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Dublin: 15 °C Sunday 5 July, 2020

Forward pair depart but Cork City keen to retain loan duo from Brighton and Preston

John Cotter has issued updates on City’s loan players.

Cork City's Kevin O'Connor and James Tilley.
Cork City's Kevin O'Connor and James Tilley.
Image: INPHO

CORK CITY INTERIM manager John Cotter has confirmed that English strikers Dan Smith and Matty Gillam have both returned to their parent clubs following brief spells in the SSE Airtricity League.

However, Cotter is keen to extend the stays of the other two loan signings that City made ahead of the start of the 2019 season.

Smith and Gillam have gone back to Portsmouth and Rochdale respectively, having been unable to make a significant impact during their time on Leeside.

Much more prominent roles have been played by James Tilley and Kevin O’Connor, both of whom featured as City recorded their third win in four games last night by overcoming UCD.

Tilley moved to Cork from Premier League side Brighton & Hove Albion. The 20-year-old attacking midfielder, who’s contracted to Brighton until the summer of 2020, is due to return to England when his loan deal expires next month.

However, Cotter would like to keep the English youngster until the end of the season, a situation which should soon become clearer after Brighton confirmed the appointment of Graham Potter as their new manager yesterday.

“Discussions about that will take place over the next few weeks. It’s something that we’d love to happen,” Cotter said when asked about Tilley’s future by The42 this afternoon.

“He’s had an influence on the team over the last number of weeks. His confidence is going well. I think for himself too, to play men’s football where you’re scrapping for points and where it means something, it’ll be great for his career going forward.”

Kevin O’Connor has been ever-present in City’s midfield since Cotter took the reins from John Caulfield last month. The Wexford native is also due to return to his parent club at the end of June. He has a year to run on his contract at Championship outfit Preston North End. 

John Cotter Interim Cork City manager John Cotter. Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

“That’s something we’d be looking to do as well,” Cotter said in relation to the possibility of extending the loan of O’Connor, who Preston signed from City in July 2017.

“We all know what a good footballer he is and it was just a matter of having a bit of patience. Kev has got an extended run in the team, his confidence is high and his fitness levels are getting better.

“Kev loves it here. We knew that before he went away. He loved his time in Cork. He’s going out with a Cork girl as well, which always helps. Kev is a great lad, great around the place and he’s been brilliant for us in the last few weeks. He has shown that he can play in a few different positions as well. We’d be delighted to keep Kev too if that’s possible.” 

As for departing duo Smith and Gillam, Cotter said: “They’ve gone back to their clubs and they’ll be looking to further their own careers over there.

“They’ve been brilliant here. They were great lads around the place. Unfortunately it didn’t work out but we wish them all the best and thank them for everything they’ve done here.”

Having moved up to sixth place courtesy of last night’s 1-0 victory at Belfield, City will return to Dublin on Friday to take on second-placed Shamrock Rovers.

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Paul Dollery

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