I've been in dressing rooms before where you don't enjoy going into work everyday - Graham Cummins

Sat, Mar 03 2018

Credit: John Doyle

“It is no secret that it was probably one of my happiest times in football there. I want to get better memories with the club. Coming from the area and having all your family and friends supporting you. It means so much” – The Words of Cork City striker Graham Cummins.

On a snow affected weekend, extratime.ie caught up with John Caulfield’s recent recruit on a variety subjects including being the new guy in the dressing room, his time over in the UK, who he expects to challenge for the top spot and his own personal aims for the new season. 

Three games into the season and already, the champions are on top form boasting a 100% record. One of the key parts of this early success, has been the goals of Graham Cummins. A goal in the comeback victory in the President’s Cup against Dundalk, another one away in Inchicore on the opening night and a hat-trick in the recent victory over Sligo have helped massively with this. 

Having strengthened the squad in the close season, John Caulfield’s men are determined to retain their place at the top. Manager John Caulfield brought in numerous new bodies to aid his charges this season, with Cummins being one of the marquee additions brought on to Leeside to try and ensure the Premier Division trophy is going nowhere.

“There has been so much new signings that you can gel together because everyone is in the same situation. I think it is showing with the results on the pitch.

“When you are getting into a new club, you always wonder what the lads are going to be like. They have been brilliant, and I have got on with everyone so well. You can see why they have been so successful in the past few seasons because it is such a good group of lads.”

Cummins explains that it has taken little time for him to feel right at home such is the welcoming nature of the Cork City dressing room.

“You want to be going into a good dressing room. I’ve been in dressing rooms before where you don’t enjoy going into work everyday and it doesn’t make for a good atmosphere. I have obviously been in the Cork dressing room before. They have been brilliant and it’s really important that I enjoy what I am doing.”

The major disappointment so far on a personal note was the red card received against St. Patrick’s Athletic in the opening game of the season, something which ruled him out of the first home game of the campaign. However, his personal annoyance was put aside in support of the team on that night.

“Every player wants to play in every game but especially the big ones. It was disappointing but I was concentrating on watching the lads and hoping they got the win.” 

Clearly revving to go after the extra few days off, Cummins then returned from his one game back to smash a hat-trick past Sligo Rovers at the Showgrounds a few days later.

Goal scoring is something he has always done in his career and one goal in particular lives long in the memory of City fans. The strike in the 94th minute away to Shelbourne to clinch the First Division title, being one such example. It was bitter sweet as it was his last touch before a move to Preston North End. Rebel fans have long asked when he was coming back but to no avail.

Developments at the start of the season pushed things forward. “It wasn’t long before I scored against Rangers at Ibrox, that I started speaking to some players in Cork. To see what it was like. I had an inkling that the manager liked me. It just took off from there. Within a couple of days, it was all sorted.”

The development of the 52-week contract with the club was also a major plus point.

“Cork had been so successful, and they began to come into consideration. I’ve always said that I am a professional player and wanted to remain so. When Cork did become professional, it really did interest me.

“It was always in the back of mind to return there. At the end of the day, I am a Cork fan and when I left, at the back of my mind I was always thinking; “When will I come back?” 

As the squad watched Ryan Delaney’s Rochdale side hold Tottenham to a creditable replay, his thoughts went back to one of his happier times in England.

“I do have good memories of the place. During my spell, we got promoted, and it was probably my most successful spell in England. He (Keith Hill) was probably one of the best managers I worked with over in the UK. His training sessions were brilliant and he was great with the lads together and one-on-one. From Ryan’s perspective, he is at a really good club. The fact that Brian Barry-Murphy is still over there as an assistant might have helped sway Ryan’s decision to join them. He certainly was a major factor in me joining them.” 

With so much movement in a League of Ireland off-season it can often be difficult in the early days to predict who may come out on top but Cummins reckons there won’t be a massive amount of upheaval when it comes to the top few places.

“I don’t think it will be just two or three teams fighting it out. I think that the likes of Derry have a very good squad. I think Waterford have started really well and I was impressed with them in the first half down at Turners Cross. With so few teams, and so many games, sides will take points off one another. I wouldn’t count anyone out. Especially after only three games of the season. I think everyone is looking to pick up early results. You will probably see after the first set of games, who is going to be up there.”

One major element involved in his decision to return to Cork City is the prospect of playing Champions League football this season.

“The Champions League is the very top level for any player. To play Champions League, even if it is just qualifiers, would be great to get past a few rounds. I think the club has done brilliant in Europe over the past few seasons.”

The major element expressed throughout for him was a return to familiar surroundings.  “Coming back and being surrounded by friends and family who support the club.  Playing in front of them is going to mean so much more. It might be a cliché but coming from the area and having all your family and friends supporting you. It means so much.”

Their support even drove him on over in the UK. “Obviously in the UK, that is not possible due to them not being able to get over too often. I think, I actually tended to do better when they were able to get over and see me.”

It is clear how much playing at home means to him. Being unable to play against Waterford due to suspension, and Bohemians due to cancellation, you can hear in his voice that he is itching to don the jersey again in front of the Turner’s Cross faithful.

“It’s up there with the best grounds in the country. The supporters will be out as usual, and no doubt many will travel down for it. It’s going to be a big night.”

However, that next home game is firmly out of his mind as attention turns to a mouth-watering tie with Dundalk.

“In my mind, I will be focused on getting through training and the challenge against Dundalk. You can’t really look beyond that. It will be a massive game against them on Friday night.” 

Finally, on the topic of aims for the season, both personally and for the club, a European run was firmly at the forefront of the discussion. “It would be a long shot at us winning the Champions league. It would be an even bigger shock than Leicester City winning the Premiership! With that, you aim to get as far as you can.” On the domestic front, it is clear the team want to outdo last season. “You try and aim to win every trophy there is.”

The sheer amount of teams aiming to unseat them proves just that. “Every other club in Ireland have that same ambition. That’s what makes it so tough. I don’t think anyone rules themselves out from winning something.”

The confidence gained from last year makes the squad assured of their prospects for the year ahead though. “We just have to continue in the same way we started. Hopefully at the end of the season, we will see the rewards for it.”