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The League of Ireland's very own 'N'Golo Kanté' thriving in Cork City's midfield

Conor McCormack has been a vital component in John Caulfield’s team this season.

Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

IT SAYS A lot about the impact Conor McCormack has made in the Cork City team this season when his team-mates are comparing him to N’Golo Kanté.

A string of selfless displays as the anchor in midfield have instantly endeared him to the Turner’s Cross faithful since his move from Derry City in the off-season.

The Leesiders’ remarkable start to the 2017 campaign is down to the Trojan effort from John Caulfield’s squad as well as inconsistency from the other top clubs.

The contribution of McCormack hasn’t gone unnoticed, however, as he was yesterday named SSE Airtricity League/Soccer Writers’ Association of Ireland Player of the Month for April.

“It’s about getting the balance right and giving the forward players the chance to do their work,” the 26-year-old replies, when asked about being likened to Chelsea’s tenacious Frenchman.

“The goals they’ve got have been vitally important to where we are now and my job, with the defence and other lads, is to stop the threat.”

CMcC Lifting his Player of the Month award. Source: Piaras Ó Mídheach/SPORTSFILE

The Louth man had spent time at Manchester United, Italian Serie B club Triestina, Shamrock Rovers, St Patrick’s Athletic and Derry City before Cork City came calling back in November.

He liked what they were building and accepted the offer to link up with the Leesiders, who had again finished runners-up to Dundalk before pipping the Lilywhites in the FAI Cup final.

“If you look at the strides John [Caulfield] has made with the team over the last few years, they have kept getting better and better,” adds McCormack. “I was up at the FAI Cup final and that was a great day.

“They have been knocking at the door and it didn’t take me long to decide this is where I wanted to come. John invited myself and my dad around and I knew this was right for me.”

He has since settled in extremely well at Cork on and off the field. Sharing a house with team-mates Karl Sheppard, Achille Campion, Conor Ellis and Ryan Delaney helps.

“I’ve been on the move since I was 16. I’m so used to being away from home at this stage. Some people grow up and are able to stay at home and work but I haven’t done that. I don’t find it too bad at all really.

I’ll go wherever I have to and I’m at the best place possible right now. Things are going great but we have to keep our feet on the ground and can’t get too ahead of ourselves.”

14 points clear at the top of the table with 12 straight wins, Cork look unstoppable right now but there’s a long way to go and getting complacent isn’t an option.

“We’re only concentrating on ourselves and we’re not bothered by what other teams are doing,” he insists. “It doesn’t interest us in the slightest. It doesn’t matter to us whether we are one point ahead or 20 points ahead, we will keep on doing what we’re doing.

“You go through so many highs and lows in football, I’m enjoying this at the moment. I believe in my own ability and what I’m capable of and John is playing me in my best position. That helps so much and I definitely feel a lot of confidence because of that.”

Enda Stevens and Conor McCormack tackle Giorgos Georgiadis McCormack (right) and Enda Stevens tracking Giorgos Georgiadis of PAOK in the 2011 Europa League. Source: Lorraine O'Sullivan/INPHO

As part of the Shamrock Rovers team that won the Premier Division and featured in the Europa League group stages in 2011, he sees comparisons between former Hoops boss Michael O’Neill and his current manager.

“It feels very similar,” he says. “You come into training every day and you know you have to work hard and be on top of our game. Michael O’Neill is a winner. Every day that was rammed home and every game he wanted to win — no matter what you had to do.

John is exactly the same. He drives that into you, only three points is good enough. With Michael, he would know when we were struggling in a game or just had to hold on, but by drilling that winning attitude into us we knew what we had to do. John does the same, he tells us to win whatever it takes.”

Given his background, there’s been banter with family members in recent years but he is hopeful of having the last laugh.

“I’m from near Carlingford so a lot of my cousins and uncles would be Dundalk fans — although  My dad and close family would all support me,” McCormack explains.

“They’ve been slagging me over the last few years because of everything Dundalk have won but hopefully I will be able to give a bit back to them at the end of this season.”

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Ben Blake

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