ALTHOUGH he is a new addition to the Cork City FC squad for the 2019 season, Daire O’Connor is returning to the Rebel County, from Dublin.
Both of his parents are from Cork, his father from Boherbue and his mother from Ballyvourney.
As he describes to the Evening Echo, growing up in a Gaeltacht region has most rubbed off on O’Connor.
“I am fluent in Irish. I went to an Irish primary school and secondary school. My mam was actually a teacher in my secondary school.
“I would have spent a lot of time in Ballyvourney and Boherbue, when I was younger. So, once I move down to Cork, I will be looking forward to catching up with everyone.
“Growing up, I always would have had Cork in my blood. I would have gone to Cork GAA matches and I would have been to Turner’s Cross a few times, as well.
“So, it is not an unknown place for me, going back to Cork. It is a mini-homecoming, in that sense. I am looking forward to it.“
The 21-year-old makes the move to Leeside after spending the last four seasons lining out with UCD, winning the First Division title, with Collie O’Neill’s gifted and talented side last term, in what was a great campaign for the students, who also reached the FAI Cup semi-finals.
“I think we surprised a lot of people last year. More so in the cup games, when we played the likes of Waterford and Dundalk.
“They were more high-profile games and we got a bit more exposure and everyone started talking about us.
“UCD play a great brand of football and Collie has them well-drilled now, after three or four years.
“At this stage, everyone goes out on the pitch and knows their jobs. So, they won’t be pushed over, like a lot of people might expect them to be.”
Of Collie O’Neill, O’Connor adds: “I owe him a lot. He picked me up from the U19s and gave me my debut, against Cobh, when I was 17-years-old.
“So, he placed faith in me. I am 21 now, so he has been my main manager for four years.
“This season, he really gave me the jersey and said ‘listen, it is yours to lose’ and I played my part in every single game in the league. So, I owe him a lot for that.
“The style of football he plays is all along the ground and possession-based, which, as a number 10, was a dream.
“There was a lot of ball into my feet, rather than looking up at the sky at the ball.
“His philosophy worked well for me at UCD. But, believe me, he has the drive to win, as well. It is not just possession without a purpose.”
After impressing for UCD throughout the campaign just gone by — with his displays rewarded by selection for the PFAI First Division ‘Team Of The Season’ — O’Connor makes the move to Cork City in determined fashion.
Players shown around and greeted by manager, John Caulfield, are instantly gripped by his infectious love of football and his sheer desire to do everything to ensure the best for Cork City FC.
O’Connor is really looking forward to working with Caulfield over the forthcoming campaign.
“Instantly, the main vibe I got off him was that he does everything he can in his power to win games and if you are not up to his standards, I am sure he will let you know.
“So, I am looking forward to the challenge of winning with him and battling for him. Chatting to him for an hour, I can see how players would run through a wall for him.
“I am looking forward, in pre-season, to showing him what I can do and, hopefully, he places his faith in me.”
O’Connor is shortly about to make the move down to Leeside, ahead of the commencement of pre-season training with the Rebel Army.
All in all, O’Connor is really excited about the footballing journey that lies ahead for him.
“I was sitting in the stands in the Aviva, watching the lads play in the FAI Cup final and wishing I could be out there.
“In a year’s time, hopefully I will finally get that chance with the lads.
“I know I am a young enough player coming into the team. But by no means will I want to be sitting on the bench for the whole season.
“I want to break into that team and contribute with goals and assists and keep my starting place there.
“I base my game off setting up goals, scoring goals, creating that little bit of spark in the final third.
“So, I hope the Cork City fans will look forward to seeing me play.
“Hopefully, I can add a few goals and a little bit of flair to the final third. It is just the stuff of dreams, really. I can’t wait to walk out in Turner’s Cross and play my first game there.
“It is what I have been dreaming about the last couple of days.
“I know the new season is a while away yet, but that is what I have to try and target during pre-season, to get into the team and make sure I am playing.”