HAVING been one of the shining lights in a poor campaign for Cork City last season, Conor McCarthy felt that now was the right time for him to make that next step in his career.
McCarthy also had options to stay in the League of Ireland with both St Patrick’s Athletic and Derry City keen to capture the player but the Blarney native felt that moving to St Mirren was the right decision.
McCarthy admitted: “I know there was interest from other League of Ireland clubs but I was never close to joining any other team in the league.
"I’m from Cork City, I’m a proud Corkonian and I think it would have been a very tough for me to go and play at Turner's Cross for any other team other than City.
“I think now was the right time for me to move to the United Kingdom. Last season was my first real season playing week in week out and I think it helped me improve as a player playing every week.
"It’s a good feel getting my move to St. Mirren. I think it’s a nice progression for me. Having played the last few seasons in the league of Ireland, I think I’m ready to take the step up and I can’t wait to get going now.”
McCarthy agrees that last season was a disappointment with City but the defender still looks back on the campaign and takes some positives.
Captaining his home town club was a real honour for McCarthy and he also felt that the season helped him improve as a player and will help him in his future career.
McCarthy said: “I loved playing for Cork, representing the club, my family and friends. It was brilliant to captain the club at such a young age.
"Having joined the club at 16, never could I have dreamt of one day captaining the club but it’s definitely sometime I can tell the grandkids in years to come.
“Last season didn’t go as planned but I think the contributed to my maturity.
"We were used to winning almost every week, especially the year of the double and even the season after we won a lot of games.
"I think dealing with defeats so much last year, it really helped bring out my leadership qualities on the team.
"I spoke up in times of need and that really helped me mature as a player -that I was able to stand up in the difficult situations."
The former City player feels that the coaching he receiving since joining City has helped him not only improve as a player but also made him stronger as a person.
It can be daunting for any player walking into a new dressing room, never mind going to a new country and a new league but McCarthy feels that his experience at City will help him settle into St. Mirren quickly.
The 21-year-old admitted: “My under-19’s managers, Stuart Aston and Paul Bouldran really brought me on.
"They showed me the pathway that could be achieved through Cork City. They were branded as old school managers which is no harm because a lot of people said that I was soft and they toughened me up.
“I will be forever grateful to John Caulfield for giving me my debut and showing faith in me.
"He obviously saw something in me as a player. When Cotts (John Cotter) took over he had his own ideas and instilled a more fluent playing style which helped me develop my game even more.
“With regards to Neal Fenn, I only got to work with him for a brief time so I got very little from his reign in charge of the club.
“I know it can be nervous for players walking into a new dressing but I’m more excited.
"I think what I’ve learnt from City will help me in the future. I’ve come on leaps and bounds from that soft player that joined City and I’m a much more confident player now.
"I’m looking forward to my new challenge.”
McCarthy won’t be the first Corkman to play for St. Mirren this season with the former City skipper’s ex-teammate Sean McLoughlin having spent the first half of the season on-loan with Jim Goodwin’s side.
McCarthy admitted that he has constantly communicated with his former centre-back partner since McLaughlin left City last summer and the Hull City player had a big influence in McCarthy’s decision.
McCarthy added: “I’ve spoken to Sean regularly since he left City and when I knew of interest from St. Mirren, Sean spoke very highly of the club and the league.
"Obviously, Sean and I had a great partnership with City and it would have been nice to link up again at St. Mirren but Sean has been re-called by Hull and it’s just a pity we won’t be playing alongside one another again.
"Sean loved is time in Scotland and convinced me that it would be a great move for me.”
The defender will be available to play for his new club in their Scottish Cup fourth round against Broxburn Athletic before then hopefully making his league debut away to Glasgow Rangers – a fixture that really excites the youngster.
McCarthy said: “When I was looking up the fixture list, the Rangers game jumped off the page.
"The opportunity to play in front of 40000-50000 supporters will be an unbelievable experience. Obviously, I’ve played at the Aviva Stadium in the FAI Cup final but to play against a team of that calibre will be fantastic."
McCarthy is currently in the final year of studying an Economics degree in University of Cork College and it was important that he find a way to finish is degree.
St. Mirren’s accommodating attitude to the defender finishing his degree was also a big reason for McCarthy joining the club.
The 21-year-old added: “It was obviously a big question that both me and my parents had to think about.
"It would have been very foolish of me to give up on my degree and flush it down the toilet.
"Thankfully, St. Mirren have been very understanding and have agreed to help me in anyway they can.
"They have organised with Glasgow University that I can use their facilities to study and complete assignments and are also are allowing me to fly home for my exams.”