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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
Fantastic commentary. A shame about the result but there's nothing to be too disheartened about. Cork are a superior side after all. Plenty of positives can be taken from holding them to a draw after ninety minutes.
Well, what a season despite the disappointment of the cup final. You have shown that you can compete with the big boys throughout the past two years in a number of friendlies and cup games and that should be a good sign for next season. Also got to say the commentary on the final was some of the best I have seen, apart from that bit about that guy who drinks too much...
Disappointing result, but the game analysis will be hilarious to watch due to Pierre and Eoin's commentary. Overall: a good season. With a bit more investment in the squad, Conor will be able to bring in some more lads that can [ideally] get you a mid-table-ish place. Might have to invest inner a zimmer frame for O'Hara in the off-season too ;)


Cobh Ramblers finally secured the First Division title in the last month of the season with a 4-2 victory over Cabinteely. Among the league fixtures, Cobh also had a cup final to play against their provincial rivals Cork City which they ultimately failed to win in extra-time.

The first fixture of October was against Cobh Wanderers which ended 5-2 thanks to a Jamie Docherty hat-trick and goals from Jordan O’Brien and Khavarn Williams.

Next up, Cobh Ramblers faced Premier League side Bohemian in the Semi-Final of the FAI Ford Cup at Dalymount Park.

Cobh took an early two-goal lead through Will McGowan and Callum Jones. Marc Griffin was able to drag a goal back for the hosts but ultimately Conor McDonald was taking Cobh to the Aviva Stadium.

The title-winning game came against Cabinteely as Khavarn Williams was the hero, bagging a hat-trick.

Cabinteely pulled a two-goal deficit back through two goals in six minutes from Rob Manley and Glenn McDonnell. However, right-midfielder Jordan O’Brien put his team back in the lead in the last ten minutes before Williams secured the win by restoring the two-goal lead and completing his hat-trick.

To plug the fortnight-long wait until their next league fixture, Cobh arranged a friendly with Longford Town with Jamie Docherty, Harry Warwick and Cian Leonard all getting on the scoresheet as they ran out 3-1 winners.

Cobh’s return to league football against Finn Harps who have performed well under manager Alan Reynolds. They drew 1-1, not that the result mattered with the title in the bag.

There were goals either side of half-time as Khavarn Williams gave his team the lead on the 42nd minute mark. Robbie Quigley equalised immediately after half-time and the score remained that way until full-time.

Cobh’s final league game of the season was met with a heroes reception at St. Colman’s Park but the last game was not meant to be as they were hammered by Gary Cronin’s Galway United 5-2.

Galway were 5-0 up against the champions with a Wilson Waweru brace helping them along their way. However, Cobh were able to pull two goals back through Jordan O’Brien and Remi Thompson but as they already knew, that wouldn’t be enough.

The final game of the season was played out in front of over 18,000 fans at the national team stadium in Dublin. They faced Cork City in the FAI Ford Cup Final but lost in extra-time despite earning half of the gate receipts as well as a €44k prize float for losing out in the final.

Cork youngster Gerry McNally grabbed an early goal with a ball to the back post from Conor McCormack. Callum Jones was able to get an equaliser before half-time and the 1-1 scoreline remained the same all the way through to the end of regulation time. Cobh Ramblers were eventually put to the sword by Cian Bargary’s tap-in from the rebounded O’Connor free-kick effort as they lifted the trophy at the Aviva Stadium.

Aside from Cobh winning the league title, University College Dublin were able to retain their position in the top-flight as they defeated Limerick in the Play-Off Final. On the other hand, Drogheda United will make an instant return to the First Division after their title-winning season in 2020.


In the Premier League, Dundalk ran out as title winners for the fourth consecutive season, now creating a dynasty that is becoming very hard to topple.

Cobh Ramblers won the First Division title and promotion to the Premier League, leading the way over 2nd placed Shelbourne by eight points in October.

Waterford defeated First Division side Longford Town at Oriel Park back in September to win the EA Sports Cup.

Cork City prevented Cobh Ramblers from completing a famous treble-winning season after already securing the Munster Senior Cup and the First Division title. They beat The Rams at Aviva Stadium in extra-time.

In Europe, it was a glorious time for Italian sides as Juventus won the Champions League and Milan took home the Europa League for the first time in their history.

Justice: I guess so, it still would've been nice to take home, but I'll just take the very helpful cash for now.
Scott: Indeed, we just need to mix it with those teams which we have done over the course of our stay in the First Division!
Seb: Definitely, what I've noticed is that there are frequent shocks against Premier League sides yet all of the teams that went up have come down straight away, apart from UCD this season.
James: I'd certainly tune in for that coverage :P We have a decent budget for next season, I hope we can make it a good window with a few faces retained, including O'Hara and his zimmerframe ;)
There were clearly some sore heads from the celebrations prior against Galway. A sobering loss ;) but it certainly wouldn't have ruined the party spirit.
Every reason to celebrate now for Conor! . Also good to see Juventus finally claim another UEFA Champions League crown and Milan become a force in Europe again! I hope Buffon didn't retire yet :))
A good break ahead for Conor where he should be able to let his hair down before some big decisions are to be made I'm sure
A brilliant season and that cup money is really going to come in handy in building a squad capable of staying up this year. I look forward to seeing your battles with Dundalk especially, they certainly seem to be the team to beat in Ireland at the moment.
A big gap in the end, and a well deserved league title. Next season will be tough but I reckon Conor has enough about him to lead Cobh to a respectable season.
Congratulations, really excited to see how you do at the next level.


Cobh Ramblers’ have been very busy in the January transfer window following promotion to the Airtricity Premier League, bringing in no less than 23 new faces - their most active transfer window under Conor McDonald to date.


Perhaps the biggest deal to come out of St. Colman’s Park was the arrival of former Middlesbrough and Blackburn Rovers forward Rudy Gestede as the 33-year-old Beninese international joined the club on free transfer.

The 6’4” striker is most well-known for his time with Blackburn Rovers, finishing 20 goals in 39 games in the EFL Championship, leading him to a €7m transfer to English Premier League outfit Aston Villa. After Villa’s relegation, Gestede returned to the Premier League with another big transfer of €7.5m to Aitor Karanka’s Middlesbrough.

Gestede will be retiring at the end of this season, along with fan favourite and captain Jamie O’Hara.


Likely to be joining Gestede on the front line will be Iranian striker Alex Samizadeh who joins the club from English Evo-Stik Premier Division side Radcliffe on a free transfer.

Despite graduating from Manchester City’s famed academy in 2014, Samizadeh has failed to make much of an impact in the the higher tiers of English football aside from a single first-team appearance for Bolton Wanderers in the EFL Championship.

However, the 23-year-old has been firing goals in for Radcliffe in the past three seasons, scoring 48 league goals in 80 appearances, making him a potentially shrewd addition to a team attempting to survive relegation at least this season.


Conor McDonald also took it upon himself to look at Wales and raid the English League Two side Newport County for two of their players that led them to a 9th place finish in 2020/21.

Irish centre-back Mark O’Brien and English central midfielder Matt Dolan both signed contracts with Cobh until 2023, with Dolan becoming Cobh’s new highest paid player on €625 per week.


Over on the right-midfield position, Conor McDonald has made the change of bringing in Crewe Alexandra’s Daniel Powell in to take over as the first-choice in that position from Jordan O’Brien.

Powell came through the newly-found MK Dons youth academy and spent a total of ten years at the club, mostly making his name as a regular in the EFL League One with his blistering pace and occasional goal contribution.

From there, Powell moved to Northampton Town and then Crewe Alexandra in League Two where he spent two seasons before his release this season.


Possibly regularly lining up alongside Mark O’Brien at the back is Slovakian youngster Stefan Takac. This is the second player arriving from Slovakia for Cobh following last season's Jan Lukac transfer with the club now somewhat setting up camp in Eastern Europe.

Takac joins from Slovak second tier side FC Kosice and was noticed due to his heading ability as well as comfort on the ball.

Other Arrivals


In terms of departures, 21 players have left the club both permanently or temporarily with a lot of former first-team players which helped Cobh to the top-flight leaving on loan.

The biggest fee received of January was the departure of defensive midfielder to Shamrock Rovers for €20,500 after the Englishman made 20 appearances last season in all competitions despite Jamie O’Hara beating him to the regular starter spot.

Other cashed fees were the departures of Eoin Porter - Conor McDonald’s first signing for the club back in July 2019 - who left the club for Bray Wanderers in a €1,200 transfer. Centre-back Jack Seddon also left for fellow Premier League side Bohemian in a €3,500 transfer.

Regular starters from last season such as Harry Warwick, Tom Harrison, Connor Maxwell and Charlie Fleming have all left the club on either permanent or loan deals, mostly to British sides.

Former Cork City man Ian Turner also ended a three-year stay at St. Colman’s Park as he ran his contract to the end being one of the highest-paid players prior to Premier League promotion.

Scott: Definitely, I don't know what came over us to lose that badly!
Eoin: Sadly Buffon didn't win the UCL with Juve! :)) He retired a year too early!
tedbro20: A lot of big decisions went on just throughout January! Lots of business completed for the Premier League.
Seb: The Dundalk games are always a pleasure and entertaining, even as a manager of the opposition! Despite their dominance they haven't put up much of a fight against us in recent years.
Justice: It's always difficult for teams coming up in Ireland as I've seen with immediate yo-yo's with the likes of Shelbourne and Bray. Interested to see how we fare.
Griffo: As am I with this brand-new team!
Damn, that is a huge window for Cobh with a great mixture of experience and young blood. Incredible recruitment from McDonald!
So not only did you bring in an incredible new first-team squad, you ALSO brought in €25k too! Brilliant work in the transfer window, I think Cobh are going to surprise a lot of the established Premier division clubs this season. Did you guys end up turning 'professional' in the off-season?
Some good signings, particularly Gestede! I wonder if former Cobh Ramblers player Roy Keane will be among the arrivals in the future?

Cobh’s entrance to the Airtricity Premier League has been nothing short of superb as they topped the league after their first five games throughout February.

The month began with the conclusion of Cobh’s successful preseason campaign against Rockmount and Everton where they impressed on both occasions with 5-1 and 7-0 wins away from home.

The season opener was against Derry City in Cobh’s first top-flight fixture in 13 years and Rafiki Said decided to pull off one of the best debuts possible with a hat-trick as his new team won 5-2 with other goals coming from fellow strikers Rudy Gestede and Alex Samizadeh.

The first derby of the season came against Cork City following the Derry game however, Cobh were unsuccessful against their fiercest rivals, losing 2-1 despite gaining the lead initially through a Jamie O’Hara penalty. David Freeman and Daire O’Connor managed to turn the game on its head in the 87th and 93rd minute.

Alex Samizadeh was the hero in the Sligo game as he scored the only goal of the game in the 20th minute to give his team all three points.

All of the action in the Waterford away match came in the final stages as the hosts took a two-goal lead with goals in the last ten minutes and Cobh’s centre-back Stefan Takac could only score a consolation goal in the 94th minute of the game.

Cobh ended February with a fixture against their former parent club and last years Premier League runners-up Shamrock Rovers at St. Colman’s Park. Cobh were able to win the game 4-2 with an Alex Samizadeh brace followed by goals from Rafiki Said and Wilson Mendy. A previous Conor McDonald target Sean Boyd scored a brace for the visitors but it was useless in the end.


In March, things still looked great for Conor McDonald’s new-look side, beginning with a 3-0 domination of Bohemian as a scorcher from Will Longbottom and two goals from Alex Samizadeh sealed the three goals and the three points.

However, things took an unexpected turn against this season's prime relegation candidates University College Dublin. Despite taking an early lead through Samizadeh, the sending off of his strike partner Rafiki Said turned the game upside down and allowed The Students to put four goals past Cobh thereafter in a horrific performance defensively and offensively.

Cobh’s first match against Dundalk was a key turning point in the month when McDonald’s side could have let their heads drop after the result against University College Dublin and then coming up against a side that has won the Irish Premier League four times in a row. However, despite leading for the majority of the game, Rudy Gestede netted an all important, relieving volley from a corner to level the game in the last minute of the match, keeping confidence in the team.

This showed in their second fixture against Derry City after beating them 5-2 on the opening day, Cobh took it a step further in a 7-2 win in the club’s highest scoring competitive match in it’s history. Rafiki Said became Derry’s worst enemy with a second consecutive hat-trick against them this season but even Alex Samizadeh had the capacity to fit in a hat-trick of his own with Longbottom getting the seventh.

Cobh Ramblers entered the Munster Senior Cup in the Quarter-Final stage, up against University College Cork. Goals from Rudy Gestede, Matt Dolan (2) and Matt Blake all confirmed an easy 4-0 victory and advancement into a Semi-Final tie against Arklow Town in April.

Cobh now hold 2nd place in the Premier League table which is against all the odds putting Cobh as relegation candidates alongside University College Dublin for 2022. They already have just under half the points the Cork City had last season to survive any threat of relegation but at this rate, Cobh can even be expected to run for the title itself.

Further down the table, it seems a points gap between 6th and 7th place is widening as Waterford and Cork City have had particularly poor beginnings to the new season, especially seeing that now Cobh Ramblers are not to be seen as the whipping boys that newly promoted sides are treated like in their first season in the top-flight.

Eoin: I have to say I feel very proud of myself for it! Apart from the departure of Eoin Porter...
James: With us doubling our wage bill, that extra bit of revenue is very important, that's for sure. We are still semi-pro but if we establish ourselves as a solid Premier League side, I expect that to change.
Justice: Gestede is a super signing and I was surprised that he was even willing to speak to us! However, Samizadeh and Said are ripping it up at the moment at it would be uncalled for to take them out of the team whilst on form. As for Roy Keane, he's always on my radar but with him being Assistant Manager at Watford I sense a move would not be in the works right now.

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