CORK City FC have announced the signing of Damien Delaney.
The defender re-joins the club following a long spell in England, where he most recently played with Premier League side Crystal Palace. He was a mainstay of the Palace defence for a couple of seasons, though his game-time was limited in the most recent campaign.
The 36-year-old was capped nine times by the Republic of Ireland, and he joins the club until the conclusion of the 2019 season. He will join up with the squad for training next week and will be eligible to play from July 1, once international clearance has been received.
Speaking shortly after signing, he told CorkCityFC.ie: “Excited would be the word. I am really excited by what Cork City are doing and the direction the club is going in. Speaking to John, he is obviously very enthusiastic, I know he does things the right way and is driving forward, so that is something I want to be part of.”
Delaney was a highly-rated young defender who made the switch to England at the same time as Joe Gamble, and, as a St Michael's footballer, won a Munster minor in 1999 on a Cork side that included Conor McCarthy and David Niblock.
Now he'll be mentoring and playing with another Conor McCarthy, the young Blarney centre-back who along with Seán McLaughlin has made great strides in recent months.
“I always watched from a distance, to see the results on a Friday night. Doing the double last year was a great achievement and I am looking forward to being part of something that is moving forward. Rather than stagnating or going to a club for the sake of it… I think this club is really going forward and I want to be part of it, that’s why I chose to come here.
“Playing in Europe was part of the draw for me. It will be nice to play Champions League football! It is all part of this club moving forward and that is what I want to be here for. Hopefully there will be some good nights at Turner’s Cross for the fans and for the club in general.”
Though he turns 37 next month, the ex-QPR and Ipswich centre-half is still extremely fit and very dedicated to his sport.
“First and foremost, I am a football player and I want to be playing football. I still have a lot left in me. Last year was the first year where I didn’t play regularly, and it wasn’t an experience I particularly enjoyed, but that’s just the way of the world. I keep myself fit, I love training and I am ready to go.
“The crowds that City have been getting have been fantastic. The support has been brilliant, home and away from what I have seen, and I am looking forward to running out at Turner’s Cross again; it has been a long, long time.”
City boss John Caulfield hailed Delaney’s arrival, commenting: “It is fantastic news. Damien indicated a long time ago that he would love to come back and play his last number of years with the club.
“He was part of the FAI Youth Cup winning team here at Cork City and broke into the first team as I was coming to the end of my playing career. He went across the water to Leicester City then, and had spells at Hull City, QPR, Ipswich Town and then Crystal Palace. He has finished his time in England playing with Crystal Palace in the Premier League, so to get a player of that quality coming home, a Cork lad, he will have a massive input.
“He has so much experience to pass on to the younger lads, he is an all-round quality guy and to have him coming into our dressing room is fantastic. He is over the moon to be coming in and so are we, as we feel he will be a phenomenal addition to the club.
“He is a quiet, unassuming guy who gets on with the job, but all through his career, he has shown great leadership. With the younger players in the team, and our academy teams, the influence and guidance he can give will be fantastic.
“While he may not have made as many appearances as he would have liked last season, he has been in the Premier League, at that level, so for him to come back to us is a huge coup and a huge boost. He’s just waiting to get in to train on Monday morning and we are all looking forward to that, because he wants to be ready for the European campaign in July.
"I can’t wait to get him in and get him involved, so he can give his guidance to the squad because he knows he is coming in to a fantastic bunch. With the type of person he is and the attitude he has, I know he will fit perfectly into the group here.”
He will be officially unveiled as a Cork City player at the club’s weekly press conference next Tuesday, ahead of City’s home game against Bohemians.