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O’Connor focused for Sligo clash

Wednesday, 12th June, 2019 4:16pm

For a league that tends to be so congested with fixtures, Cork City FC have found themselves in an unusual position in June. With no match yet this month, their last run-out was the 31 May draw to St Pat's when City conceded yet another late goal which saw them take just one point from a game where three were on a plate.

This Friday the team travel to Sligo Rovers after which they'll enjoy another two week break before the third round of SSE Airtricity League fixtures begin for 2019. A mixed season so far, with varied results and a change of manager with John Cotter taking over after John Caulfield's May departure, a win on Friday would see City leapfrog Sligo who are two points ahead in sixth place, with Waterford in seventh and City in eighth place.

Daire O'Connor joined the team from UCD at the start of the season. A promising player, O'Connor's bright start on Leeside was cut short thanks to a shoulder injury but the 22 year old is now back fully fit and hopeful that City can produce their best form for the latter stages of the league.

“I started well and then I got my injury and the team was doing poorly at the time as well. It's tough to come in to a team then again, so I'm hoping after the break we can get a good run of games, get a good full 90 minutes and just get my first goal. It's long overdue at this stage but it's all felt a bit stop start.

“The first round of fixtures went well personally, and then the second round it was just stop-start between the injuries and then getting back and now not having a game last week and now we're going in to a break. We've one game and then another week off so it's frustrating in that sense, a lot of players rely on momentum.

“If you're doing well you want to keep going well and then if you have one bad blip, it's grand you should be able to get on with it with another game next week and that just hasn't been the case in recent weeks, so it's something to note in the second half of the season that I can push on personally and bag a few goals,” remarks O'Connor.

With Cotter parachuted in to the interim manager position after previously serving as Caulfield's assistant, the few weeks break have provided the manager with more time to implement his ideas without interruption. Confidence, O'Connor says, is high ahead of Friday as a result.

“We'd a good week last week and hopefully we'll take his (Cotter's) ideas in to the game against Sligo. There's parts of last week that almost felt like pre-season, we needed to get that bit fitter and I think everyone would agree with me. Those last ten minutes, twice we've conceded late so from six potential points we've taken away two which was frustrating. We've been working on fitness from that aspect and his ideas on the pitch, footballing-wise, I obviously can't give too much away! But we're hoping to see some form of improvement up against Sligo.

“Even though we're eighth, we're actually closer to third then we are (to) ninth. We've conceded too many late goals; we were 1-0 up against Finn Harps, we were 1-0 up against UCD away, Pat's twice, so suddenly that's four games where you should have 12 points and instead we ended up losing to UCD, we drew twice against Pat's and we drew against Harps.”

Grafting out a win, O'Connor hopes, will lay the foundation for a successful final third of fixtures after a number of disappointing goal concessions so far this year.

“It's just that extra bit of resilience and seeing out wins and knowing when to graft out a win and be smart and cute on the pitch. That's arguably 12 points that we should have and that we don't. If you add that 12 points to what we have now, I don't know where it puts us but I'm sure it's a lot closer to third or fourth then eighth place. We can't be too negative about it, our league position, I think it's a bit false, come the end of the season every team from third to eighth will feel like they're in with a shout of finishing top three.”

With eight goals and 14 assists for UCD in 2018, O'Connor was named on last year’s PFAI First Division Team of the Year, enjoying a glittering year with the college where he played for four years. After Caulfield snapped him up, O'Connor packed his bags and moved south, and although yet to score for City. O'Connor has his sights set on a fruitful final third to finish his and City's season on a high.

“I love the environment down here, I have family down here so I don't feel like I'm down here on my own. I've moved down here and I've friends, family, everything like that to support me and I'm living with James Tilley at the moment. There's plenty of Playstation and we share the cooking, we're watching a bit of 'Love Island' at the moment!

“The last week we've worked on a lot of combinations and finishing drills, I'm as confident going in to the game against Sligo as I have been any other game so hopefully if it's not me, someone else will score a goal. We'll happily take it. It's nice if you can go away knowing that you've had a good win – I think a lot of holidays will be ruined if we don't come away with three points and it's a game we should win. We beat them away the last time, Gearoid Morrissey scored two crackers so if could do that again, we'd happily take it!”

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