The big interview: Conor McCarthy on playing in Scotland, missing Cork and his former life as a Blarney hurler

I often get asked, ‘do I regret not continuing to play hurling’?
The big interview: Conor McCarthy on playing in Scotland, missing Cork and his former life as a Blarney hurler

St Mirren's Conor McCarthy reacts after beating Rangers. Picture: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire.

HAVING completed his first full season in Scottish football, former Cork City and now St Mirren player, Conor McCarthy is happy to be back home after what has been nearly a year with his club.

Due to coronavirus, the defender has been unable to see his family over the past year and is enjoying spending time at home in Cork.

“It’s been an okay season. We disappointingly missed out on finishing in the top six on the last day of the season. We lost in both semi-finals of the Scottish Cup and the League Cup,” McCarthy said.

“I did manage to score in the Scottish Cup semi-final, but we lost the game, so it didn’t really matter in the end. Personally, it’s going well for me.

“I think I’ve played really well. Now, I’m enjoying spending time back in Cork at home.

“I’d not seen my family since last summer, so it’s been a long time and it was difficult at times this year and I’m catching up with all my friends.

“I was just out playing golf with my old teammate Sean McLoughlin [former teammate of McCarthy’s at City and now a Hull City player] and I’m just trying to enjoy time as much as I can before we’re back in for pre-season.

What has helped me over in Scotland is spending time with my girlfriend. It’s a small world because she’s actually from Cork.

“We met through one of my friends. He told me she was moving to Glasgow and asked could I show her around which I was happy to do.

“We got on really well and now we’re going out and it’s been good having her over there and it’s good having someone to talk to about Cork when I am missing home.”

One of McCarthy’s teammates at St Mirren, former Dundalk player Jamie McGrath, has lit up the Scottish League this season scoring 17 league goals and earned a call-up to Stephen Kenny’s recent Irish squads — making his debut against Andorra last Thursday.

McCarthy feels that McGrath is well capable of playing at international level and that he is amongst one of the best he has played with.

“Jamie has been on fire this season and not just with the amount of goals he has scored. He scored 17 league goals, but his all-round game is excellent, and he deserved his call-up to the Irish team and he’s definitely that kind of creative player that team have been lacking recently.

“I think he will be an excellent addition for them. I’ve seen that there are a lot of clubs interested in Jamie and it’s going to be hard for St Mirren to keep hold of him after such a great season.

“Hopefully, he does stay with the club and he’s definitely up there with one of the best I’ve played alongside. It’s probably a toss-up between him and Colin Healy who was unbelievable during my time at Cork City.

“Just every day, the standards he’d set, the way he acted and train. He made the game looks so easy, so it’s between the two of them, who have been the best players I’ve played alongside.”

St Mirren's Conor McCarthy and Rangers' Cedric Itten in action. Picture: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire.
St Mirren's Conor McCarthy and Rangers' Cedric Itten in action. Picture: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire.

After completing an economics degree in 2020, McCarthy is now focused on furthering his education with the help of St Mirren.

The UCC graduate will be taking on a graduate apprenticeship when University resumes in September.

“Education has always been important to me. It was important to me that before I transferred to St. Mirren that I would still be able to complete my degree in UCC.

“The club were very accommodating at that stage by helping me study in Glasgow University and now that I’ve approached them with a new idea of going back and further developing my education, they are going to be helping me again.

“I’ll be studying in conjunction with the university (Glasgow) and club. It’s called the graduate apprenticeship.

“It’s basically learning while on the job. I’ll be training in the mornings and sometimes afternoons, depending on if we have a double session and after training, I’ll be doing work with the finance department in the club.

“The club are helping put me through my ACC exams. All going well, I’ll be a qualified accountant by the time I’m 25.”

St Mirren's Conor McCarthy and Livingston's Gavin Reilly battle for the ball. Picture: Jane Barlow/PA Wire.
St Mirren's Conor McCarthy and Livingston's Gavin Reilly battle for the ball. Picture: Jane Barlow/PA Wire.

HURLING

McCarthy, whose uncle is Cork and Glen Rovers legend Tomás Mulcahy, was a gifted hurler growing up and represented Cork underage. The former Blarney GAA player still enjoys watching the game but with how his career has developed, believes he has justified selecting soccer over hurling.

“Blarney have enjoyed a lot of success over the past couple of years. They’ve won the Intermediate All-Ireland and they’ve just won the county championship.

"I love watching Cork games. When I was younger, I managed to represent Cork at U14s, U15s and U16s.

“I played minor as well, and I was a year younger than the age group [which included Mark Coleman, Shane Kingston and Darragh Fitzgibbon] at the time. I never won much in the sport. I did come second in the Féile skill at U14s.

“I often get asked, ‘do I regret not continuing to play hurling’? But I don’t.

“I decided when I was younger to focus on football and I’ve probably justified that decision by playing in the UK.

“I still enjoy going for a puck around with my friends and maybe sometime in the future, who knows, I might go back and play hurling again but that is a long way down the line.”

More in this section

Sponsored Content

Add Echolive.ie to your home screen - easy access to Cork news, views, sport and more