Cork City’s young defender Conor McCarthy did not mince his words when discussing his disappointment at missing out on Stephen Kenny’s first Irish U21s squad.
“I was absolutely gutted.”
He had every right to feel aggrieved. McCarthy was selected in Kenny’s home-based squad in February for a game against Ireland Amateurs and impressed in the victory, clearly feeling he had done enough to earn a spot in the 23 for March’s Euro qualifiers.
Kenny included eight domestic players in the squad for the game against Luxembourg. McCarthy was one of only three players from the starting XI in Whitehall who unfortunately did not make the cut for the qualifiers.
“Yeah it was nice to be picked for the home-based squad,” McCarthy told Pundit Arena.
“But I was gutted then to be left out of the main squad. Look maybe Stephen had his reasons, maybe I wasn’t showing enough of what I can do on the pitch so it’s up to me to get back in and prove him wrong and show that I am more than capable of making that step-up.”
The 21-year old has already shown he can mix it with the best of them in the Premier Division. McCarthy has been a part of Cork City’s first team squad for the last three years, improving and progressing year on year.
He has featured in all of the Leesiders’ eleven league games this season but it’s safe to say that John Caulfield’s side has struggled, sitting seventh in the table with Friday night’s defeat against Waterford making it five without a win in the league.
McCarthy admits that having finished second only to a dominant Dundalk side last year, the performances this campaign simply haven’t been good enough.
“It’s not good enough for the standards we’ve set ourselves over the past few seasons. I know there’s been a big turnover of players I think we lost nine or ten players in the offseason but still we should be a lot better off than what we’ve shown.”
The results may be far from ideal but for McCarthy, the continual development of his game at the club is incredibly important. Having played over 20 times for Cork last season, a personal goal of his this campaign was to feature even more frequently. “The only way you’re going to learn,” he says, “is by playing games.”
“From the start of this season I definitely wanted to play more games.
“I think I played maybe 25 or 26 games last year but I think every player wants to play every game and the only way you’re going to learn is by playing games.
“You can train as much as you want but you’re never going to match that match intensity. It’s only going out on a Friday night and playing in front of the big crowds that your really going to test yourselves against the best players.”
McCarthy, like every young player, has ambitions and goals in the game. As of right now, his main focus is on improving his club’s fortunes in what has been a year of transition at Turners Cross, while playing his way into Irish U21s contention.
The 21-year old explained that the disappointment of missing out on an u21 callup has lit a fire under him this season and that Kenny’s decision has been a catalyst in driving him on to continue to prove his doubters wrong and get back in the international setup.
“It’s definitely given me an incentive and would definitely drive you on. I want to prove him and a lot of people wrong people who wouldn’t think I’d be good enough to be in the squad, it’s about proving them wrong as well.”