One thing is certain when watching Galway United warm up or play matches: Conor McCormack will set and demand standards.
That is simply McCormack’s way. So effective throughout the 2021 SSE Airtricity League first division campaign the United captain has re-signed for the upcoming season.
John Caulfield’s charges will reconvene for training on January 10 with McCormack relishing the prospect. “I'm delighted to get it all sorted, I am really looking to pre-season now in January,” he says. “Hopefully we can go that step further.”
Having come so close to promotion losing a play-off semi-final against Bray Wanderers, a sense of unfinished business exists. “I think the start stumbled us a little bit, but we got into our rhythm after that, we pulled off some great results,” is McCormack’s assessment of an eventful stint.
“It is just unfortunate that Shelbourne were just too far ahead of us at the time. We cemented second place with a couple of games to go, but then unfortunately we got beaten in the play-offs. We will learn from our mistakes and we will be up there again next year.”
With crowds flocking to matches at Eamonn Deacy Park in decent numbers, McCormack remains adamant about United’s potential.
“It is a massive club, the ground is in top nick, the whole fanbase too,” McCormack says. “I knew it was big, I didn't realise how big it was until I came here and played here. In the last game of the season we had a packed out house.
“If we are going into next year, if we can get anything like that it could be the extra factor for us I have no doubt. I played against Galway before, they were always tough games, especially when I was with Cork.
“We came up here, we were on a winning streak, Galway were the first team to stop us then. They caused us problems down in Turners Cross, they always had good teams.
“It is hard to play against Galway in Galway, especially if the fans are there screaming on, helping the team. We have to make this a fortress next year. So any team that comes here struggles to get points off us.”
McCormack has forged a most interesting career in football with part of his sporting education spent with Manchester United. Valuable lessons were learned. “It tests everything about you,” McCormack replies.
“It tests your mentality, obviously you are playing against the best players as you are coming through the Academy. You have the best coaches too. That experience it does help, but it is not for everybody.
“I have seen a lot of players that were far more talented than me that aren't playing football anymore because they couldn't hack the other side of it, the mentality of being away from home. Dealing with disappointment is another massive factor, some players that you don't see fully go to their potential.
“I would say it is a lot to do with mentality, but it definitely has helped me over the years getting the experience coming through the Academy at United and going over to Italy then for a couple of years. I definitely learned a lot from different parts of my game.”
Opting to move to Italy with Triestina Calcio was a brave decision. “It was, I had a few options to stay in the UK, in Scotland,” McCormack recalls.
“I went over for a weekend, I got invited over to see how I would like it, and they offered me a three year contract, Triestina Calcio, they were a Serie B team. I jumped at the chance, I think I was the first Irish player to move there since Robbie Keane was at Inter Milan which was 10 or 12 years before that, even maybe more.
“It definitely did help me, the different styles of play, the different managers, the different tactics, lifestyle, culture - everything, I just think I took it all in and I have used that in my game and who I am today. I can be thankful and grateful for the opportunities I have had.”
Those rich experiences ensure United’s emerging players can acquire advice from McCormack. “A couple of lads would ask me about when I was younger, how I dealt with a situation or what should I do,” he says.
“I was captain of the team this year because John brought me in to help others, to try to drive the team on as much as I can. I feel I can do that, I have the experience so I make myself as approachable as possible.
“Obviously I demand high standards, some players take it differently or whatever, but as soon as we come off the field we are all mates, we are all pushing and driving in the same direction. That is to make Galway successful.”
The sheer desire to secure silverware still burns. “I'm not here to make up any numbers, I am here to be successful, to win things,” McCormack adds.
“I have been lucky enough to do that throughout my career. John is not here either to make up the numbers. John is a very determined manager, a brilliant manager. He is here to bring Galway to the next level, thankfully he took me here, I am happy to be here.
“I really enjoyed last season, I hope we can learn from the little mistakes we have made, to drive things on, to push the standards even further.”
McCormack wants to lead United back to the promised land of premier division football.
**Listen to the full interview with Galway United captain Conor McCormack on this week’s ‘Cian on Sport’ podcast available on Soundcloud, Spotify, and Apple Podcasts.