TO say that Conor McCormack had a good first season for Cork City is something of an understatement.
The Carlingford native was outstanding at the heart of Cork City’s midfield in 2017, as they secured the Premier Division and FAI Cup double.
His displays were compared at times to N’Golo Kante and one can clearly see why. Just like the Frenchman during title successes for Leicester City in 2015/2016 and Chelsea in 2016/2017, McCormack was like a warhorse in the middle of the park for Cork.
When it came to breaking up the opposition play, to getting attacking moves going, McCormack was a crucial performer for the Leesiders last term.
Sean Maguire might have deservedly got much recognition for his role in City’s title success, but McCormack was also a crucial player, who consistently produced week in, week out.
City have made the decision to make McCormack their captain for the 2018 season and, from the outside looking in, it seems like a perfect fit.
The 27-year-old ticks all of the boxes for what one would like to see in a captain.
“I am absolutely delighted John [Caulfield] asked me to be the captain of the team this year and that he really wants me to lead the team this year.
“To be at the best club in the country and to be captain, it is a proud moment for me.”
Not only through his outstanding displays and what was quite the sensational opening campaign on Leeside, McCormack’s career to date generally points to him being a fitting choice for the captaincy role.
Starting his career at local side Ballurgan United, McCormack got a move to Manchester United, impressing in their youth academy.
After that, McCormack moved to Italy to then Serie B side Triestina, being the first Irish player to move to Italy since Robbie Keane’s brief stint at Inter Milan.
He returned to Ireland and joined Shamrock Rovers ahead of the 2011 season.
Under the management of Michael O’Neill, McCormack became one of the most influential players in the Hoops side, as they successfully defended the Premier Division title and also reached the group stages of the UEFA Europa League.
He would remain at Rovers until the end of the 2013 season, winning the EA Sports Cup and the Leinster Senior Cup.
A move to St Patrick’s Athletic followed for McCormack in 2014, where he was a key member of the squad that won the FAI Cup.
Following that, there was a move to Derry City in 2015, spending 18 months at the Brandywell, before moving to Cork City ahead of the 2017 campaign.
Listening to McCormack speak, it is clear he is hungry for more silverware.
“I have been in the league a couple of years now. I have been successful, having won a couple of leagues and couple of cups.
“I have played with most of the players here, between past clubs and at present now at Cork.
“Hopefully we can do the same as what we did last year this coming season,” said McCormack, as he prepares to embark on his second campaign with The Rebel Army.
His displays were widely and deservedly praised, including when he won the SSE Airtricity Soccer Writers Association Of Ireland Player Of the Month award for April 2017.
He is someone, though, who is constantly striving to improve his game and better himself as an individual player.
“I decided to come down when John gave me the call. I was ambitious and I knew Cork were biting at the bit for the last couple of years.
“So, I came down and I wanted to help them, myself. Thankfully I have done that and I thought I had a decent enough season.
“Winning the Premier Division and FAI Cup double, I couldn’t have asked for a better first season for myself.
“But I will be looking to improve again now this season and put all the mistakes I made last year and cut them out of my game this year.”
There will be some familiar faces from his time at Derry City in the Cork dressing room for 2018 in Aaron Barry and Barry McNamee.
From playing with them and also against them, McCormack knows full well the potential they have and what they will bring to the side.
“They are top players. John has done really well recruiting them sort of players. Aaron Barry has been a centre-back in the league for a couple of years and he’s rock solid.
“Barry [McNamee] is a great attacking player. He brings goals, he is creative, can play a through ball. He sees things that other players in the league can’t, so I am really looking forward to playing with the both of them again.”
Preparations for Cork City’s title defence have been ongoing for some time now and not so long after the immensely successful 2017 season concluded.
Among those preparations for City was spending a useful week away in Manchester on a training camp.
Courtesy of the excellent facilities that were on hand, McCormack and his City teammates got in some training sessions of a high quality over the few days there.
“It was good to get away and it is something different. We had a good couple of days and got a lot of training sessions in.
“We stayed in a lovely hotel. Everything was perfect and everything was well looked after.”
From the way that he conducts himself on the pitch, McCormack strikes you as a very fitting captain for Cork City. In fact he looked ready-made for the role from the first day he lined out for the club.
Once his playing days are over, it would not be surprising to see McCormack have a successful career in management. He is already in the middle of undergoing his UEFA A Licence and also was involved in some coaching with the City U17 side, who won the SSE Airtricity League U17 title last term.
“I have been doing my coaching badges over the past few years. I went in with Bowdy (Paul Bowdren) and Brendan (O’Sullivan) last year with the U17’s and they were very successful and I was pleased with that as well.”
McCormack is a brilliant ambassador for Cork City and is someone who is an excellent role model for the young children that come through the gates to watch him play at Turners Cross.
He enjoyed a stunning season at the heart of the double-winning midfield for City.
He is someone Caulfield can depend on and will play a crucial role in any success during 2018.