WHILE Cork City have lost their opening two games of the season, to Dundalk in the President’s Cup and St Patrick’s Athletic in their Premier Division opener last Friday, new signing Dáire O’Connor has been a bright spot.
Signed from last season’s first division champions UCD in the off-season, the attacking midfielder has shown a willingness to take people one and, but for a great Brendan Clarke save from Garry Buckley’s first-half header at Richmond Park, O’Connor would have an assist under his belt.
One person impressed with O’Connor is former City manager Pat Dolan, who called him “the Irish Messi” in a newspaper column last week.
It’s something O’Connor is amused by more than anything, and he certainly doesn’t feel pressurised by it.
“You take bits from it,” he says, “I like pressure. I think any top player will tell you they like pressure. You have to rise to it.
“If I was called the Irish Messi last week and then I go out and have a stinker today, everyone is going to be looking at Pat Dolan rather than me saying, ‘What is this all about?.’
‘There were only 2,500 people in Turner’s Cross last week, there is a whole different crowd at Richmond Park. If I don’t play even half as well, then people are going to start asking questions.
“I suppose I set the bar last week in the second half [against Dundalk] and if I don’t continue that then it’s my own downfall. There is no point doing it in the President’s Cup when the league starts a week later, I just need to push on and replicate that.”
That he has made such an impact so soon was something of a surprise.
“Yeah, I think coming from the First Division I was unknown,” he says.
“I set a couple of goals with myself to try break into the team and to be honest, I didn’t expect it so soon. But listen, once John [Caulfield] gave me the opportunity, it’s a cut-throat business and you have to take it otherwise that’s you gone for a while.
“Listen, I’m happy I’ve made an impression and the fans are great. It’s a bit of a contract from playing in Belfield last year in front of maybe 100 or 200 people. It’s great and it does add that five or 10 percent and if I can get a few goals for them they might start liking me a bit more!”
O’Connor admits that expectations are higher now.
“The minute I met John, the whole dynamic was different,” he says.
“I was at UCD for four years and it was all about player development, character building, education – all the important values instilled in players. I think a lot of players need to have that.
“But the focus was much on player development and a pathway to the top and they know it’s a conveyor belt.
“If you talk to Collie O’Neill or Diarmud McNally, they’ll be the first to tell you that they know players come in three- or four-year cycles and move on.
“Georgie Kelly, Robbie Benson [both at Dundalk], the list goes on but listen, if I can have half the impact the boys had on the league, I’ll be happy.”