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Conor McDonald: The Student

Started on 18 April 2020 by Jack
Latest Reply on 8 May 2024 by Michael R Wilson
Looks like you're making a brilliant start! Hope you'll get spared from injuries, good luck mate!
Great start to the season! Early days yet, but hopefully those results will get some fans through the turnstiles and trickle some money into the bank balance. The games against Shelbourne and Bray are huge, and could already be defining for your season.
A lot of new players coming in and clearly having an impact already after a brilliant start to the season
EA Sports Cup isn’t a real trophy ;) but you’re on course to mount a league title challenge! I do like the layout you used for your pre-season fixtures.

But f*ck the football, when does Conor throw somebody off a bridge?!?
A blistering start for both the club and Harry Warwick individually.
A very good pre-season against some tough sides. Conor seems to be building a young side with O'Hara being a key member due to his experience and what he can teach the youngsters coming into the team. With a lead at the top, don't bottle it this time ;)

With the Irish First Division season well underway as the majority of teams have played seven games, we take a look at the early contenders for the title and the Play-Off positions in 2021.

With the highest wage budget in the division by over €200,000 per annum, the relegated Shelbourne were by far the bookies favourites to walk the way to the league title as odds were being offered at ⅗.

Jon Daly’s side have not got off to the blistering start in the league that everyone was expecting as they struggled to manage to earn a point in February and despite a 3-0 win over title rivals Cobh Ramblers, have continued to struggle through March.

Dublin-born striker Ciarán Kilduff has been dubbed one of the best players in the division this year following 12 goals in 35 games in the Premier League last season. However, even the 32-year-old has struggled to get off the mark so far with only one goal in five games in the league.

Shelbourne currently sit in 4th place, just above Longford Town who match their points tally for the season but four points behind the league leaders.

Conor McDonald’s Cobh Ramblers were next in line as the favourites to take home the title this season and they have made a superb beginning to the 2021 campaign, leading the league table with 14 points after some smashing wins already in the form of 5-1 results against both Athlone Town and Bray Wanderers.

McDonald has revamped his side for the new season, electing to scout his homeland of England and Northern Ireland for new additions rather than the previous strategy of domestic Irish players.

The young 23-year-old manager has added a new strike partnership to replace last season’s Danila Bogdanov - on loan from Shamrock Rovers - and Cameron Moore who followed four other players from Cobh to Shelbourne in 2020. Callum Jones and Harry Warwick joined the club from Colchester United and Truro City respectively. The duo have netted nine goals between them as Jones leads the division’s goalscoring charts with a goal every 107 minutes at his current rate.

With their nemesis's from 2020 Drogheda United and University College Dublin both promoted and out of Cobh’s way, McDonald has to ensure his side don’t collapse at the end of the season and extend their current lead at the summit of the table.

Limerick are also a side that have made a bursting entrance into the Play-Off positions despite an opening day loss to Cobh and being sixth favourite for the title in 2021.

The Super Blues were relegated from the Premier League in 2018 as a result of their continuing financial troubles and have struggled to find their way back. A rebuilding process led by manager Tommy Barrett has taken place since as he enters his third year in charge at Markets Field.

Youth team graduate Brian McCauley has led the charge on the field despite only turning 17 last May. He made 22 league appearances in 2020 and has been a tremendous influence on the team this season as his team sit level on points with the league leaders Cobh.

Limerick are one to keep an eye on for this season with a few pundits tipping them to shock the division and make a long-awaited return to the top-flight.

Bray Wanderers were automatically relegated from the Premier League last season in their first season back in the Premier League and have become a yo-yo team in recent years.

They started off well in 2021, beating Shelbourne 1-0 on the opening day. However, Conor McDonald’s Cobh Ramblers showed their defensive weaknesses as they were beaten 5-1 at St. Colman’s Park.

Right-winger Conor Barry is expected to provide the goods for the remainder of this season, having played at this level, impressing at Galway United and making 35 league appearances in the top-flight for Bray Wanderers last season.

With Gary Cronin resigning from his position at Bray following the club’s relegation in 2020, it must be said that new manager Aaron Callaghan has started this season well with The Seagulls in 3rd place, one point behind the league leaders and 2nd place Limerick.

The outsiders for this season seem to be Longford Town and Galway United, who have both come close in recent seasons.

Longford brought in former Drogheda United manager Tim Clancy to take over from the sacked Martin Russell in July 2020 and his side made the Play-Offs last season with a final day draw against Cobh Ramblers. Despite a shaky start to the new season, Clancy’s team seem to have hit the quality they know they can provide on the pitch and look set to challenge for a Play-Off place again this season.

It can be said that Galway United have underperformed since their Premier League relegation in 2017 as they have only managed to scrape into the Play-Offs once in 2019. The club brought in former Finn Harps manager Ollie Horgan in December for the new season and he will be relying on striker Achille Campion to fire their way into the Play-Offs this season despite a horrific start to the season in which The Tribesmen have only won one game in seven.

Wolf: We’ve been playing out of our skin! It’s been fantastic.
James: The wins will certainly bring more heads into the ground on a weekly basis. The two games against the relegated sides will be a good indicator for exactly where we should be placing our expectations for the season.
tedbro20: It’s great to see them gelling so quickly!
Justice: Another league title challenge is a scary thing considering last season’s events but I’m excited! Conor’s personal story will continue at a later date…
Scott: Warwick has stepped into Moore’s (who isn’t getting a game at Shelbourne!) shoes very well so far, long may it continue I say!
Seb: The decision to keep O’Hara was a tough one, having to weigh up the pros (his talent & experience) and the cons (his wages and his age). He was essential to last season’s success so I think I made the right call to keep hold of him.

March turned out to be another good month for Conor McDonald’s Cobh despite a terrible start to the month against Shelbourne. His side lead the way in the league and have built on February’s exploits.

Monday evening called for a game against Shelbourne in the league and presented itself as an opportunity for revenge as Shelbourne poached five first-team players from Cobh during their time in the Premier League last season.

McDonald’s revenge plan did not go to plan at all as his team was taken apart by the quality in Jon Daly’s team. Cobh lost 3-0 at home as Gary Oliver, Denzil Fernandes and Ciarán Kilduff all scored to send Cobh down into 2nd place, overtaken by Bray as Shelbourne recorded their first league victory of the season.

Cobh returned to action on Friday in the same week with a game against the new league leaders Bray Wanderers who took advantage of Cobh’s loss with a 2-1 win over Athlone Town on the same evening.

After being demolished earlier in the week, The Rams took out their anger against Bray. Harry Warwick scored the opener after 16 minutes. A penalty by Jamie O’Hara and a tidy finish from Callum Jones put the home team 3-0 ahead by half-time.

Bray’s Darren Kelly got a goal back just after the break but that was quickly cancelled by Callum Jones completing his brace in the 50th minute. Left midfielder Will McGowan added Cobh’s fifth of the game in the 91st minute to finish the rout as his team ended the game as 5-1 victors.

The following Friday, Cobh were up against perennial First Division strugglers Cabinteely, led by Eddie Gormley.

Callum Jones scored the opener in this one after 18 minutes. Cabinteely’s star striker Marty Waters managed to strike an equaliser on the cusp of half-time. The away team’s leveller didn’t last long, though, with Callum Jones scoring his 2nd brace in consecutive games and attacking midfielder Remi Thompson scoring his first goal in a Cobh shirt to make it 3-1 and lift his team back to the summit of the division.

Home games in the league came next for Cobh. First up was Wexford, who have been improving year-on-year since their relegation from the Premier League.

Conor English scored for Wexford within the first ten minutes of the fixture and the Youths thought they had secured an important three points until Jordan O’Brien finally scored an equaliser in the 89th minute to draw the game despite being sent off just one minute after hitting the back of the net due to persistent fouling from the right-winger.

Cobh’s last game of the month didn’t turn out to be anything special as they drew 0-0 against Longford Town, who have crept up the league table after a horrid first month in February.

The Ramblers sit top of the league table with 14 points, level with their first opponents of the season Limerick who have had a tremendous spell of games unbeaten following their 3-2 defeat at Markets Field on the opening day of the season. Bray Wanderers have kept up with the top two despite their 5-1 loss earlier in March.

Shelbourne have also hit some kind of form, securing their first win of the season this month against Cobh Ramblers. However, losses to Longford Town and Limerick have kept The Reds down in 4th place on 10 points with Longford Town having a game in hand on them to possibly overtake them.

Upcoming Fixtures:
Finn Harps (A) - League
Galway United (H) - League
Limerick (H) - League
Cork City (H) - EA Sports Cup 2nd Round
Shelbourne (A) - League
University College Cork (A) - Munster Senior Cup Semi-Final
Bray Wanderers (A) - League
Decently recovered after a poor loss against Shelbourne. Bray stood no chance! A lot of encouragement can be taken from results like that.
I hope this is your year mate!

April turned into Conor McDonald’s best month since his arrival at St. Colman’s Park as the 23-year-old racked up five out of five wins in the league and qualified for a cup final in the process.

Despite finishing March poorly with two consecutive draws against teams they should have beaten, Cobh opened up their April account with a 3-1 win against Alan Reynolds’ Finn Harps.

Finn Harps did take the lead against Cobh at Finn Park courtesy of a Gareth Cambridge penalty in the 9th minute. However, right midfielder Jordan O’Brien turned the game on its head all by himself with a first-half brace. Eoin Porter was on hand to ensure all three points with Cobh’s third and final goal.

The Rams continued their good start to the month with a 4-1 win over Galway United as they returned to St. Colman’s Park.

Callum Jones scored the opener but that was quickly cancelled out by a Stephen Christopher equaliser. The game really opened up for Cobh in the second-half, firstly down to Jamie O’Hara who kept up his 100% record from spot kicks this season. Callum Jones finished off his brace with fifteen minutes to go before his strike partner Harry Warwick bagged Cobh’s fourth of the day.

Perhaps Cobh’s biggest game of the season so far was up next against 2nd placed Limerick who matched them on points going into the game on Friday, 16th April. It turned out to be another huge win both in terms of meaning and result as McDonald’s men romped home to a 5-1 win.

Callum Jones bagged the first two goals in the 4th and 16th minutes. One of the division’s top scorers in Cian Murphy pegged back a goal for the visitors just before half-time.

A nervy second-half ensued with both sides looking equally as threatening but Cobh having more to defend. Pressure was eased in the 89th minute thanks to another Jamie O’Hara penalty for the second game in a row. This was followed by two goals in quick succession in the 92nd minute from Harry Warwick and again in the 95th minute from substitute striker Cian Leonard who replaced Jones earlier on.

This result meant that Limerick have still yet to beat Cobh Ramblers under Conor McDonald’s side with McDonald winning eight and drawing one of their nine games against each other under his leadership at St. Colman’s Park.

The Ramblers did lose their 100% win record in April as they were knocked out of the EA Sports Cup in the Second Round by their provincial rivals Cork City despite winning the same cup last season.

Will McGowan opened the scoring in the 3rd minute but McDonald’s defence were unable to handle the quality of Josh Honohan and Liam Murphy who scored Cork City’s goals.

The damage was quickly repaired in the league with a very satisfying victory over Shelbourne. Tensions between the two clubs began due to Shelbourne poaching five of Cobh’s first-team players during their short-lived spell in the Premier League last season. With Shelbourne beating 3-0 at St. Colman’s Park in March, revenge was sweet for Cobh as they ran out 2-1 winners at Tolka Park.

James English quickly put Cobh fans on edge with an early penalty given away by Gordon Walker who was filling in at right-back this game. It took an hour for the visitors to get back into the game as Harry Warwick bagged a huge equaliser in the 65th minute. The comeback was complete as Cian Leonard - filling in for the injured Callum Jones - scored the winner in the 77th minute, subsequently sending the travelling fans into raptures on the terraces.

The Rams turned back to cup action in their regional cup: the Munster Senior Cup Semi-Final against University College Cork. Cobh fans were delighted as their team secured their place in the final against Limerick with a resounding 5-0 away win at The Farm.

Star striker Harry Warwick scored three times for his team as Will McGowan and Cian Leonard also filled their names in on the scoresheet with a goal apiece.

Cobh finished off their final fixture of April on the last day of the month against Bray Wanderers. The scoreline was not quite as emphatic as their last meeting which ended 5-1 in favour of Cobh but the three points was enough for The Rams with centre-back Jamie Thornton getting his first goal in senior football to send Cobh fans back to East Cork filled with happiness.

All thanks to their ardent performance against Limerick, Cobh Ramblers ended the month having extended their lead at the top of the table to three points.

It has to be said that a lot of the current top four have really begun to hit form as of late, including Shelbourne who are a real concern for Cobh despite being seven points off the pace due to the abundance of quality in their side, including last season’s joint top scorer Cameron Moore.

The league has now started its regular procedure of dividing into two halves as Bray Wanderers sit five points ahead of 6th placed Finn Harps and Galway United.

In the goalscoring charts, Longford Town’s Aaron Dobbs was in blistering form throughout April as he scored eight out of the ten Longford team goals this month, putting him one goal ahead of second top scorer Callum Jones who has recently been out of action with a calf strain sustained against Limerick, meaning Cian Leonard has been filling in for him at Cobh alongside starting striker Harry Warwick.

Upcoming Fixtures:
Athlone Town (H) - League
Wexford (A) - League
Cabinteely (H) - League
Cobh Wanderers (H) - Friendly

Scott: I was fearing the worst after that awful Shelbourne performance but my word, what a turnaround! A lot of positives came out of March for sure.
Wolf: We can only sit and hope ;)
Fantastic month of results, nice little lead that can hopefully be stretched even further next month. Need a league win to boost the clubs reputation, so that you can attract better players.
I am going to make Warwick the focus of your story, whether you like it or not haha
Excellent form. The only negative is the early departure in the cup which results in Cobh failing to retain their crown. It was always set to be a difficult feat regardless. Limerick are doing their best to keep up with McDonald's men but I still favour Cobh.
Almost the perfect month. Previous experience will serve you well here in the next few games!

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