McCormack is on italian job
Youngster back at Triestina to help club push for Serie A spot
IRISH youngster Conor McCormack will return to Italy next month after agreeing a new one-year contract with Serie B side Triestina.
And the former Manchester United man believes he can make the grade after coming close to making a breakthrough last season.
Dundalk lad McCormack and Dubliner Michael Collins both signed up with Triestina on a one-year deal 12 months ago, but Collins returned home early and is currently trying to get fixed up with a club in England. Yet McCormack (19) is keen to try his luck once again and he will report back to Trieste for pre-season training in two weeks time.
"I think I did very well and I made a lot of progress there last season. They want to have me back so I have agreed to sign with them for another year," McCormack said.
"I didn't get to make my debut for the first team last season, but for the last part of the year I was promoted from the reserves to the first-team squad. I trained with them and travelled with them, stayed overnight with them on away trips. I got a first-team squad number as well, which was a big boost for me.
"I have an idea of what they expect now, I feel more comfortable at the club and my Italian is better. As well as that, I am a year older -- I've just gone 19 so I will be ready for the challenge.
"The club seem to like me and I like the place over there, so the plan is to go back, do a good pre-season with the club and try to force my way into the first team.
"Triestina are desperate to get promoted to Serie A. The manager got sacked at the end of last season as he missed out on a place in the play-offs, so they are very serious about doing well. I know it's a challenge for me to make it out there as so few Irish players have done well in Italy. Only Liam Brady and Robbie Keane have really played out there.
"But I feel I am making the right move in going back to Italy. It won't be easy, but I want to have the challenge and prove that I am good enough to play out there. The club haven't yet replaced the manager that they sacked, so things may depend on what plans the new man has, but I am confident I can do well," added the man from Greenore, Co Louth.
The Irish-born pair found it difficult to settle at times last season, as there was a language barrier, while there were also problems with wages at the club, with players going unpaid for months.
"We had some issues with them at the start, the wages were late or they were not paid at all, but my agent did some work on that end for me and we got it sorted in the end," McCormack said.
"It wasn't easy in the beginning. We were two young lads over there and we didn't know the language, but I have worked hard at the Italian and I have picked up a bit more over the months.
"I can understand a lot of what's going on in training and that helps a lot.
"When myself and Michael were out there, it was probably harder to learn Italian as we spoke English to each other, but when he left I had to work harder at the Italian. I was the only native English speaker there. There were other foreigners at the club, players from South America and Africa and also an Austrian lad. Some of them spoke English, but I had to work more at the Italian."
McCormack and Collins were regulars in the Triestina youth/reserve team last season, playing against youth league teams from the big Serie A clubs, such as Juventus and AC Milan, and McCormack's persistence was rewarded with that elevation to the first-team squad for the last two months of the season.
McCormack joined Triestina after a two-year spell as a trainee with Manchester United -- the Old Trafford club deciding to release him last year. He decided to move to Italy, despite interest and trial offers from clubs in England and Scotland.
But the teenager admits that he's disappointed to have been given the cold shoulder at international level.
"When I went out to Italy I had hoped that the Irish youths management would come out and watch me, even once, but I don't think they ever did," he said. "It's disappointing. I played for my country all the way up from the U15s and U16s. I was the U17 player of the year and I haven't been picked since. I don't know why.
"I was playing at a decent level out in Italy and yet no one from the FAI came to see me.
"I have just gone 19, so hopefully I will get a chance with the U21s at some stage next season," he added.