THOUGH he’s only 24, Dylan McGlade is one of the more experienced members of the Cork City squad for 2020 and he is hoping that wearing number 7 can inspire him to become one of the main men for Neale Fenn’s side.
While he tends to play more on the left, McGlade will carry the digit more associated with the right wing, but there is a fairly straightforward explanation.
“I’m a Manchester United fan and I loved Eric Cantona, David Beckham and Cristiano Ronaldo, they made the number 7 special,” he says.
“It’s the first time at a club that I’ve been able to get it, so I’m happy enough with it.”
Dubliner McGlade joins City after a short stint with Blyth Spartans. It was his second spell with the club from the north-east of England, moving there from Bray Wanderers at the end of the 2019 season.
“My girlfriend lives in Newcastle so I play a bit of non-league over there at the end of every season,” he says.
“Coming into January, Neale got in touch and when Cork City come calling, you come straight down. He didn’t even really have to convince me too much, it was just more that the deal was in place and everyone was happy.”
McGlade has the benefit of having worked with Fenn at Longford Town in 2018, which he classes as his break-out season. Such an association means that it’s easier to settle.
“I was with Neale for a season but I know him with seven or eight years,” he says.
“I’ve worked for his coaching company so I know him really well and he’d know me really well, we have a good relationship, which is obviously what you want with a manager.
“It obviously helps that I know exactly how he wants to play and it’s good for the gaffer to have someone he’s worked with previously so I can help the younger lads in understanding what he wants.
“It has made bedding in much easier.”
Having started off with Swords Rovers and Malahide United in north Dublin, McGlade moved to Home Farm and later Shelbourne. It was from Shels that, as a 16-year-old, he moved to Middlesbrough.
“I was on holidays in France at the time,” he says, “there were complications with the deal and we didn’t think it would go through.
“I got the call on holidays to say I had to be in Middlesbrough for pre-season so I flew straight from Paris, I didn’t even get to go home.
“I arrived in the north-east cold, with just a bag of shorts and t-shirts, it was a rude awakening!
“The staff at Middlesbrough were brilliant, everyone looked after me. Wendy [Thomas], the club administrator, was like a second Mam, the physios were excellent, Martin Carter the head of recruitment looked after me really well, but it’s still tough.
“There was nobody on my team from outside the north-east area, boys from Durham, Middlesbrough and Sunderland. I did find that difficult at times, adjusting to the culture, but more now is being done to help young lads going over compared to when I was there.”
McGlade represented Boro’s youths, reserves and U23s but injuries hampered his progress and he was let go aged 19. Thankfully, Kevin Doherty, then Shelbourne manager, took a chance on him.
“I can’t thank Kevin enough for what he did for me,” he says.
“I don’t think I’d still be playing football now if it wasn’t for him taking a chance on me. I was pretty much unknown in the League of Ireland, my confidence was low and I was still recovering from injury.
“Kev put a lot of confidence in me and I played nearly every game that season. I was in the team of year too and I’m always very appreciative for the faith he showed in me.”
From there, he joined St Patrick’s Athletic in 2016, but it didn’t work out as he would like.
“Looking back, maybe I jumped at it too early,” McGlade says, “but I was only 20 and Pat’s were playing in Europe, they had just won the FAI Cup and Liam Buckley’s asking you to sign, it’s hard to turn down.
“In hindsight, there were a lot of good players in my position, Conan Byrne was at the top of his game, Mark Timlin and Keith Treacy had signed, Billy Dennehy was there. I had other options in the Premier Division but Pat’s were full-time.
“I learned a lot there, Conan Byrne really helped me and I got a better understanding of men’s football. It’s just another step in your development.”
He moved to Longford under former City boss Alan Mathews – Doherty was there as assistant – and then the summer of 2017 saw him move to Bristol Rovers. While that didn’t work out, he picked up some form in his first spell with Blyth Spartans and took that into 2018 with Longford and Fenn, scoring 16 goals and providing seven assists.
“It was really my breakthrough season and started to make myself known again,” he says.
“I was nominated for first division player of the year and on the team of the year. After that, I joined Bray Wanderers last season and I was on the team of the year again.
“I think I’ve become more consistent over the last couple of years and I’m hoping now to bring that into the Premier Division.”
As to how things will go for City, he is realistic and honest.
“It’s a rebuilding year, it’s a new type of football Cork City are going to be playing,” he says.
“we’re not going to be pushed over. Teams are going to underestimate us and we will come out and play good football and we will be competitive.
“We’re not going to be challenging for the title like Cork City should be but it’s about rebuilding and playing a new style. We’ll be aiming for the top of the mid-table and we’ll be targeting the cups too.”