Friday 24 November 2017

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Cork Independent

Sport

Last swansong for City duo

Wednesday, 12th July, 2017 5:37pm

Cypriot side AEK Larnaca travel to Cork this week to take on Cork City in the first leg of the second qualifying round of the UEFA Europa League.

City, fresh from their 1-0 win over St Pat’s in the league and 6-2 win (on aggregate) over Levadia Tallinn in the last ten days, will be hoping to extend their rich vein of form tonight.

Thursday’s game also marks the last home game for departing duo Seanie Maguire and Kevin O’Connor, who will join up with Preston North End at the end of the month.

Speaking about his last run out in Turner’s Cross, defender Kevin O’Connor said: “It’s something to look forward to, the last home game in Turner’s Cross. We’re expecting a big crowd and it’s a big game for the club as well. We’re hoping we can go out and put on a good performance.”

Last Thursday saw the second biggest attendance of the season, when 6,314 fans saw City beat Talinn 4-2 on the night and a similar sized crowd is expected for tonight’s (Thursday) game.

Figures released this week show that City has an average of 4,328 at league home games and it’s numbers like that, plus the staff and teammates around him, that make O’Connor’s departure all the harder.

“It’s going to be very hard to leave this place. They’ve been so good to me and the fans have taken to me from day one and I couldn’t have asked for any more. To go out and perform on Thursday and give them something to be proud of, that’s all we want to do.

“The only extra pressure comes from yourself really. You want to play well and leave on a high but I think if we just play our normal game we’ll be grand. We’ve done well so far, so we’re not going to push too hard or change anything now, because things are going well, so we’re just going to keep going the way we’re going.”

AEK Larnaca play in the Cypriot First Division, finishing second in last season’s league in May with their new season set to begin in August. Ivan Tričkovski was the club’s top scorer with 14 goals while another notable player for the Cypriot side is former Athletico Madrid midfielder Jorge Larena.

On their opponents, O’Connor says: “We know that they’re going to be a very good side, they’ve a lot of Spanish players so they’re going to try and keep the ball and we just have to be disciplined and sit in if we have to when they have the ball, just soak up the pressure and hit them on the counter attack. We know with the players we have going forward that we can cause any team damage.

“I don’t think you should be daunted by anyone you go out and play. Obviously they’re going to be very good players. There’s a lad (Larena) there who had 83 appearances for Athletico Madrid, you don’t get that if you’re a bad player. We’re good players as well and we just have to go out and prove that,” said the full-back.

The 22 year old Wexford native joined City in April 2015. In the two years since, O’Connor has seen a huge change to his game and City, he says, will forever be a club of huge importance in his life.

“From the minute I came in, John showed faith in me by putting me in the team and I’ve tried to repay him. I’ve felt, year on year, I’m after getting better, quicker and stronger, same as the team really. We’ve progressed every year and that’s all you can ask.

“We have one goal in mind and that’s to win the league and get as many trophies as we can to this city and we want to get run in Europe as well.”

• Cork City play AEK Larnaca on Thursday 13 July. Kick-off at Turner’s Cross is at 7.45pm.

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