Barnsley FC: Conor McCarthy needed ‘no second invitation’ to join Tykes

Conor McCarthy is looking forward to receiving and passing on experience after moving to Barnsley.

The Irishman is a former central defensive partner of Sean McLoughlin and says the Hull City defender strongly encouraged him to move to Yorkshire.

With manager Michael Duff having played at the heart of defence too, McCarthy hopes he has joined a good club to learn at, but he is also willing to pass on his own experiences.

“I played with Sean McLoughlin at Cork and we were centre-half partners,” says the Blarney-born player. “We’re still close, it’s a friendship that will last a lifetime.

Barnsley FC's new signing Conor McCarthy meets the media. Picture: Simon Hulme

“I bounced a few things off him and he really endorsed the move. He had the experience of playing in Scotland as well (both went from Cork to St Mirren at different times) and came to England.

“He said it wasn’t going to be easy because when he first came to Hull he didn’t really play for the first year or so.

“I know if I ever have any struggles or need to bounce anything off me, he’ll be there.

“He told me it’s quite similar to back home. Glasgow’s hustle and bustle but this reminds me of home a bit.”

Not that it needed McLoughlin to sell Barnsley to McCarthy, who was bowled over by the one-time Premier League club, relegated to League One at the end of last season.

“The manager is really ambitious,” he remarks. “You can tell from our early conversations.

“He’s on an upward trajectory and an ex-centre-back himself, which will only enhance my development. You want to learn from guys who’ve been there, done that, and experienced the highs and the lows.

“You just have to look at the facilities – it really is top class. That’s all you want as a player, those facilities to aid your development, so when a club like this comes calling you need no second invitation.”

Barnsley’s is a young squad so even a 24-year-old like McCarthy has experience to pass on – particularly as he played in Champions and Europa League qualifiers for Cork.

“I was really lucky I got Champions League and Europa League really early in my career at Cork, so any experience I can pass on, I’ll be really happy to do so,” he says.

“With those games it was the whole week, the media coverage, a really intense couple of weeks. Even the draw is so exciting.

“They were great days and I’ll take them to the grave.

“We played Legia Warsaw in Poland and their fans were incredible, dressed in all white, and I’ll never forget the noise they made.

“You go to those games two or three days beforehand, no expense spared, and you have fans travelling over. It’s only afterwards when you speak to lads who haven’t had those experiences that you appreciate them more.

“If you win just one qualifying game it’s worth a couple of hundred thousand in a league where there isn’t a lot of excitement.”

With plenty of other former Premier League clubs in the third tier – Bolton Wanderers, Derby County, Ipswich Town, Portsmouth and Sheffield Wednesday – McCarthy is excited at the thought of more big games to come, but the division is as much about the stamina of a long slog of a season as rising to the big occasions

“As players you look forward to playing in packed stadiums and feeling that buzz of the stadium but there will also be tough games against the ‘lesser’ teams because they’re just as important because this club needs to be back where it belongs,” he says.

“The fixture list is going to test me mentally and physically because it’s something I haven’t experienced before. That was probably another reason why I joined Barnsley.

“Being able to get nearly 50 or 60 games under your belt in the one season would be incredible for any player.”