BY DENIS HURLEY
CORK City striker Connor Ellis admits that he’s not expecting to start Sunday’s FAI Cup final against Dundalk in the Aviva Stadium, but is ready should he be called from the bench.
The Kealkil attacker (20) featured in 20 of City’s 33 league games as the Premier Division was won, while he has contributed five goals in all competitions this season.
Largely used as a sub, he is optimistic of making his mark as the Rebel Army go in search of a domestic double. After that, he will assess his options for next season.
‘Realistically, I’d probably be looking at being an impact player off the bench,’ he says.
‘There are a lot of good attacking players in the team so I don’t think John would throw a youngster in for a cup final.
‘Last year, Chiedozie Ogbene came in off the bench in the final and I think that that’s a more realistic route for next week.’
Having spent the 2016 season on loan with Cobh Ramblers, Ellis was given a new contract with City for this campaign, and enjoyed being able to contribute to a title-winning side.
‘It’s been good,’ he says.
‘My first year in senior football, you could never complain about winning the league title. I’ve been lucky enough to be part of the best team in the country, so on that level it’s been good.
‘I’ve played a good bit off the bench, I probably haven’t played as many games as I’ve wanted to, but at the same time, when you look around the squad, it’s so good that it’s tough to compete.
‘It’s tough too to go in and knock on the manager’s door when you’re winning every week. He can’t really change things.’
The departure of Seán Maguire for Preston North End during the season opened up an opportunity at centre-forward, but Ellis found himself as one of a number of players auditioned in the position. He certainly didn’t expect to have an automatic right to the starting spot.
‘Seánie went at a point where we only needed five or six points to win the league,’ he says.
‘John was never going to tamper with things too much, he tried a few other things with players who had a bit more experience there, Karl Sheppard played up front, then he tried Achille Campion up front.
‘I’ve felt that I have played well in the games where I have played. I started the last two league games, St Pat’s away and then Bray last Friday night, and I feel that I’ve acquitted myself well.
‘At least, if nothing else, it shows that I’m able to play at this level.’
Those last two games have seen Ellis play on the right of the attacking trio behind the main striker, and that too has helped to develop his game.
‘I’m still quite young,’ he says, ‘so being the out-and-out centre-forward is still kind of tough physically.
‘A lot of the defenders are big and strong and a good few years older than me.
‘Defensively, you have to be tuned in more but I was happy enough overall. You can’t always be going forward trying to score, you have to do your job for the team as well.’
Ellis’s contract expires after Sunday’s game and, as yet, he remains uncertain as to his whereabouts for the 2018 campaign. He isn’t overly concerned for now though.
‘I haven’t really talked to John yet, I’ve put it off as I want to focus on the final, it’d be great to do the double for the club.
‘After that, I’ll look at my options. I’ll sit down with John and talk to my parents and see what’s best for me going forward.
‘I’ve been in a team that’s won the league and I’ve played a few games, so I’m not worried. It’s about doing what’s best for me, whether that’s staying with City or moving on, we’ll see.’