Sunday, January 11, 2009

Ireland's Michael Collins, Conor McCormack Sign with Italian Club Triestina

After leaving Liverpool and Manchester United respectively, the next move for Michael Collins and Conor McCormack was always going to be a deciding one. After receiving a number of offers from clubs in England, Scotland, Sweden, Ireland, and scholarships to America, the two lads have surprisingly decided to turn them all down and opt for a move to Serie B with Triestina...

The two lads are Ireland's first exports to Italy in eight years, since Robbie Keane's short lived move to Inter Milan. As Keane moved to Anfield from Tottenham Hotspur this summer Michael Collins moved out.

The move to Italy for Collins came around after he had been released by Liverpool. Initially he came home and was on the verge of signing for Irish champions Bohemians, before offers from Falkirk, Leeds, Enkoping, and Triestina presented themselves.

Following a meeting with an agent, Collins opted for Triestina.

McCormack's story is a similar one, but with one major difference. The Irish U-17 player of the year turned down an extension to his contract at Old Trafford.

Conor has previously captained Ireland at various under-age levels, and is currently an integral part of Sean McCaffrey's much heralded U-19 team.

And he seems to be clearly enjoying life on the Adriatic coast: "It's grand. I'm enjoying it very much. I have a lot of freedom and independence," before saying: "It's raining just like back home."

The weather is similar to what he is accustomed to in winter but much different in summer, "hot, like the south of Spain".

He finds the whole experience agreeable, most important that he is playing week in, week out "where I want, in the centre of midfield".

Life in Trieste takes a more laid back approach than that of Manchester and Liverpool, and both youngsters appear to have settled well. Their day couldn't be more different though.

All reserve and youth players are expected to report for duty at 13.30 every day. From there they are brought to watch the first team train and are given a tactical training session as they watch the pros.

Then it's lunch where the entire club dine together, first team players, reserves and youth team players are all encouraged to mix and get to know one another over a small meal before it's back out to the training ground for everyone.

The first team are brought to a separate part of the training ground for a second afternoon session while youth and reserves train together.

Collins appears to have come on a level since his move from Liverpool, and he cites the different training regime as being vital to his improvement. At Liverpool there are almost 60 players involved with the first team and the reserves so it is incredibly hard for youth players to catch the eye.

In Trieste, the club is much smaller so their ambitions and approach to the game foster this group approach.

Their afternoon training session runs from 15.00 to 17.30 or 18.00 after that the entire club meets in a local restaurant for dinner, and then they have the evenings free. The Irish duo are leaning Italian too, so while the rest of the reserves are free to do what they will in the evenings, Conor and Michael go to night classes for another three hours.

Living in an apartment complex that is owned by the club (five minutes from the ground) the lads often socialise with first team and youth team players alike. And Uruguayan Mateo Figoli has taken the lads under his wing as they settle in Trieste.

Since the move to Italy, Collins has fallen down the pecking order in the International stakes. He was part of the team that played against Ukraine, Portugal, and Spain in the inaugural tournament that was created by the four federations, but he has not received a call since.

With the upcoming qualifiers, he hopes to regain his place in the squad. McCormack also hopes to regain his spot, as he missed out on the last match after damaging ankle ligaments.

Both have settled in Trieste very well, they have taken to the culture and the Italian game suits their technical style better. They have both improved as players since their move, and as they face the new year after spending Christmas in Italy for the first time, they hope it won't be their last.

Their contracts were initially for one year, and they come to a close in June, with both players optimistic of winning an extension to their contracts. FN Sports Management reported on their site, that they had been given contracts after impressing so far, but that has yet to be confirmed.

Reserve team coach, Angelo Orlando, is optimistic for their future, and the ex-Inter Milan player has seen the duo fast tracked from youth team to reserve team in little over six months. McCormack, a skilful central midfielder has particularly caught the eye, and has often trained with the first team.

Speaking about Orlando, Collins said: "He's been great to us, he was supposedly a really great player in his day, so he's a really great man to learn from"

Trieste have never been promoted in their 90 year history and with these Irish lads hoping to follow in the footsteps of Liam Brady rather than Ronnie O'Brien who knows what the future holds.

twitter / WillieGannon