just reward for all the hard work that has been put in.
“We were massively disappointed to have last season cut short. We were top of the league and in two cup finals and playing some excellent football so we feel hard done by, but that’s behind us now and we will concentrate on tonight and also look to do the same this season.
“The past few weeks, the level of training has really being brought to a high level. Ethan McCarthy has come into the coaching staff and he has been brilliant in training.
“He has added something new and hopefully it will show on the pitch tonight and throughout the season.”
The hospital porter from Parklands is a massive player for Cronin. A gifted striker who is a key target man who likes to create a lot also.
At 24 years of age, and although not one of the most elder of the team, his experience and knowledge of the game is invaluable to the team. He has been a trialist in England and has represented his country at the Regions Cup, all experiences he believes have helped him become the player he is.
“I’ve definitely gained a lot of experience from various periods in my career.
“The highlight so far has been playing in the Uefa Region’s Cup in Istanbul in 2017. It was an unbelievable experience and only for a top-class Croatian team in the final we would have won it.
“That team was stacked with some incredible players. I’m lucky enough to still play with two of them, Ken Hoey and Brendan O’Connell.
“Unfortunately we didn’t quality for last year’s Region’s Cup after a disappointing trip in Romania, but the hunger is there to go again next time.
“Also, in 2018 I went on trial at Yeovil Town, again it was great for my development and showed me what it takes to be a top footballer.
“Unfortunately the timing of it was bad and luck was against me as it is for 90% of footballers, but you just have to keep moving forward.
“I love playing in the Munster Senior League, I love the people that go and watch the games and the different identities teams have.
“And once again, for the coming season, our hopes will be to challenge again for the league and every cup on offer.
“But for now our focus is on tonight. We expect a really tough game, but we are just concentrating on ourselves. City will be favouritesbut we are confident in our own abilities.
“Our club has never won this trophy so every player and the management know the importance of taking this opportunity.
“We have done everything we can to prepare as best we could for tonight’s game, so let’s hope we can be put in a top performance.”