Connor Ellis keen to take positives from tough 2018. He spoke to DENIS HURLEY
AFTER a 2018 season hampered by injury, Connor Ellis is hopeful that he can mark 2019 by scoring the goals to restore Limerick’s place in the SSE Airtricity League Premier Division.
Having been a part of the Cork City squad which won a domestic double in 2017, the Kealkill native opted to depart the Rebel Army in search of regular football and he travelled up the N20 to Limerick. While he did have more game-time, a hip injury meant more time than he would have liked on the sidelines but, nevertheless, he is happy that the decision he made was the best for him.
‘It one sense, it was a poor year,’ he says, ‘we got relegated and I missed two or three months, but on the other hand I started 20 games whereas I had only started three or four with Cork City.
‘It was frustrating at times, but I think in a few years I could look back at this and say it was the best thing to happen to me.
‘In terms of experience, it was great. When you have a year like 2017 with Cork City, you think it will always be like that but when you have a season which is tough, it makes you appreciate what you have and work harder.’
His injury setback was also something which proved an obstacle to overcome.
‘It was an impingement in my hip,’ he says, ‘but it started out as a pain in my groin.
‘I played five or six games and I knew it wasn’t right so I went to see a specialist, Declan Bowler, and he said it was my hip and it needed two months’ rest.
‘I was able to go to the gym and do some light work but I wasn’t able to do any running at all, I just had to sit there and let it repair. It was a very frustrating period but at the same time I didn’t need an operation.
‘I got a sterile injection in May and I was back playing in July, there hasn’t been any recurrence since then so everything is okay, touch wood.’
Ellis had to employ self-discipline to ensure that he didn’t try to expedite the recovery process.
‘It was just one of those where you could be in the gym twice a day, seven days a week, but it wouldn’t help,’ he says.
‘The advice was wait two months and you have to respect your body, especially when you’re 20 or 21.’
Ellis will be 22 in May and is still learning his trade as a centre-forward. To that end, the different challenge of playing for a team nearer to the bottom of the table allowed him to develop his all-round game.
‘It was completely different from that point of view,’ he says.
‘In some of the games with Limerick, my main job was to hold the ball up to allow us get out of our own half for two or three minutes.
‘Obviously, you want to be scoring goals all the time but you need to learn the other side side of the game too. You’re coming up against centre-backs who are 27 or 28 and they’ll just come right through you to get to the ball so you have to make yourself stronger, work on your touch and get your body in the right positions.’
Having finished second from bottom in the top flight, Limerick faced Finn Harps in a two-legged play-off to see who would play in the Premier next year. Though they came out on the wrong side of the results, Ellis is full of praise for manager Tommy Barrett, who came into the job at short notice at the beginning of the year after predecessor Neil McDonald – who had signed Ellis – took up the assistant manager’s job at Swindon Town.
‘Tommy has been brilliant, to be fair,’ he says.
‘I have good time for him and he’s very good with young lads. When I had my injury, he wanted to make sure I got myself right rather than forcing me to play.
‘He was thrown into the job in January, trying to sign players when all of the other teams had their squads ready.’
One area the Shannonsiders weren’t short on manpower was in attack, with Ellis battling fellow former Cork City men Mark O’Sullivan and Danny Morrissey for the starting striker’s spot.
‘It was good competition, very refreshing,’ he says.
‘At City, I knew that, whatever I did, Seán Maguire was going to be starting, but here it was more in my own hands, if I did well in training then I was getting the shirt.’
And, while financial problems beset the club, Ellis also reserves praise for owner Pat O’Sullivan.
‘The club were very good to me,’ he says.
‘Pat looked after my MRI and injection and I was always paid.
‘Limerick itself is a nice place to live, too. It was my first time away from home but I was living with Cian Coleman, who I had come up through the ranks with at City.
‘I enjoyed living there.’
Ellis has a year remaining on his contract and the task now is to try to ensure a quick return to the Premier Division.
‘I’d have liked if results were better last year,’ he says, ‘but the fact that I was playing made things more bearable – it’s better to be playing and losing than sitting on the bench and winning.
‘I’d like to have scored more goals too, but the injury was a factor. When I was fit, I played every week, it gave me a lot of confidence to show I can play at that level.
‘Hopefully, I can get the goals to earn Limerick promotion next year.’