GORDON WALKER is thriving in his second spell with Cork City.
Walker, who initially signed for the club in 2016, when he was part of the club’s U17 team, returned to City this season after spells with Cobh Ramblers and UCC, and the defender believes that his decision to leave City during his first spell was the correct choice and has made him a better player.
“I left Carrigaline United when I was 16 and signed for City’s U17s. It was the year the U17 league was introduced. I went on trials first, and I was probably one of the last to sign.
“I’d say out the 22 players that signed; I was the 17th or 18th to sign. So, I was brought in then. I didn’t really play much but I broke into the team towards the end and was starting.
“We played in the semi-final of the league against Shamrock Rovers. I’d say I made two fouls in the 120 minutes and I got sent off. That was my last game.
“I saw myself leaving then because Ethan McCarthy, who coached me at Carrigaline underage, took over at Cobh U17s. I played there regularly. I was captain of that side, so I really enjoyed my time there.
“I then went on to play with the 19s, and I was in and out with the first team afterwards. Obviously then, I went to UCC and now I’m at City.
It was my choice to leave City. There were about seven or eight of us left City that time to join Cobh. I was actually asked to stay on because I had played a good bit.
“I’d say maybe three or four of the other lads played regularly for City but they just wanted to go as well because they knew Ethan and they knew what he was about and they just wanted to go.
“Going forward, I knew we would have a good team with Cobh. We actually beat City that season. I didn’t make the move for the sake of it. I looked at it from the bigger picture, in terms of developing.
“I would get to play 17s and 19s at Cobh and maybe break into the senior team at a younger age. I looked at is as an opportunity. I spoke with Stephen Henderson at the time as well.
“He was happy to bring me in and I was training with the seniors when I was 17. I think I made my senior debut at 18.
“My thinking was that I would have a better chance of breaking into the first-team earlier at Cobh than City.
“I remember the City U19 manager at the time, Stephen Birmingham, actually told me not to leave, but there was a few fellas ahead of me in my position, so I just felt that I might not break in there.
I wanted to develop my game, and I think making that move has benefitted me because I’ve not gone without playing regular football since.
“Some players have gone a different route and stayed on at City, and probably didn’t make as many first-team appearances as they would have hoped and have left the club since.
“I felt it was important to play first-team football as earlier as I could. Now things seem to have worked out for me, that might not be the same for others who have made the same choice as myself."
Walker left Cobh to further his education by studying arts at UCC.
The City player was offered a scholarship by the college to represent the University in football. However, Walker did come close to signing for Waterford after meeting then-manager Alan Reynolds and training with the club.
“Cobh’s season had finished and the Premier Division was still on, and Alan Reynolds got in contact with me about coming down to train. I went down training with them for a week and he asked me to come down again.
“In the meantime, UCC offered me a scholarship so Rennie was trying to see if I could go on a scholarship and sign for Waterford.
“To be fair, I loved it at Waterford. I thought it was a brilliant setup. The team was good, and from the conversations I had with Rennie; it was quiet encouraging and it was something I wanted to do. I felt it was a step-up again.
“I met with Noel Healy who was manager at UCC, who spoke to me about breaking through at City.
“He pointed out the likes of Sean McLoughlin as an example. I felt that that was a path I wanted to go down instead of going straight into the League of Ireland. I wanted to go to college first.
“I was still young, so time was on my side. I knew I wasn’t going to break in straight away at Waterford, so I didn’t want to go down there and perhaps stall my development. I thought that if I played with UCC, and the links that they have with City, that maybe I could wriggle my way into City after a season or two at UCC. Obviously, I wanted to win a trophy with UCC as well, to have some small accolade.
“I got on the Irish University team and got an international cap. So looking back, I’m happy with the decisions I’ve made through my career.”