Conor McCrickard. INPHO
Conor McCrickard

The Down forward proving key for Cork's St Finbarr's in reaching Munster club final

2021 has seen Conor McCrickard play for Down in the Ulster championship and win a Cork title with St Finbarr’s.

AT THE OUTSET of 2021, the GAA ambitions of Conor McCrickard were straightforward to figure out.

He was part of the U20 ranks with Down two years ago, featuring in both codes, and this season was timed for a senior breakthrough. 

Covid interrupted the normal rhythms of a season but when league games kick-started the inter-county action in May, McCrickard had forced his way into contention for Paddy Tally’s footballers.

Game time emerged with 0-2 off the bench against Meath, further action when facing Westmeath and Laois, and then a starting jersey in the championship arena in opposition to Donegal.

A late June beating by 15 points in Newry was a harsh lesson in the realities of elite football, bringing Down’s season to an abrupt halt.

neil-mcgee-with-conor-mccrickard Conor McCrickard in action for Down against Donegal in June. Tommy Dickson / INPHO Tommy Dickson / INPHO / INPHO

And yet it was not the final say in McCrickard’s 2021 narrative, instead that swerved onto an unexpected track that has yielded plenty of riches. A Cork senior football medal last month. Two goals on Sunday to clinch success in a Munster club semi-final.

And the prospect of a provincial decider against Austin Stacks, loaded with Kerry talent of the past and the future, in January.

Life as a St Finbarr’s player is embraced and enjoyed.

“I was down doing a placement out of university with Stryker in Carrigtwohill, I’m doing a degree in biomedical engineering,” outlines McCrickard.

“So I suppose I just linked up with the club to do a bit of training. It was actually through one of the girls from home, Sorcha McCartan, had been in contact, she had already transferred for the camogie.

“So I think she had been talking to Ian Maguire and he was chatting to me for a bit and then Ian Keeler (selector) as well.

“I’d been travelling up and down the road to play with my own club at home, the travelling was brutal. I said I’d give it a rattle.”

By mid-September, he had officially switched allegiances from his native Liatroim, immersing himself in St Finbarr’s by joining both senior squads.

The timing of the transfer ruled him out for opening group games. His hurling involvement was brief, a substitute appearance in their last group match as they lost out to Blackrock.

But in football, the livewire attacker hit the ground running. He whipped over 0-4 in his debut as they defeated Ilen Rovers in the group stages and then posted 1-6 over the next four games as the famed Togher club landed silverware, his impact particularly striking in the 1-2 tally in an epic semi-final win after penalties against Castlehaven.

conor-mccrickard St Finbarr's forward Conor McCrickard. James Crombie / INPHO James Crombie / INPHO / INPHO

“100%, the lads are sound, I get on well with every single one of them. I’m happy that I’ve come in and they’ve taken to me so well, especially being an outsider, you know it’s obviously not my home club, but I’m happy playing with them.

“I suppose at the start of the year, this wasn’t really something that I’d really predicted was going to happen, I was going to find myself down playing in the Cork championship. So I’m just happy to be part of this team and contributing any way possible. Thankfully it’s worked out to date.”

2021 was signed off on a happy note on Sunday afternoon in Páirc Uí Rinn. Clare champions Éire Óg landed with a team populated by county seniors and backed by a passionate away following but McCrickard’s two well-taken goals in the first half helped to take the sting out of their challenge and he added a glorious point in the second half.

The Ennis fans were not the only ones who had hit the road for the game with his family from Down having made the trip for the day.

“Listen, I was sort of thinking at the house before I came, that these ones have come down the road so let’s put on a show for them.

“For the Cork final, I think there was 20, 25 down, so it means a lot to me that they’ve taken the time, four hour journey down the road and I’ll be forever grateful.

“It’s the work that the boys do out the field, so I was just happy, particularly for the second goal to be on it, because it was on a plate. For the first, a lot of people would be expecting Steven (Sherlock) to just put that over, so he sort of gave me the nod and I was lucky to get in through and finish it thankfully.”

tom-clancy-looks-on-as-steven-sherlock-takes-a-shot St Finbarr's Steven Sherlock. Tom Maher / INPHO Tom Maher / INPHO / INPHO

With his placement keeping him based in Cork until next September, inter-county plans for 2022 are likely to be put on hold. The target of landing a Munster club medal will occupy his sporting thoughts over the next few weeks.

“We’ve come this far, we don’t want to leave it behind us now. I’m looking forward to it and so are the boys.”


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