The eyes have it for Graham Cummins. Signed by Cork City from Scottish Premiership side St Johnstone before Christmas, Cummins can already see the changes on his return to his hometown club.
“Before, you could walk around the street a couple of years ago and no-one would know you — now you get glancing eyes,” he said at his official unveiling by City yesterday.
“The club is obviously a lot bigger and that’s not just the playing side: that’s the marketing side. Even abroad, there’s a lot more interest. In terms of everything I don’t think there’s much the same here — just the ground.”
When the striker left Cork City six years ago, it was as a hero to a club who had just won promotion back to the Premier Division after two painful years of upheaval.
When he kicks off the new Premier Division season next month, it will be as the No. 9 for the reigning League of lreland champions, with a big weight of expectation.
Cummins is one of several new faces to roll up at City’s Bishopstown training ground this past fortnight.
He scored 42 goals in 62 games during a prolific spell at City between 2010 and 2012 before leaving for Preston, and admits the experience made the decision to return to Leeside much easier. Out of favour at St Johnstone, he was in no doubt where his future lay once John Caulfield came calling last month.
“We came to an understanding when Cork came in and I was more than happy for that transfer to go through,” he explained.
“At St Johnstone, I hadn’t played enough minutes and didn’t enjoy my pitch time when I did get on — I didn’t get a rhythm. You only enjoy football when you’ve got confidence. For me it was just a case of getting out and playing and winning trophies again.
“I felt it was the right time. I’m at that age where you look at your career and you just think: ‘I haven’t won enough, realistically.’ When I look at enjoying football, the place I enjoyed playing football most was Cork, so I wanted to come back to that.
“It was always the plan to come back, and to come back in good condition. I didn’t want to be one of the players just to finish out my career, come back, and relax. I want to be challenging again.”
While he comes back to a club in a very different place, the city itself is still home.
“It hasn’t felt like six years since I left. It’s felt like a week or two. Sometimes you’re coming to a club you’re worrying about things like: ‘What’s a nice restaurant?’ Stupid things like that. When you’re from here, it’s very easy like that. You just settle back into a club. It’s like you’ve not been away at all.”
Still only 30, Cummins is coming into a City side who blew away all comers last season, largely thanks to a spectacular start when Sean Maguire blazed a trail before making a move to Preston, and earning an Ireland call.
Cummins is confident of handling the pressure as City’s main striker but doesn’t envisage any international call-up following.
“No,” he says bluntly. “It’s very hard in League of Ireland getting your opportunity. Sean left City before he got the opportunity. I woudn’t envision it. Adam Rooney scores every week for Aberdeen and he doesn’t get a sniff, that’s the way I look at it.”
City boss Caulfield has been delighted with what he has seen so far from Cummins.
“We were actively pursuing for a long long time to get the right fit. Graham knows the club — he’s from here, he has a history with the club.
“When I met Graham there was no doubt he’s coming back to Turner’s Cross to be a hero, scoring goals every week. And from my point of view that’s what we need.
"As we’ve seen from last year, if you’ve got a guy who can get you 15 to 20 goals in the league, you’re going to be there or thereabouts. For both parties, it’s a great signing.”
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