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Current Cork City side 'right up there' with Shamrock Rovers' Europa League heroes

Conor McCormack believes the Premier Division leaders are on a par with the Hoops side he was once part of.

CONOR McCORMACK HAS fond memories of his time at Shamrock Rovers, but the Cork City midfielder is hoping to inflict more misery on his former club when they visit Turner’s Cross this evening.

City hold a 15-point lead at the top of the Premier Division table as they prepare to host fifth-placed Rovers on Leeside. John Caulfield’s side’s unbeaten start to the 2017 season included a 2-1 win against the Hoops in Tallaght on St Patrick’s Day.

Conor McCormack Cork City midfielder Conor McCormack. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

McCormack could scarcely have hoped for a better start to life as a Cork City player. Having played a key role in their impressive campaign so far, the 27-year-old holding midfielder was named SSE Airtricity/SWAI player of the month for April.

If City can continue their good form tonight, they’ll extend their undefeated run to 20 games in all competitions, which stretches back to last November’s FAI Cup final victory over Dundalk.

McCormack joined the league leaders from Derry City at the start of the season, but he got his first taste of life in the League of Ireland back in 2011 when he returned home from Italian club Triestina to sign for Shamrock Rovers, who were then under the stewardship of current Northern Ireland boss Michael O’Neill.

During three seasons in Tallaght, McCormack won the Premier Division, the League Cup and the Setanta Cup (twice), before departing for St Patrick’s Athletic for the 2014 season.

“I had a good couple of years there, won a few trophies and that with them,” says McCormack, reflecting on his time as a Shamrock Rovers player. “I enjoyed my time there. There are still people there who I talk to a wee bit sometimes.

“That was my first year when I came back to the League of Ireland. We won the league, the Setanta Cup, and we were lucky enough to get into Europe that year. It was a really good spell there.”

McCormack savoured the domestic successes, but his time with Rovers was distinguished by their memorable Europa League run in 2011, when they overcame Partizan Belgrade to become the first Irish club to reach the group stages.

“We were lucky enough to have a good squad and a good manager to get us through,” recalls the Carlingford native. “We beat some good teams to get there, like Partizan Belgrade, so we were delighted with that.”

Soccer - UEFA Europa League - Group A - Tottenham Hotspur v Shamrock Rovers - White Hart Lane McCormack (far right) celebrates with team-mates after Rovers took the lead away to Tottenham in September 2011. Source: PA Archive/PA Images

When asked how the current Cork City team compares to that Rovers side, McCormack says: “It’s definitely right up there. We have some great players who can do unbelievable things.

“We have some great defenders here this year and [at Shamrock Rovers] we had great defenders, like Dan Murray. He was our captain and he was brilliant for us. You can see now that Alan Bennett here for us is magnificent. There are similarities to the team back then and this team this year.”

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After undergoing a significant overhaul of their squad over the winter, Shamrock Rovers have struggled to find consistency this season. Stephen Bradley’s side have failed to record more than two league wins consecutively and there’s already a 21-point gap to the top.

Nevertheless, McCormack insists that Cork City are expecting Rovers to be at their best for tonight’s game, which is expected to attract a sell-out crowd to Turner’s Cross.

“For the last couple of years they’ve shown potential and then they’ve dropped off. They’ve been up and down. They went and beat Dundalk but then they lose games they’re expected to win,” McCormack says.

“But we can just concentrate on them as if they’re going to come down and be all guns blazing. They’ll be trying to stop our unbeaten run and stuff, but we have to be on our game and be ready for them.”

Sean Maguire celebrates scoring a penalty and the winning goal Sean Maguire scored both Cork City goals in their 2-1 win against Shamrock Rovers in March. Source: Tom Beary/INPHO

Predictions

Every week, we’re giving readers the chance to take us on in predicting the Premier Division results. After Week 15, here are the standings:

The Readers: 44
The42: 42

Next up is Dylan O’Connell from Cork…

Bray Wanderers v Sligo Rovers — Bray Wanderers win
Cork City v Shamrock Rovers — Cork City win
Drogheda United v Derry City — Derry City win
Galway United v Bohemians — Galway United win
St. Patrick’s Athletic v Dundalk — Dundalk win
Finn Harps v Limerick — Limerick win

The42 (Paul Dollery)

Bray Wanderers v Sligo Rovers – Bray Wanderers win
Cork City v Shamrock Rovers – Cork City win
Drogheda United v Derry City – Derry City win
Galway United v Bohemians – Draw
St. Patrick’s Athletic v Dundalk – Dundalk win
Finn Harps v Limerick – Draw

If you’d like to try your hand at forecasting League of Ireland results, get in touch by e-mailing pauldollery@the42.ie

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About the author:

Paul Dollery

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