USUALLY, players attract a club’s attention through their agent but former Cork City star Daire O’Connor admitted that his move to Cliftonville had more to do with a paper article than the work of his agent.
O’Connor has been in exceptional form since his move up North and seems to be adjusting to his new environment seamlessly.
O’Connor said: “I can remember doing an interview for a paper after I left City talking about how my aim was to either play in the Northern Irish league or in England and I’d say within 24 hours my agent was receiving phone calls from clubs up North expressing their interest in me because of what they had read in the paper.
“Once I spoke to Cliftonville and they told me their plans, I knew it was the club I wanted to sign for.
“Usually when a club wants to sign you, you go to the club have a look around the training ground, the stadium and the City but unfortunately because of Covid restrictions, I wasn’t able to do that and just had a chat with the manager and chairman over zoom.
“They told me what I wanted to hear. The most important thing for me was the stability of the club. I wanted to go somewhere where I knew the club had a plan in place to be challenging and to be playing games without having to worry about what might be happening with the club off the pitch.
“Cliftonville are a part-time club but the amount of hours training and playing games are similar to what I was used to at City.
“The main difference is we train in the evenings instead of the mornings which we used to train at City and that there aren’t double sessions with Cliftonville.
“I enjoy it because it frees up my days and although I don’t have a secondary job at the moment, I know that the option is there to work during the day.
“There probably isn’t as much socialising at Cliftonville. Lads are coming straight from work and going home quickly after training, whereas at City, we would be in an hour before training started having breakfast together and staying around the training ground afterwards just chatting.”
It’s been frustrating at times for O’Connor because he has found himself more often than not on the bench with Cliftonville, but he feels that the manager (Paddy McLaughlin) has handled the former UCD player in the right way and has helped O’Conner build back up his confidence.
O’Connor added: “I haven’t started much games but maybe the manager was doing that to protect me. It’s a new league, certainly a more physical league than League of Ireland and the manager was probably giving me time to settle in.
“Had I started games straight away and not played well, I would have been thinking ‘here we go again’ and my confidence would have remained low. Having not played much for City in 2020, the manager here knew I was low on confidence but knew that I had something about me and by introducing me into the league bit by bit it has built up my confidence and now I feel ready to be playing more regularly.”
Reflecting on his time on Leeside, the 23-year-old does feel responsible for City’s relegation and regrets that he didn’t get to experience more successful times with the club.
“People have said I dodged a bullet by getting out of Cork when I did and technically not having a relegation on my CV but I know I was part of the side that got relegation and feel responsible.
“I always felt it was a battle with City this season and I wasn’t surprised the way things ended.
"When Healers (Colin Healy) took charge, there was a bit of bounce, but I think it was too late by then and most of the lads were deflated.
“Going into the season, as a group we felt everyone was writing us off and we knew how important a good start was. Had we beaten Shelbourne in the first game, I think the season would have been very different but losing that and then suffering heavy defeats against Shamrock Rovers and Dundalk, we just never got going.
“We tried everything and it wasn’t from a lack of effort from the players, but nothing seemed to work. I’m just disappointed that I never got to experience the club for the so-called good times.”