BY GER McCARTHY
LAST Saturday’s Dave Wigginton Memorial Cup friendly between Cork City and Skibbereen proved a special occasion for two West Cork teenagers, Connor Ellis and Mark Buckley.
Two young players currently plying their trade for Cork City U19s and various Republic of Ireland international squads made their senior debuts under the watchful eye of another famous West Cork resident, John Caulfield, at a packed Baltimore Road ground.
Ellis and Buckley graduated through the ranks of the West Cork Schoolboys League and local FAI Emerging Talent Programme having first learned their trade in the colours of Bantry Bay Rovers (Ellis) and Dunmanway Town (Buckley).
‘We all know the young footballing talent that exists in West Cork and thankfully more and more guys are emulating Connor Ellis and Mark Buckley by getting on to Emerging Talent and regional development squads,’ commented John Caulfield to The Southern Star.
‘I believe there is a good chance we could have a lot more West Cork kids coming through in the years ahead. Obviously Connor and Mark are two talented strikers that have come through the WCSL ranks and now part of a talented City U19 team.
‘They are doing really well at the moment and the key thing for both of them is to keep learning and meet the demands put on them to go from being a youth player to making the breakthrough in the senior ranks.’
So what did making an appearance in the Cork City senior team’s colours feel like in front of such a big crowd and at ground they know well from their time playing in the WCSL?
‘It was very enjoyable and a bit nerve wracking but still a great feeling alright,’ said Mark Buckley.
‘We were told earlier in the week that we would be travelling down with the senior team so it was great and I’m just delighted to have been a part of the squad. It was a great experience I think it will definitely stand to me in the future.’
Connor Ellis echoed his team mate’s sentiments stating: ‘It was nice to come onto a pitch I know well from my playing days in the West Cork Schoolboys League.
‘I had a good chat with my former Emerging Talent Coordinator Martin Henwood (Skibbereen) before the game as well and it was also nice to see a few familiar faces in the crowd during the warm-up.
‘I think it’s important to show people that you are still the same person you were three or four years ago and have the opportunity to thank them for all the work and effort they put into helping your career.’
Both players acquitted themselves well in front of Caulfield and at a time City are short a number of first-team strikers due to injury.
‘It’s always good when people recommend you to John and say nice things about what you’re doing on the pitch,’ Ellis commented.
‘Nothing beats a manager seeing you with his own two eyes though and knowing what you’re capable of. Mark and I were glad of the chance to do that (on Saturday).’