A local man will be leading his side into battle at Oriel Park on Friday night as the new League of Ireland season kicks-off but he’ll be out to ensure Dundalk have to wait at least another week to claim their first three points of the campaign.
Having completed a move from Cork City to Derry City at the end of last season, Greenore’s Conor McCormack was last week handed the captain’s armband by his new boss Declan Devine.
Speaking to The Argus ahead of Friday night’s game, the former Bellurgan Utd player admitted he thrives on testing himself against the club he supported as a boy and hopes he can prove a thorn in the Lilywhites’ side like he has so often in the past again this week.
“I relish the challenge against Dundalk to tell you the truth,” said the former Man Utd trainee.
“I’m sure everyone knows by now that a lot of my relatives would be Dundalk supporters and I used to go to the games myself when I was a kid. I relish every game to be honest but especially now that Dundalk are very successful it’s always good to get a victory over them.
“It’s never easy so every victory you get you’ve to work hard for it. Unfortunately things went a bit upside down last year at Cork but for the last few years they were great battles against each other and I really enjoyed them. That’s why you play football I suppose, to play against the best.”
It was April 2013 that Derry last earned a league win at Oriel and McCormack feels there is no better time to put that right than on Friday.
“Absolutely, it’s too long to have a record like that without a win somewhere but we’ve had five or six hard weeks now building up to this game so hopefully we can get it tactically spot on and Dundalk have an off day and we can catch them on the hop because not a lot of people are expecting too much from us on Friday.”
Having already spent 18 months at Derry in the second half of 2015 and whole of 2016, the 29-year-old knows all about the club’s qualities but he feels new boss Declan Devine can ensure that the Candystripes are back competing at the top end of the table on a regular basis once again.
“I’m really enjoying being back here,” said McCormack.
“Declan and his staff have really put things together up here and things are going well with the new stadium, the training base and the gym. They’re doing things right here so I was only delighted to come here.
“When I spoke to Declan in the off season you could see his enthusiasm and determination. The lads really work for him as well. I know from playing against them last year that they work really hard and they ran over us to tell you the truth. I know they ran Dundalk close a very few times as well. When I spoke to him, he was everything that I’d want in a manager and it’s a case of so far, so good so hopefully we can have a good season now.”
The midfielder admitted he was a little surprised to be named club captain having only rejoined Derry but said it was an honour that he wouldn’t be taking lightly.
“I was a bit surprised to tell you the truth but all of his attributes are about working hard and I can see why he’d pick me because that’s how I play really.
“I’m not really blessed with unbelievable talent but I work my socks off and that’s the way he has gone. He knows that I’ve played here before, he has watched me here before and I was a big part of his plans. He wanted me even before the end of last season. I had been speaking to him on and off for a couple of months so I was just glad that the deal went through so it was just a bonus then to be named captain of this great club.
“I played here before under a great captain in Ryan McBride and if I’m half the captain he was I’ll be happy with that.”
McCormack admits that few will expect Derry to cause an upset at Oriel Park on Friday but he hasn’t ruled that out himself.
“What Derry achieved last year was no fluke. It was down to hard work and the way that Declan sets up his teams. Pre-season has been really tough and hard but we can’t wait now until Friday night.
“It’s going to be a tough game obviously against Dundalk. No one is really expecting us to go there and win handy or anything but we know in our group that we’ve talented players and hopefully on the night things can click right and we can get a positive result.
“Making sure Europe is an annual thing would be a main aim but we’re just going to take each game as it comes. We’ve Dundalk on Friday and if we can get our game plan right and a couple of points it would be a great start.
“We’re not going to start saying we’re going to challenge for titles or win Cups. I think that would be stupid but if we can build on last year it would be great. We’ll try to gather points in each game and we’ll see where that takes us.”
Hopefully from Dundalk’s perspective those points don’t arrive on Friday.