Danny O'Connell on a mission to prove himself with Cobh Ramblers

After a frustrating spell with Cork City, O'Connell returned to the League of Ireland highly motivated
Danny O'Connell on a mission to prove himself with Cobh Ramblers

A moment of magic from Danny O'Connell, Cobh Ramblers,  to score the second goal against Shelbourne. Picture: Larry Cummins.

DANNY O'Connell made the most of his second stint at League of Ireland level.

The gifted striker finished as Cobh Ramblers' top goalscorer this season, despite only signing midway through the campaign. It proved the Carrigaline native, who joined in the July transfer window from Munster Senior League outfit Avondale, is at home with the elite players in the county.

Coming through the Carrigaline United underage and first-team setup, O’Connell had his first League Of Ireland spell in 2015 with Cork City, but it didn’t go as planned.

“I signed for City when I was 20 back in 2015 from Carrigaline United AFC after I won Munster Senior League Player of the Year. I came on and played 25 minutes against Shamrock Rover in Tallaght. And that was it."

Frustrated with his lack of opportunities, he returned to Carrigaline for a season before switching to Avondale. The Intermediate Cup final win over Crumlin at the Aviva in 2019 was a clear highlight of his Avondale experience.

“Wanting to test and challenge myself, I was delighted the opportunity came around again to play at League of Ireland level.” 

How enjoyable was this season for O’Connell and was the league as competitive as expected?

“It was like any season with plenty of highs and lows. The high was I got back into the league, which I always felt I'd left behind me. It was great to be back playing on great pitches and having superb facilities and of course to be playing with and against top players.

"Training is much more professional. Small things like having a physio work with you during the week to get you right for match day. These are all things you don't have in the MSL.

“The low for me was losing 4-0 to City which was embarrassing, that effectively ended our play-off hopes and was the start of six straight losses."

It wasn't an enjoyable run of matches to say the least, though he can take a more reflective view of it now.

"Missing a penalty away to Wexford, I tried to chip the keeper and blew it well over! I'm still getting stick for that," laughs O’Connell.

Cobh Ramblers' Danny O'Connell gets in his cross from Cabinteely's Daniel Blackbyrne. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Cobh Ramblers' Danny O'Connell gets in his cross from Cabinteely's Daniel Blackbyrne. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

"Playing through injury which was particularly hard and resulted in some poor performances especially against Cork City, a game I was really looking forward to.

“It was a competitive season and I felt any team could beat anyone on the day. The margins were small, a lot of results were won by a goal.

"Generally, the league table positions are dictated by budget and which teams can offer full-time football but that didn't reflect the standings this year.

If a team put any bit of a run together they were in with a shout of playoffs and that makes it very competitive. To be fair Cobh's budget isn't the highest so we really need to perform at a high level to compete."

Still, it was frustrating not to be in with a shout of promotion in recent weeks.

"We conceded too many goals for what we were creating at the other end. We had a few sending-offs which killed games.

“We had suspensions and injuries which meant we had to keep rotating the team, a prime example of that was our two centre-halves getting sent off against Athlone and suspended for the City game. In the end we didn't deserve to make the playoffs because our performances weren't at the level of the teams who did make it.

"We showed glimpses that we can match the best with beating Shelbourne at home and drawing away. The league table is all about consistency and next year we need to bring that onto the pitch.# “It was great to turn that corner and finish the season well with three wins. It’s a shame it was so late in the season but It showed the character of the team because we really could have given up on the season.” Joining mid-season and then picking up an injury wasn’t ideal for O’Connell, but he was still happy with his performances when available.

“Every player wants to play every game, I am no different. When I arrived I started well which was pleasing because I was up to speed and felt comfortable at this level. Then I started getting injuries that affected my movement. I probably played as many games as possible through those injuries.

“If we want to have a successful season next year we have to come back physically superior to last year. We have to be able to outrun teams and have more of a physical presence about us. After we've had enough rest it’s time to hit the gym and come back ready to go."

He expects changes in the squad for 2022 but also knows he has plenty of room to improve his own game.

"Darren will upgrade the squad there's no doubt and his team will come with new ideas. They'll look at every small detail that can boost our performance and bring more quality to the set up.

“There are a lot of things to be strengthened in the squad for next season.

In my case, I need to look at what went well, what worked, and what didn't work. For me, I need to get better in front of goal and that's an area I'll work on with Flynny and Dubby.

“Having Darren there from the start of the season will make a huge difference. There's that learning period when a new manager comes in he has to get to know the players and the players have to get to know him. It's made harder when it happens during a season because you've less time on the training pitch with games coming up every week.

"The good work being done on the training ground then takes time translating on match day. But that's out of the way now and we can look forward to the new season."

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