January signalled the beginning of a new era at Cobh Ramblers as the ongoing transfer window in the background of the club’s preseason schedule provided Conor McDonald to build the foundations of a club that he has led for six months now.
The Cobh players returned from their holidays to a friendly against local rivals Cork City at St. Colman’s Park. Ian Turner gave Cobh an early lead from the penalty spot with a third minute opener.
This was cancelled out in the 29th minute by Karl Sheppard and Cork City took the lead just before half-time thanks to former Leeds United striker Eoghan Stokes. Cork City would go on to win 2-1 against Cobh.
Cobh’s first week back was a busy week with a game on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Wednesday evening’s game was against another local rival in Cobh Wanderers who play in the Munster Senior League. New arrival from Stalybridge Celtic Cameron Moore got the first on the board before Ian Turner doubled Cobh Ramblers’ lead to 2-0 which was how the game finished.
In a highly anticipated fixture at St. Colman’s Park, Cobh Ramblers took on the reigning Irish champions Dundalk in the club’s third friendly fixture. In a stunning performance, Cobh ran out 3-1 winners despite Dundalk taking an early lead through Jamie Gray. 16-year-old Adam Williams pegged them back before Shamrock Rovers loanee Danila Bogdanov bagged a brace in the second half.
Buzzing off the back of defeating the Irish champions, Cobh Ramblers were rumbled by St. Patrick’s Athletic at St. Colman’s Park as a Gary Shaw hat-trick saw The Saints run out 4-0 winners, with an extra goal from Darragh Markey.
Cobh’s new divisional rivals were next up in the form of the recently relegated University College Dublin who finished on 26 points in the Irish Premier League last season. Despite an early Cobh opener, UCD walked all over them in the second half with a 3-1 win including an embarrassing own goal from Rams midfielder David Hurley.
McDonald’s men got back to winning ways with a 2-1 win over Shane Keegan’s Waterford. A goal from right-back Charlie Fleming put Cobh ahead in the 25th minute. This was cancelled shortly after the second half restart due to a Colm Whelan goal. Adam Williams did pop up once again, though, with a 78th minute finish inside the six-yard box.
Cobh capped off January with another friendly against Cork City except this was played out at Turners Cross for Cork fan favourite Mark McNulty’s Testimonial after 18 years of service for the club. McDonald’s team suffered another defeat at the hands of Cork as Jason Lyons secured a late victory in a 3-2 result.
Addressing the league before it begins, the First Division now welcomes recently relegated Finn Harps and University College Dublin who replaces last season’s champions Shelbourne and Bray Wanderers - who defeated Finn Harps in last season’s Play-Off Final.
The bookies are in favour of Drogheda United winning the division this season, offering evens on a title win. They do think that this season will be close to call, with Cobh placed at 4/1 odds to win the league and putting them as sixth favourite to win the title.
January has also been a very busy month for Conor McDonald with regards to transfers too as he brings in 17 new faces to the club, starting with former Spurs and Wolves man Jamie O’Hara on a one-year deal on the biggest wage at the club of €240 per week.
Cobh have made use of their new partnership with Premier League outfit Shamrock Rovers as they snap up four of Rovers’ players, three arriving on loan and one on a permanent transfer. Latvian-born Irish striker Danila Bogdanov, right-back Alex Dunne and attacking midfielder Thomas McDermott all join on season-long loan deals and left-back Eric Abulu joins on a free transfer.
16-year-old goalkeeper Alan O’Sullivan looks set to challenge retained keeper Adam Mylod for the starting spot between the sticks. Another 16-year-old is set to shake up the starting spots up-front too, with Adam Williams joining the club and performing well in preseason.
Northern Irish centre-back Jordan Lyttle has joined the club from Annagh United along with Gordon Walker from University College Cork to form what could be the starting pair at the back for Cobh this season.
With the new faces entering the 2020 squad, Conor McDonald has adjusted the squad numbers for the upcoming campaign.
Alan O’Sullivan gets the number one jersey, suggesting that the 16-year-old is McDonald’s favourite out of him and Adam Mylod - who takes up number 25.
The new club captain Jamie O’Hara takes the number four shirt - previously assigned to back-up left-back Charlie Lyons - as his likely midfield partner Eoin Porter takes the number ten shirt.
Last season’s top scorer Cian Leonard switches the number 36 shirt for the number 8 shirt, with Danila Bodganov - on loan from Shamrock Rovers takes the number 9 shirt, suggesting that they could be starting as strike partners this season.
Last season’s Player of the Year winner Ian Turner hands his number 6 shirt to Northern Irish centre-back Jordan Lyttle and he takes the number 7 shirt.
Numbers 31-36 are all assigned to current Under-19 players which could indicate that Conor McDonald is willing to experiment with his homegrown academy products this season despite three academy players being loaned out for the season already.
He's a great head to have in a team full of young players for sure, him and Turner wil lead the way I think. Good to see your man getting the number 10 shirt for the season no?
Who knew he'd end up here when he was balling for Wolves?!
He's a controversial lad who likes the spotlight. It'll be interesting to see how he handles it here!
Aside from O'Hara, not many other experienced players which was my intention. Keeping Ian Turner and snapping up a head like O'Hara is what I think will bring us success this season.
No way was I expecting him to go to Billericay to start with! He seems to have made his bed in the lower tiers and I hope it works for him here.