Alan Bennett never went missing for Cork City this season, so you can’t blame him if he goes off the radar in the coming weeks.
“I’m taking off now. Myself and my wife are going off to New Zealand for a few weeks to see my sister who lives out there, so that’s something I’m really looking forward to. I won’t have many off-seasons left, so I said I might take the opportunity when it comes around and get a bit of time off, switch Twitter off, switch off the phone and go missing for a while.”
Before taking himself off the grid, however, Bennett had some important business to attend to yesterday, picking up the SSE Airtricity/Soccer Writers’ Association of Ireland Player of the Month award for October, and celebrating it by signing a new two-year deal at double-winners City.
“I am really happy that John has shown the trust in me,” said former Ireland international Bennett. “This has been a fantastic year for the club and I feel my performances have merited this, so I am really proud.”
Turner’s Cross has been a hive of activity in the days after Sunday’s emotional penalty shootout cup final win over fierce rivals Dundalk.
Greg Bolger has left Leeside for Shamrock Rovers, but attacker Karl Sheppard has agreed a new deal at City while reinforcements have also arrived, with defender Tobi Adebayo-Rowling drafted in from Sligo and yesterday attacking midfielder Barry McNamee arriving from Derry City.
“It is a fantastic time for the club,” said Bennett, who just turned 36. “When we release news of signings, even as a player you are looking and thinking ‘this is brilliant’. They are all really good players and we are looking forward to them coming into the group.”
Bennett will, however, miss his impressive partnership with Ryan Delaney, with the Wexford man returning to parent club Burton Albion after his loan deal expired.
“Yeah that’ll be a challenge for John (Caulfield), to get someone in,” said Bennett, who beat his former Cork team-mates Billy Dennehy of St Pat’s and Chiedozie Ogbene of Limerick to the player of the month award.
“I’ve been back three seasons and I’ve had three different centre-half partners. You do have to build up bits and pieces in a partnership but it doesn’t fluster me. One of the strongest parts of my game would be communicating anyway so I think once you get into a little rhythm, it settles down quite quickly.”
Bennett’s new deal will see him combine playing duties with a coaching role in the club’s underage structures. The former Brentford and AFC Wimbledon defender is currently studying for his Uefa Elite Youth ‘A’ Licence.
“John is putting in the right structures at underage level, getting experienced local coaches and putting them in with ex-players. Getting involved in that is something I wanted, and it is the reason why I wanted a two-year contract; I want to keep playing but I also want to get more involved on that side of things. John and the board have been very accommodating, and I am really looking forward to putting in the hours on that side of things.”
Meanwhile, Donegal man McNamee became a Cork City player yesterday on the back of an impressive 2017 season for the Candystripes, where he scored 10 goals in the Premier Division, but he admits the tragic death of Derry captain Ryan McBride took its toll on the Foylesiders.
“It was a tough season at Derry with everything that happened, so I took my time to think about everything, and I decided this was the right move for me,” said McNamee.
“I want to be part of the team that has just won the league and I want to win more trophies. The way the fans fill Turner’s Cross; it’s hard to compare it with anywhere else in the league. It shows the passion in the city for the club and it is great to be a part of it. I have come down here because I want to win trophies.”
City boss John Caulfield said: “Barry is a fantastic, creative player. He is a perfect player to come into our team, he is energetic, has lots of experience and is coming into the prime of his career. He is another fantastic signing for us.”
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