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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

Conor McDonald has been very active throughout the summer transfer window as he added five new faces to his division-leading squad.

Scottish striker Jamie Docherty was the first through the door as he followed his pre-contract arrangement with Cobh Ramblers upon the expiry of his Edinburgh City.

The 21-year-old was integral to Edinburgh City’s season throughout 2020/21 as he finished as Scotland’s Ladbroke League Two third top scorer with 12 goals from 30 games. He previously hit the same record with his former team Arthurlie after returning to football from a long-term injury he sustained whilst playing for St. Johnstone’s academy.

He signs a €150 per week deal until December 2022 and will wear the number 19 shirt.

Cobh snapped up two of Bournemouth’s recently released Under-18s players thanks to Conor McDonald’s knowledge of the English academy system through his work with Burnley and Tranmere Rovers youth teams.

The first Bournemouth player to come through was 18-year-old English striker Khavarn Williams on a free transfer.

In the past two years in Bournemouth’s youth system, Williams scored 17 goals in 34 appearances for the Under-18 and Development Under-23 teams but failed to make his mark on the first-team which managed to qualify for next season's Europa League.

The striker joins on a €140 per week deal until December 2023 and he will wear the number 26 shirt for Cobh.

The arrival of 18-year-old centre-back Jack Seddon concluded Cobh Ramblers’ business with Bournemouth for the summer.

Like Khavarn Williams, Seddon failed to make an impact on Eddie Howe’s Bournemouth in the first-team but his performances with the club’s youth teams raised eyebrows and some considered him a valid option to keep at the club for longer. However, he was released at the end of the 2020/21 Premier League campaign.

Seddon joins on a €45 per week contract until December 2023 and he will wear the number 35 shirt.

Perhaps Conor McDonald’s most outlandish signing was the capture of 16-year-old Slovakian central midfielder Jan Lukac on a free transfer.

The deal was McDonald’s first activity to bring in a player from outside either the Republic of Ireland or the United Kingdom. The club initially brought the player on trial after seeing reports of his call-up to the Slovakia Under-19 national team.

The youngster impressed during his two-week trial at the club and subsequently signed an initial youth contract with the club on €35 per week until he turns 17 in June 2022 where he will sign a part-time deal on €90 per week until December 2024.

The 16-year-old will wear the number 26 shirt for the remainder of the 2021 season.

Cobh’s final piece of business was to bring in another young goalkeeper. The result was Brighton & Hove Albion’s recently released goalkeeper Fynn Talley.

18-year-old Talley will look to challenge current number one Alan O’Sullivan between the sticks with now third-choice goalkeeper Adam Mylod being placed on the club’s transfer list with Shamrock Rovers and Scottish team Airdrieonians reportedly showing interest.

Talley will wear the number 40 shirt for the rest of the 2021 season and has signed a €130 per week contract until December 2023.

In terms of outgoings, Cobh have currently let six players leave the club permanently, beginning with unhappy youth striker Shane Coughlan who has signed a contract with Irish Premier League side Bohemian.

January arrival Andy Mooney has also departed the club on a free transfer to divisional rivals Galway United after not making a single appearance in any competition for The Rams since joining from Crumlin United.

Under-19s left-back Matthew McCarthy also joined St. Patrick’s Athletic on a free transfer.

The biggest move out of the club was undoubtedly the €20,000 transfer of Jake Giddings to Braintree Town in the English Vanarama National League South despite not making an appearance for Cobh since arriving in January.

Centre-backs Jordan Lyttle and James McSweeney were also shown the door by McDonald as Lyttle signed a deal with Northern Irish side Newry City. James McSweeney has not as yet been able to find a new club following six years at St. Colman’s Park, leaving the club with 112 appearances to his name.

There is likely to be another departure in the next few days as third-choice goalkeeper Adam Mylod will have to choose between Shamrock Rovers and Airdrieonians following the arrival of Brighton’s Fynn Talley.

James: Honestly, don't put it past me ;) Shelbourne have picked up their game but they've done that at various points throughout the season before dipping so here's hoping...
Griffo: Or maybe Conor's personal stability is proving useful in Cobh's league success this time around :P
tedbro20: You would think so wouldn't you?!
Justice: Thank you very much, not as prestigious as the League Cup last season, but a cup regardless. Not that many games remaining in the league so we shall see.
Scott: There's been a few points where we've looked like we might dip but we've got straight back on the horse which is delightful.
Seb: A three-win difference between ourselves and 2nd but 3rd and 4th aren't too far behind either. We shall see as we approach the end of the 2021 season.
Wolf: I'll try and make the green a little darker in the next monthly update to see if that helps with visibility, thanks for letting me know!
Looks like your putting your money on the prospects, nice! Hopefully you'll get some more departures! (In advance thanks for the colour)
Docherty stands out to me as a very decent option to have up-front, although I think McDonald has strengthened rather well on the whole.

To snatch £20,000 from Braintree for a player who didn't play whatsoever is also fantastic for the club.
Great window for the club, €20,000 is a fair chunk of change, should pay the wage bill for a little while. I'm most impressed by Fynn Talley, but the Slovakian boy looks like he could possibly become something special if given a bit of time to develop. The other lads look decent, without being special, and I look forward to seeing how they fare. Keep up the good work man

Conor McDonald won the Manager of the Month award for the third time this season with another outstanding month where the club went on a 100% win record for the second month in a row.

The month began on the first Friday for Cobh as they took on mid-table Finn Harps at St. Colman’s Park.

Jamie O’Hara tucked away his fifth penalty and goal of the season in the 8th minute of the game before Will McGowan doubled Cobh’s lead just ten minutes later. Connor Maxwell was left red-faced as he put the ball in his own net just before half-time.

However, he quickly made amends in the second half as he delivered a perfect corner ball for his defensive partner Jamie Thornton to head home to make it 3-1 to Cobh. With fifteen minutes remaining, Callum Jones got on the scoresheet for his 12th goal of the league season. A late consolation was scored by Finn Harps’ Mark Coyle in the 94th minute but the only effect was that it reduced Cobh’s lead to two goals.

An entertaining friendly against Galway United followed at St. Colman’s Park with the game ending 3-3 as Khavarn Williams scored his first goal in a Cobh shirt followed by two more goals from Jamie O’Hara and an own goal from Galway’s Stephen McGuinness.

Upon his departure from Cobh, striker Andy Mooney scored a goal for Galway United in the process and has been in relatively good form since joining them on a free transfer in late June.

The return to the First Division against Limerick, with Cobh being somewhat of a bogey team for their opponents having been beaten nine out of the ten times they have come up against Conor McDonald, drawing the other game.

In this one it was a tight game against Tommy Barrett’s side who have been in poor form as of late. However, Jamie O’Hara saved the day with his sixth penalty goal of the season, maintaining his 100% record from the spot. His 35th minute goal was the only goal of the game and saw them maintain their nine-point gap over Shelbourne.

Conor McDonald lined up another friendly to fill the schedule against Munster Senior League side Bandon and smashed their opponents 4-0 with a Remi Thompson brace helping them along their way.

Cobh’s final league game of July was against rock-bottom Athlone Town.

After a tight first-half where no goals were scored, Harry Warwick released the nerves in the crowd just after half-time with a point-blank header from a perfect cross by right-back Charlie Fleming.

The results in July mean that Cobh Ramblers have already qualified for the division’s Play-Offs already - the first and only team to do so at this point. They sit nine points ahead of Shelbourne who seem to be the only real contenders at this point with only seven games and 21 points to play for. It seems that Conor McDonald has one hand on the First Division trophy.

Upcoming Fixtures:
Ringmahon Rangers (H) - Friendly
Shelbourne (H) - League
Dundalk (A) - Ford Cup First Round
Bray Wanderers (H) - League
Fermoy (H) - Friendly
Bray Wanderers (H) - League

Wolf: They're the ones who appreciate in value and God knows I need the money at Cobh :P
Scott: Docherty is a young player that unlike the other additions has had first-team experience for two seasons running now. I hope he comes good in Ireland! The Giddings deal surprised me for sure, as soon as I saw that €20k was offered I was quick on that accept button!
James: The money from the sale is great but I realise that it won't come around often and that the real money currently lays in the prize money from competitions. Talley I would imagine be our first-choice keeper for a few years now and Lukac - he seems a good grab, fortunately I checked the national teams youth squads around Europe. I hope he comes good!
How many games is there in the season again? 9 point gap is a nice level of security to have, just need to keep those points trickling in at the very minimum. Heads up: Kosovo, Serbia and Croatia get good regens. And they're bloody cheap too! :D also starting to notice a few Belarusians in my game atm, but I don't know whether or not they'll get a work permit for you.

How are your attendances? Growing?
Another good month and slowly keeping the gap going. Is Conor going to have a relapse with his gambling though that could cause some friction with the owner?
Some very good additions to the squad once again. Particularly looking forward to seeing how Lukac will turn out. He seems to be stacked with potential and with O'Hara still here I am sure he will learn alot. Continuing to impress in the league, that Shelbourne game could be the season defining one.
Conor must be dreaming at this point. The team need to remain as focused as ever and make sure they get over the line. It would be very easy to lose concentration now.
Surely surely surely the league title is yours now! Not sure about these logos though ;)
Great form from Conors Cobh side. It's showing the previous investment in the squad was worth it.
Still sitting high and mighty at the top of the league!

The beginning of the Ford Cup did not distract Cobh Ramblers from their league duties this month as McDonald’s team held onto their nine-point lead over Shelbourne as well as qualifying for the Ford Cup Quarter-Final in September.

August began with a friendly against Ringmahon Rangers at St. Colman’s Park in a very one-sided fixture which led to a 6-1 victory for Cobh thanks mainly to an Eoin Porter hat-trick and a Khavarn Williams brace.

This form was carried over to the league in perhaps Cobh’s biggest fixture of the season, coming up against 2nd placed Shelbourne who had the opportunity to cut Cobh’s lead at the top.

An early opener from Shelbourne’s Mark Timlin in the 21st minute put fear and doubt into Cobh fans’ heads in the first-half and into the second-half. However, this season’s star striker Callum Jones got his team back on level terms on the hour mark as Cobh finished the game 1-1 with no points dropped or gained over their sole title rivals.

Conor McDonald had never reached further than the First Round in the Ford Cup in the entirety of his Cobh reign, having been knocked out by Finn Harps and Shelbourne in the past two years. This was why it was shocking when his team managed a late victory over Premier League title-holders and 2019 Ford Cup winners Dundalk in their First Round tie.

Callum Jones got his team off to a great start in the 2nd minute however, it was as quickly cancelled out by Dundalk’s Mark Hanratty in the 4th minute.

Jordan O’Brien got the Ramblers ahead for the 2nd time in the game with a second after a quarter of an hour of play and once again, Dundalk struck back just ten minutes later to make it 2-2. It was thanks to Harry Warwick in the 81st minute that Cobh got through to the Second Round, consequently knocking the Irish champions out of the competition at the first hurdle and bagging a €12,000 prize pot.

To make up for the near-fortnightly distance between their last game and their next competitive game, Cobh arranged two friendlies in a row.

Divisional rivals Bray Wanderers were first up and they suffered a heavy 5-0 defeat with Cian Leonard scoring a brace and youngster Louis Britton also making the scoresheet.

The second friendly in this gap was against Timmy Kiely’s Fermoy as Cobh ran out 6-1 winners in this one thanks to a Harry Warwick hat-trick, a brace from Jordan O’Brien and a late finish by July signing Jamie Docherty.

Cobh returned to competitive action with their Ford Cup Second Round tie against 3rd place Premier League outfit Sligo Rovers. They secured a 2-1 win against Sligo which put them through to the cup Quarter-Finals.

In his first competitive start for his new club, 16-year-old Jan Lukac - playing right-midfield - scored on his club debut just 31 minutes into the game. Ronan Murray drew level in the second-half following a Tom Harrison red card.

However, it was down to the composure of Jamie O’Hara late in the game to send Cobh through to the next round with a penalty in the 88th minute.

Cobh Ramblers will face Ulster Senior League’s Letterkenny Rovers in the Quarter-Final as only three Premier League teams remain in the cup going into the last eight.

Conor McDonald finished off the month in great style in the league as his team defeated Bray Wanderers for the second time of the month in a 4-1 win, pushing them that bit closer to the title.

Callum Jones’ opener was quickly cancelled by Bray’s Darragh Gibbons in what was then tipped for a tight game. With Jamie O’Hara’s seventh goal and seventh penalty of the season hitting the net on the half-hour mark, those thoughts were put to bed.

Cobh resumed the scoring through Khavarn Williams in the second-half before substitute Jamie Docherty put the game beyond all doubt with a header in the 87th minute.

The league leaders still maintain their nine-point difference that they had with Shelbourne at the end of last month. However, there are now only five games left, meaning fifteen points to play for. If results swung perfectly in Cobh’s favour, McDonald could be effectively crowned as a First Division winning manager in September.

Further down the league, Bray’s hopes of achieving a Play-Off finish look like they are deteriorating the more the games go on after their 4-1 pummeling against Cobh.

Upcoming Fixtures:
Dundalk (H) - Friendly
Wexford (H) - League
Letterkenny Rovers (A) - Ford Cup Quarter-Final
St. Mary’s Cork (H) - Friendly
Longford Town (H) - League

James: The season is 27 games long (play each other 3 times). I've taken good note of the prospects in Eastern Europe just for future reference, hence how Lukac was picked up. With regards to attendances: In complete honesty, they haven't grown much at all since my arrival :/
tedbro20: The silence from Conor with regards to his personal affairs may be a reason why this season has passed so successfully without cause for concern. Who knows?! :P
Seb: It was great to see Lukac hit his debut goal this month! Shelbourne turned out to be something of nothing with a draw, but it solidified our spot going into the final five games!
Scott: The morale is obviously high in the camp but keeping level heads is what we need here, definitely.
Justice: Gotta fix that soon :P
Eoin: Definitely, building on my mistakes last season and with the likes of Williams and Talley, it's showing that it pays off.
Griffo: Hopefully it stays that way for the remainder!
All but done in the league now with just five to play. Also progression in the Ford Cup is great considering the problems Conor has had with it in the past. To now be in with a great shot at the semi-finals, maybe there's another trophy coming this year.
What a month ith two big wins against Dundalk and Sligo in the cup. It will all be doing wonders to improve Conor's reputation in the country. League title could be coming his way next as well

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