Reliability over rare magic the next step for Conor McCloskey
The 2017 League Cup final put Conor McCloskey in the spotlight with a showpiece goal on the grand stage.
That spectacular strike both delivered silverware for Ballymena United and confirmation of ability by the player to produce special moments.
On Saturday, in Glenavon colours against his former club, McCloskey was again on the scoresheet - now hoping his close-range finish can help cement a reputation to deliver reliability over the rare.
“This season I’ve only been out of the side really due to injury and think that’s been reflected in my stats, with something like eight or nine assists and three or four goals,” said McCloskey following his opening goal in a 2-1 win for Glenavon. “It has been a good season for me but I think that has come down to playing week in, week out.
“There are moments in games I could be a five out of 10 but know now at some point in every match I’ll have an impact and my head’s not dropping.
“When in or out of the side you focus on everything and feel that pressure of needing to play well in every moment.
“Now that’s not in the back of my head, I’m not constantly worrying about any mistakes as I feel I’ll be involved in good phases of play.
“I’m definitely trying to add more goals and get into positions to be that scoring threat.
“Gary (Hamilton, manager) will never shout at a player for shooting and has even told me to shoot from positions at times when I’ve felt someone was in a better place to take a pass.
“I’m trying to be more selfish in that aspect and with extra confidence I’m not afraid to try.
“Sometimes I’ve been dropped or played out of position but this season it’s been on the left or right wing.
“A number 10 is probably my preference but Gary plays a 4-4-2 and I’ve been able to slot in the right.
“I’ve had conversations in the past with Gary when in or out or not in my natural position then being asked to do something, maybe as an out-and-out striker for example, that doesn’t come naturally to me.”
McCloskey feels Glenavon comfort from consistency extends beyond his individual circumstances to the overall squad.
“Last year it was a massive problem for us in games only turning up for 60 minutes and needing that first half hour, when by that stage we could have been behind,” said McCloskey. “This season we’ve basically been in and around everyone from the start, there’s a good bond and the signings coming in have gelled together really well.
“Last year there was a lot of chopping and changing, mainly due to injuries, with this year the majority of the time it has been able to stay the same.
“It helps playing with the same players in terms of knowing what a team-mate will do on the ball, so it’s been a massive plus.
“I felt really, really fit coming into this season, with confidence off how I was playing last year before everything got cancelled.
“Today I was in a fortunate position to score one goal and unlucky with a volley and header.”