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Conor McDonald: The Student

Started on 18 April 2020 by Jack
Latest Reply on 10 August 2022 by JodydollIver63

The month of June secured Cobh Ramblers’ first piece of silverware for the season as they took home the Munster Senior Cup as only the sixth team to win the cup back-to-back since it’s founding in 1901.

This was achieved in the first match of the month at Turners Cross in front of a 2,666-strong crowd as Cobh took on Cork City in the Final. The 4-0 win that came was routine, with Jamie O’Hara, Alex Samizadeh, Mark O’Brien and Reis Peggie all getting in on the scoresheet for the team’s second win under McDonald.

However, when Cobh faced the same team in the league in the same week, they got a big turnaround performance after the sacking of Darren O’Dea following the Munster Senior Cup Final as a Georgie Kelly brace helped Cork on their way to a 4-1 victory on Cobh’s own patch.

Cobh returned to winning ways immediately the week after with a 3-1 win over mid-table Sligo Rovers as all the goals came in the second half including goals from Said, Samizadeh and Jordan O’Brien.

Cobh contined the restart of a winning run against Waterford in their last fixture of the month as Alex Samizadeh hit home a hat-trick as well as goals from Jamie O’Hara and Will Longbottom to win 5-3 at St. Colman’s Park.

Cobh finished the month in 5th place, with the defeat to Cork City damaging their intentions of rising further up the league table.

As Cobh finished up their involvement in one of the cup competitions, it made July a month purely focused on league performance and in that situation, Conor McDonald thrived.

Shamrock Rovers was initially meant to be the first game of the month, but with a waterlogged pitch at St. Colman’s Park postponing the game, Cobh had to take on reigning champions Dundalk with a whole week to prepare.

The additional time seemed to be vital for McDonald whose team smashed the four-in-a-row winners 3-0 at Oriel Park as Dundalk were made to wait for their first victory over Cobh in 2022. Longbottom, Powell and new arrival Layton Stewart all scored, with Stewart making his debut one to remember.

Cobh rushed into their next game - the postponed fixture against Shamrock Rovers - just two days after the result against Dundalk and fitness was not a problem as Cobh romped home to their fourth win in a row thanks to two own goals from Shamrock Rovers’ defenders and an additional finish from Samizadeh.

Filling in with Cobh’s rushed schedule, St. Patrick’s Athletic were next four days later and it seemed that fitness was catching up with The Rams’ players but they still managed to forge a point with a ‘Layt’ but great Stewart goal in the 87th minute to equalise following Chris Forrester’s opening penalty in the first half.

Top three side Bohemian were up next and the good news was that Cobh were back on schedule, given the usual week to prepare for the game. This paid off in the end with a tightly drawn affair ending 3-2 in favour of McDonald as Rafiki Said bagged two and Alex Samizadeh picked up another goal for his incredible ongoing league goalscoring record.

The last game of the month sent Cobh to the summit of the league whilst simultaneously sending University College Dublin to the foot of the league with a 5-1 win at home with the highlight of the game being a Matt Dolan screamer from thirty yards into the left side netting in the 45th minute.

Looking at the table at the end of July, Cobh have every right to be proud of themselves after being touted as second-favourites for relegation and at 200/1 odds to win the league that they now sit on top of thanks to a superb unbeaten run throughout June and July. No immediate threats to their position have games in hand either, making life even better for Conor McDonald.

One thing that has shocked Irish football supporters aside from the Cobh dominance is the incredible downfall of the current champions Dundalk and last year’s runners-up Shamrock Rovers who find themselves 7th and 8th in the table, with Shamrock Rovers even now at threat of potential relegation if not too careful.

James: Both the big departures of Middleton and Talley had to be considered though considering Middleton's age and Talley's involvement with the starting eleven week-in-week-out, but I'm glad we've sorted those things out! Regardless, those positive results are coming!
It's been a busy couple of months but great to see the Cobh trophy cabinet needing to be made a bit bigger. Also flying high in the league which shows how important the rebuild was over the last couple of transfer windows have been
Your ability to hit the back of the net is incredible, Irish defenders must have nightmares knowing that a game against Cobh is coming up. Also, remember when I told you to put me down for €25k when you were 150-1 to win the league?
I don’t think it would be fair to downplay Cobh’s achievements by saying other clubs haven’t performed. Cobh have shocked everybody and look set to secure a position among the country’s elite clubs sooner rather than later! Hats off to Conor who has proven his doubters wrong! And hats off to Sami who scores more often than a billionaire in a brothel!

August was a stunning month for Conor McDonald as he got Cobh through to Final of the EA Sports Cup against Dundalk whilst also increasing Cobh’s lead at the top of the Premier League with a 100% win record.

Cobh’s first game of the month was in the league against Derry City - their midseason title rivals. Will Longbottom put Cobh in the lead but this was cancelled out by Derry’s Osadebe. It was up to Rafiki Said to put Cobh back in the lead as Layton Stewart pushed the three points over the line.

Cobh then had two cup games in a row starting with the EA Sports Cup Semi-Final against Dundalk at St. Colman’s Park. After a tense second half with the scores level at 2-2, Layton Stewart was the one to pop up with a goal in the last five minutes to book his team’s place in the Final.

Conor McDonald’s FAI Ford Cup entrance came in the First Round against Waterford once again at St. Colman’s Park where his side were able to smash the fellow Premier League side 4-0 which included a Layton Stewart brace as he continued his fantastic form for Cobh.

Cobh’s return to league football included a lot of goals with a 5-3 win over Sligo Rovers. Sligo’s striker Ronan Coughlan was left dismayed as his hat-trick was not enough to win even a point for his side as a variety of scorers handed the three points to Cobh Ramblers.

In Cork’s sixth fixture against Cobh in all competitions this season, new manager Colin Hawkins was disappointed to see his team fall deeper into the relegation scrap as Cobh ran out 5-2 winners at Turners Cross which included a Rafiki Said brace as well as goals from Alex Samizadeh and Layton Stewart, with Samizadeh dropping into an attacking midfield role to accommodate for Stewart.

Cobh’s final match of the month was easy opposition in the FAI Cup against Leinster Senior League opposition in Crumlin United. Layton Stewart bagged his first hat-trick for Cobh Ramblers as his team won 4-0 with the other scorer being Matt Dolan from defensive midfield.

August’s results meant that Conor McDonald had a cup final to look forward to in September whilst also extending their lead at the top to five points over Bohemian as he looked forward to a seriously unexpected title win with only six games remaining in the Premier League.

September brought Conor McDonald his second trophy in the season as Cobh added another EA Sports Cup to their growing cabinet after winning it in 2020. However, in the league their advantage over the title-chasers decreased due to league losses.

A friendly against cross-town rivals Cobh Wanderers allowed The Rams to keep up their winning mentality with a 5-0 win, using it also as an opportunity to rest and try out other players with their end of season run-in approaching fast.

Shamrock Rovers were Cobh’s next victims in the league, suffering a 1-0 at the hands of a Matt Dolan penalty - a result that further endangered their unpredictable relegation prospects.

Cobh continued their run in the FAI Cup, showing no signs of halting their great form for cup competitions against St. Patrick’s Athletic as goals from Rafiki Said, Dan Powell and Jacob Hanson sent them through to the FAI Cup Semi-Finals against First Division side Drogheda United.

Conor McDonald then reclaimed the EA Sports Cup from Waterford after his first success in 2020 with a win over the exact same opponents as the final that year. Lupano, Stewart and Dolan all confirmed the win in a 3-2 victory and sent the trophy back to St. Colman’s Park.

However, Cobh’s return to the Premier League was not met with as much delight as they suffered an agonising loss to Waterford as Yousef Mahdy’s brace sent them home with no points in a 3-2 loss.

Bohemian became the victim for the second time in the same month as Conor McDonald’s team got back on the horse briefly with a solid 2-0 win against ten-man Bohs with both goals coming from the marvelous Rafiki Said.

Cobh let Dundalk back into the title race with a loss to the reigning champions at the back-end of the month as Jamie Gray struck a brace past Josef Perrin with only Rafiki Said providing a helpless consolation goal.

Things went from bad to worse for Cobh’s title ambitions as they let 2nd placed St. Patrick’s Athletic back into the race with only one game left in the season in a shameful 3-2 loss despite Layton Stewart doing his best to gain a point. It was Glen McAuley who sealed the vital three points for his team to put them back in the race.

The league at this point means that Cobh are left hoping that Dundalk slip up on at least one of their games in hand before the finale on 15th October as the maximum points Dundalk can finish on to retain the title is 68 points, dwarfing Cobh’s maximum points of 66 points if they were to beat their only remaining opponents in University College Dublin.

At the bottom of the table, University College Dublin could not make their good fortune last in the top-flight as they were confirmed as automatically relegated with by far the lowest wage bill and finances in the league. However, the big shock at that end of the table is that last season’s runners-up Shamrock Rovers are now tied in with a relegation play-off with the winners of the First Division play-off winners, meaning there is a chance they could be playing in the second tier for the first time since their examinership in 2005 and only the second time in their long and colourful history in Irish league football.

tedbro20: Some DIY needs to be done on a few shelves that's for sure! The transfers have no doubt made all the difference and credit to the owner is due for giving Conor the tools to make the necessary changes.
James: I think our defenders have the same fear of other team's attackers too to be fair! :)) As for the bet, I'd take it up with the bookies... Or Conor ;)
Justice: The underperformance of usual contenders has no doubt had an impact but somebody has to seize that opportunity. Now I just hope all of the hard work to get where we are isn't spoiled on the final day :/
Your transition for the First Division to the Premier Division has been incredible, with the only thing your team needing in the off-season being a refresher course on how to defend! Full props to Conor, although three losses in September isn't too acceptable.

Also... if I handed €25k to Conor: I'd never see it again!!
This feels like supporting Liverpool under Brendan Rodgers. Title is ours..... slipping..... slipping..... slipping DONT LET THIS ONE SLIP JACK

When I left the tunnel reporters, I shouted back “we’re going to win this title and nobody - absolutely nobody - will take that away from us”. I made sure my players heard it as I made my way between the two lineups. I saw a few grins, chiefly from today’s captain Mark O’Brien as I departed the tunnel.

I looked over to our away end. I knew how long of a drive this was for the fans and I was delighted to see us travel in numbers. There were at least one-hundred all there to see us lift the title in the capital. I had an Airpod in my left ear, tuned into the radio station commentating on the Dundalk game.

“Red card referee!” I shouted, launching myself the touchline so my voice could be heard the loudest. “He’s got to go, the dirty bastard!” Gavin Gunning had taken a two-footed swipe at Matt Dolan, about 25 yards out from goal.

I saw the referee rush over to the scene of the crime, reach into his back pocket and suddenly our job just got slightly easier. “Too right, referee!”

I stared down Gunning as he headed towards the tunnel, shrugging his shoulders to his manager who was just as bewildered.

“Oi! Gunning!” I shouted, directing him over to my dugout. I went to whisper in his ear. “Do that to one of my players ever again, I’ll take your fucking legs off myself. Understood?” I scolded him, shoving him away towards the tunnel as he gave me a two-fingered salute on his way.

Hanson had the ball for a throw-in deep in our half. I was whispering instructions to myself, hoping they would somehow telepathically find their way across to the other side of the field. The movement was simply brilliant as we moved the ball around our back four, ending up at Takac’s feet as the Slovak sprinted his way forward with the ball and spreading it wide to Powell on the right.

Powell cut back onto his right foot to the byline and floated a ball in over to the far post. I saw McGowan was there, free… This was it.

“GEEEET IN THERE!!!” I screamed, sprinting over to my left to the opposition dugout, pumping both of my fists towards them as they tried their best not to look. Barry O’Sullivan jumped on the back of me, grabbing hold of my jacket as tightly as he could.

“Fucking come on!!!” I shouted, seeing our fans in the corner falling over each other.

I watched as a poor goal kick ended up meeting the head of Will Longbottom. “Make the most of it now, lad,” I said. He nodded it down to Rafiki just as I spotted the run of Layton. A first time ball was played through to the fellow Scouser, he jinked around the keeper and tucked it away.

Our dugout rose up again, as did Michael O’Donovan behind us in the stands, a few rows up. Layton Stewart came sprinting towards the dugout and I was all ready to embrace him along with ten other teammates.

“COME ON!” The entire squad and staff shouted in unison before letting go and letting the players get back on their spots, eager for a third.

“Eh, Barry,” I said, turning back to my assistant. “You should hear how shite Vinny P is doing over there!” I laughed as the reports came through as still 0-0, putting us four points ahead.

Uni College Dublin came forward with the ball but I knew it would end up in a hopeless punt, easily dealt with. A few seconds later, my thoughts came to my eyes as Jacob Hanson nodded back a poor long ball.

McGowan kept the ball for us, flicking it through a gap to find Powell on the right. Hanson crossed it but it was headed away to Blakey. He gave it back out right to Powell who threaded Layton through again.

“We’re the fucking champions, boss!!!” Barry O’Sullivan said, rugby tackling me to the ground as the players leapt on top of O’Sullivan in what was becoming the most joyful pile-on I’ve ever known. We were 3-0 up and four points ahead.

As soon as the pile-on disintegrated back onto the field, me and Barry shared a hug, knowing that this was the moment we’d been working on all season.

“Get in lads, that’s right,” I said, patting everyone on the back as they made their way into the dressing room at 3-0 up. I made my way into the room before saying: “Sod it, you’ve earned it.” As I pulled out a bottle of sambuca from my kitbag.

“This was going to be saved for the end of the match, but why not have fun?” I said, pouring a shot-full in each players’ water bottles. They all laughed as my coaching staff and I took a sip each before gleefully taking theirs.

“Anyway, that’s your team talk. Get back out there, do the business.”

“Hey, Barry,” I said, grinning as O’Sullivan came running over to me whilst we had a dangerous free-kick. “Leon Middleton’s just put Dundalk in front over there!” Barry laughed, recalling the times when we slagged off our former player behind his back before his Dundalk move.

“Well he sure as shit isn’t getting a medal!” He chuckled as I went to grab a water bottle that might as well have been filled with vodka. “GET IN THERE!!!” I heard while my back was turned, along with a cry of joy from the away end.

“Go on Will, lad!” Shouted Jamie O’Hara as he rushed up from the dugout to celebrate with myself and Barry O’Sullivan along with the six other substitutes.

“Go on Danny, get one yourself lad,” I said to myself as I saw Danny Lupano lumbering upfield for the corner, clearly knackered.

Matt Blake whipped a cross in from the right side. “It’s as easy as that! CAMPEONÉS, CAMPEONÉS, OLÉ, OLÉ, OLÉ!” was the sound from the technical area and the away end.

Down in the tunnel I saw the engraver etching our name onto the Premier League trophy for the first time in the club’s history before I heard the shriek of the whistle. The noise sent tingle down my spine as I took a moment to take everything in. A young Liverpudlian, fresh out of university and taking this team he had no clue of four years ago to two league titles in two seasons.

In almost slow-motion I saw my staff and the substitutes leap out of their seats and run past me. I just stood still until I felt a big hand on my back, egging me on to join in the on-field celebrations which included the travelling fans. The hand was Michael O’Donovan’s.

“Come on, son,” he said, grinning and with a face that looked as if it had been weeping. “This is yours.”

As we made it across to the away section where all people Cobh were celebrating, a bellowing voice beckoned everyone’s attention.

“Lads, we’re in Dublin aren’t we? I say it’s time for a party. And it’s all on me!” Shouted O’Donovan to a series of roars. “And that includes you lot up there, get on down here and join us tonight, this is huge!”

James: We made the right signings at the right time and it paid dividends, the defence will be a priority for sure :))
Justice: Thankfully we have O'Brien and O'Hara rather than Gerrard to see us through ;)
Haha nice report really liked it
European football for Cobh next season!! Really well done, time for Conor to head to a casino while he's still feeling lucky ;)
What an end to the season. It just shows how far Conor has taken Cobh over the last few seasons. Could a bigger job beckon and turn Conor's head?
Are you kidding, what an effort!!! That is epic mate! Congratulations
Congrats on the title! Let's hope word of the half-time drinks doesn't get out though ;)
And that's how it's done. Thoroughly deserved given how fantastic Cobh have been all season and especially in the last few months. Success after success for the club and for McDonald. Surely his services are set to be in high demand from further afield?
Right, caught up. Firstly, congratulations on the clearly well earned contract extension and I wouldn't be surprised if another is on its way soon. Secondly some great additions to the team especially Layton Stewart who seems to have really impressed in the second half of the season, as expected I suppose. Signing a former Barcelona youth player also shows the progress of the team. Finally a treble and the potential for that to soon be made a quadruple in your first season in the prem is an astonishing achievement, especially considering Dundalks dominance in the league before this year. Congrats.

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