‘Returning to Cork ticked every box’, says Damien Delaney

By any objective measurement, new Cork City signing Damien Delaney will be playing for below his market-value, but that’s not something which bothers him.

The former Republic of Ireland defender was unveiled yesterday and, while he acknowledged he could have earned more elsewhere after leaving Crystal Palace, returning home to play under former team-mate John Caulfield was a decision made for good reasons.

“It was never about money,” he said.

“If I was about money, I’d have gone foreign and chased it. I understand full well that Cork City are under financial restrictions, but it’s my choice to come here.”

“I chose this route so I’m not going to complain or say that I could have got this or could have got that.

“I’m ecstatically happy to be here. It was more about playing football and getting my girlfriend a settled life.

“I said, ‘What’ll you give me?’ he said, ‘That,’ and that was literally the size of it. I’ve a kid on the way now as well and it wouldn’t be fair on my girlfriend to be dragging her here, there, and everywhere and me being away a lot.

“Objectively, when I stepped back, it ticked every box for me really, but the main was what these guys have been doing here.”

Delaney, who will be 37 in July, left Cork City for Leicester City in 2000, but he never lost touch.

“Of course,” he said, “Friday night you’d be stuck in a hotel somewhere and you’d find it, or commentary or something like that. You see the highlights then after and you see Turner’s Cross looking well. 

“My thought-process was that I’d been in England for 18, 19 seasons, I spent so long in the Championship, trying to get out of it, that the thought of going back in there wasn’t particularly appealing. It didn’t get me excited.

“I spoke to John periodically, to see how things were going and to wish them luck before big games, things like that. I just thought, looking from afar, that it excited me, that’s the genuine reason.

“They like what they’re doing. They’re winning every week, they’ve Turner’s Cross, the crowd is fantastic, European football on the horizon, those were the things, really.

“You know that feeling in your gut, you know it’s the correct thing to do. There was nothing really in England that held much water with me, if I’m honest. 

“There was a lot of things abroad as well and none of that excited me, either. Far-flung countries and promises of this, that and the other, which invariably never materialised or anything like that. This got me excited, that’s just basically it.”

One thing Delaney wants to be clear about though is that this is not a retirement jaunt. He’s here to play.

“It is about competition for places and I had it throughout my whole career,” he said, “especially towards Palace at the end, where you sign big name players and big reputations and stuff like that. I am not saying I am either of those things, but you know it is competition. 

“I am coming in to play and I will be coming in motivated. It will be up to [everyone else] now to kick it up another level again.

“There is two spots, so the top two are going to get it. My mind is most certainly on getting into the top two. If those guys can keep me out of the team, then I will be the best cheerleader there is.”

Capped nine times, Delaney dismissed any notions he might play for Ireland again, but he certainly feels that domestically-based players can play a part, and he won’t be underestimating what he faces. 

“I’m definitely an advocate of a certain amount of League of Ireland players being involved in the international team,” he said.

“I could never understand it when a player got on an aeroplane, all of a sudden he was now good enough, that’s a concept I never got. 

“I know there was players last year who played really well, Graham Burke is in there now so maybe they are looking at that aspect of it.

“I will respect everything, whether other people respect the league or not, that’s up to other people, but I will most certainly respect it.”


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