Mark Connolly

Vital Statistics

Nickname: None

Position: Defender (Centre Back)

Date of Birth: December 16th 1991

Birth Place: Monaghan, Republic of Ireland

Height: 1.85m

Previous Clubs: Bolton, St Johnstone (loan), Macclesfield Town (loan), Crawley Town

Killie Contract: July 11th 2014 (3 Year Deal)

Left Killie: May 23rd 2016 (last year of deal cancelled)

Landmarks: Killie debut on August 9th 2014 at Dens Park in a 1-1 draw with Dundee in the Scottish Premiership. July 17th 2015 made club captain after Manuel Pascali leaves club.

International: 7 Appearances for Republic of Ireland U21's.

Twitter: @Mark5Connolly

Quotes

May 23rd 2016: 

October 19th 2014: “It just shows the professionalism within our team. Our jobs are to play football. We go out every week and give our all, no matter what’s happening off the field. That’s out of our hands at the moment and all we can do is keep winning games and hopefully the other side will work itself out. The lads are all together, from those sitting in the stands to the people playing on the pitch. We’re fighting as a team to do well for the club. The club struggled last year and we’re trying to put that right. We’ve ground out a win and deserved it. Ultimately, the win bonus or money is not my object, I just want to play football. I’m enjoying my game and you can see all the lads are enjoying it as well."

January 3rd 2015: "There’s a few Celtic fans from where I live but my job – and I was delighted to be captain against St Mirren on New Year’s Day – is to get a result for Kilmarnock and I will be giving everything to do that, My family was over for New Year so they’ll get the Monday game then fly home Tuesday. My dad and his brother-in-law will go. There’s no divided loyalties – it’s Kilmarnock on Monday. No matter who I play for, that’s who they’ll be supporting. Where I’m from there are a few Celtic fans around but I supported Arsenal when I was younger. Since I moved over I haven’t really supported any teams – whoever I play for is the team I follow. It’s unusual to be playing Celtic with them needing to win to get back on top of the league at this time of year, I don’t think that really makes it harder for us because it doesn’t matter who we are playing – Celtic or St Mirren – we need to get results as much as they do. We want to get into the top six and they are obviously up there to win the league. It’s going to be a tricky game but, hopefully, we can get ourselves ready to have an upset on the cards. We totally take encouragement from the points Celtic have been dropping. I’m new to the league – I’ve only come up this year and don’t fear anyone. It’s different if you’ve been in the league and know the players and teams but I came here with an open mind. OK, we’ve been beaten by Celtic already and Rangers in the cup. But I don’t fear playing them and I don’t think anyone else should right now. At Parkhead, we started quite well until Pascali got sent off and I think it’s difficult enough with 11 men there. We defended quite well with ten men and were a bit unlucky. If we hadn’t a man sent off I reckon that could’ve been a different story. Hopefully, on Monday we can change that result. Just sticking together has got us out the wee blip in results, we’ve got good players and those wins we had earlier in the season weren’t down to luck. We played well, worked hard together and I think that we’ve recently gone back to the basics and re-started doing what we were doing before. I wonder if we were doing so well that we took our foot off the gas a little bit. That made it difficult. Look at St Mirren – if you’re down there and not winning games your confidence is low and you could see that [on Thursday]. The first half the wind was up and we were passing the ball and you could see they were getting frustrated because they wanted to do that but the confidence just wasn’t there. We’ve got our belief back from the last few games. It’s good to get a couple of wins again.”

February 13th 2015: "The new manager has not come in and changed everything but he's tweaking things that maybe need changed and all the boys have taken to him so far. You can see he's been a manager before with Hearts and he's got leadership ability in him. He could definitely be a very good manager in my opinion. Maybe his intensity is just what we need. It's difficult as a player - you don't always look at it in the sense of 'We need someone to come in and be really intense?' But if he is shouting at us during games, telling us to do this and that, perhaps a few of us might react better to that and hopefully push on. Robbie [Muirhead] is a very good lad and a very good footballer. He's up there as being one of the best young players I've seen. I'll shake his hand before the game and then afterwards, but during the game I'll play my own game and that will be it."

May 14th 2015: “Because of the injury, I didn’t come back on the team bus that day, I got in the kit van to come home with the kit man. I told him to miss every pothole on the way home – but he actually hit every one! I was waiting to see if I was going to hospital in Inverness, but the physio wanted to get me to the surgeon he knows in Crosshouse Hospital near Kilmarnock. So we were on the road for three and a half hours and the kit man had a packet of wine gums next to him which he was eating the whole way. He wasn’t really concentrating on the road and we honestly must have hit every bump on the way home! With a broken collarbone, that’s quite a painful thing. I feel I’m ready to start a game now, I played an hour for the under-20s on Monday and I feel fine. I spoke with the manager before the Motherwell game last week and we hummed and hawed about me playing. But I don’t think I was ready to start. I came on and felt a little bit off the pace.But I’ve trained fully since then and feel good, so hopefully I’ll be in contention for Saturday. I’m fully fit, my legs feel fine and strong now. I was told I’d be out until the end of the season but it feels great now. I’ve maybe come back a little bit earlier than expected but I wouldn’t be putting myself in a position where there was any chance of making it worse. I spoke with the surgeon and he gave me the full backing to come back, so hopefully it will be fine. It’s been difficult to watch since I got injured. It’s so different to when you’re playing, because you can’t influence anything. I’m not saying I would have made any difference but you always want to be there to help your team-mates out. We were doing quite well but we’ve had a difficult last couple of months. Hopefully, we can get the right result on Saturday and then secure our place in the Premiership. We just need to stick together now. We’ve got the players in the dressing room who can get the results we need. The biggest thing is confidence. At the start of the season, even the middle of the season, we were playing well. A lot of the times, it’s just down to hard work and maybe we’ve taken our foot off the gas a little bit. But I know this means a lot to the players. It means a lot to me. I’ve just bought a home in Kilmarnock and I’m very happy here. Since I came here, everyone at the club – the cleaners, everyone – have welcomed me with open arms. We will be doing everything possible to get the win on Saturday. We can’t worry about the teams around us. We need to win on Saturday then see how the other results go. I want us to win the last two games and finish the season on a little bit of a high note, then get ready to push on next season. It’s not going to be easy against Partick. They are on a good run at the moment. We want to win the last two games, regardless. It’s in our own hands. We’re not relying on anyone else to keep us up. That’s the biggest thing. It would be different if we needed Ross County or Motherwell to lose. We just need to win and that’s a good incentive for us. The last few days in training, you can see the lads just can’t wait for Saturday. It has been difficult for the manager, from what I’ve seen, he’s got bags of ability as a manager. He is one of the best young managers in the league. I’ve really enjoyed working with him. We went six unbeaten under him, then we’ve lost seven in a row. Once you’re on that kind of run, it’s hard to pick it up. I do feel for the manager but he’s not feeling sorry for himself. He wants to do well and has big plans for the club. Everything looks bright at this club.”

June 18th 2015: "I’ve been in working with Dave Sykes this week and he has been great. I’m looking to start off quick this season and push on from last year. A few of the younger lads have been in the gym this week too which has been great to see. Everyone wants to build on last year and make sure they are ready to go when the season begins. Since my fiancée and I came here everyone has been really welcoming. I was saying to someone the other day, this is probably the happiest I’ve ever been at a football club. And to be given player of the year after such a long time out was an absolute honour. I’ve now got to aim to win it next year and improve even more because I’m still young and I’m still learning. I want to win trophies at this football club and whether that is the player of the year or a cup competition, I’m just a winner. We’ve got to push to be in the top six, a club as big as Kilmarnock has got to be up that end of the table. Finishing seventh, eighth or ninth isn’t a big achievement for us so we’ve got to aim as high as we can. I know the manager is working hard to get new players into the club so hopefully we can build on last season and try our best to get up there. I’d love to be captain, 100 per cent. But that’s for the manager to decide and I’ll be a leader whether I have the armband or not."

August 8th 2015: "We’ve got a great group of lads, a great fan base and it’s a family club. Since I arrived they’ve made me feel at home and looked after my family and made them feel at home, so that’s why I love the club. The fans are brilliant. They were behind us even when we were struggling last year, which was good. When we’re doing well they’re really loud and bring a really great crowd to away games. On social media they’re always telling you how well you’ve done and even if you’ve not had a good game they pick you up. It’s [the vibe] really good. We’ve got a few loud characters. Some have got really bad banter. Some think they’ve got great banter but they haven’t really. It’s pretty relaxed during the week. But come game day the banter gets turned off. We’ve signed a lot of new players. Boydy and Higginbotham are two obvious ones so we’ve signed some good new players so hopefully we can do well this season. I’m going to go for one of the groundsmen Mark Gallagher [as backroom hero]. Gal’s been there around 20 years. He’s a groundsman but he helps with everything. Even with my family, if I need something and it’s out of hours he’s always there to help out. I just enjoy playing football every day. I’m lucky in that regard. Don’t get me wrong it can be difficult. Moving away from Ireland and my family at 15 was hard but playing every day in front of big crowds and having people shout your name – sometimes good, sometime bad – is what I love most."

October 16th 2015: “I’m feeling good and I’ve been in training this week so hopefully I’ll be in contention for the game against Inverness this weekend. The boys played really well against Hearts and the lads in defence have been doing great. You can see now we’re on the right track and playing as a team which is pleasing for everyone. I know I said it at the start of the season but I don’t really see any reason why we can’t be in the top six. We’ve yet to come up against a team who have made me think: ‘they were much better than us. I think on our day we can beat most of the teams in this league so we’ve just got to make sure we’re performing at our best. It’s hard to put your finger on why we haven’t picked up as many points at home.  Maybe we should be making the most of the fact we’ve got the artificial pitch, but at the same time we could just be a bit too used to it. It’s a tricky one but the manager always says if we start to win at home the away games will take care of themselves. We know the home form hasn’t been great so far but we’re desperate to improve on that in the coming games.  It has been frustrating watching from the sidelines again.  I’d never really had a serious injury before I came here and now I’ve had two. But it has given me time to think about the start of the season. My fiancee had a baby in the summer and I don’t think I really took into account how my life had changed – maybe I just didn’t realise. I was putting too much pressure on myself I was up during the night and not getting a good night’s sleep and it was effecting things. We’re in a routine now, though, and instead of going to bed at 11pm it’s 9.30pm!”

November 29th 2015: "Of course there’s a concern because, if the team below us is beating us and going ahead of us in the table, then you need to address that. We now need to think about winning the Dundee United game [on Saturday] and nothing else. We can’t worry about teams below us but we need to start treating every game like a cup final. United are coming to Rugby Park and they will be fighting for their lives. We have to start rolling the sleeves up and working harder. It was terrible, it was embarrassing. Every player on the pitch was not good enough, especially after last week against Celtic when we worked so hard and did so well [to draw 0-0]. We nullified Celtic and reduced them to a few chances, which is not an easy job, and then, coming up against Partick Thistle who were below us in the league, there were gaps all over the pitch. Nobody did their jobs and we gave them far too much time on the ball. It’s frustrating. It has to change, I don’t know if boys are nervous playing at Rugby Park. We played in front of 40,000 plus at Celtic Park and got a result and then we play in front of 4,000 at home and get beat like that. This is our stomping ground and where we should be winning games. We should be on top of teams. We start games too slow and it is always a battle to get back into them. It shouldn’t be like that. We’re not pressing teams...instead, we’re switching off. No wonder the fans are booing us coming off that pitch. They don’t deserve to see what we dished up against Partick.”

December 22nd 2015: "As a manager he knows what happens at every club. Look at Jose Mourinho, one of the most successful managers in the world but still sacked by Chelsea last week. Every manager will get stick when things are going wrong but players have to stand up and be counted. I need to hold my hand up because I’m the captain of the club and I’m trying to help out the rest of the boys. We’re not doing it on the park and the manager is working hard with us during the week. We were in every single day last week, no days off, just going through stuff, working at set-pieces, working out what was the best team, everything. But it’s simply not happening for us. We’re guilty of switching off. We’re starting games too slowly and we’re restarting them too slowly as well. That has to be a mental problem because we should be able to get ourselves up for any game right from the start. That’s something we need to do, even if we do concede first. We should then be saying, ‘Right, listen, if we get the next goal we’re right back in this’. But it seems as though everyone’s heads go down. I don’t know what’s happening this week in terms of Christmas Day but we’ll do whatever it takes to turn this round as we owe that to this football club. We owe it to the fans. They boo us sometimes but they’re quite right because even if we’re not playing well, we need to show them we still have the desire to win, to get to the ball ahead of the other man, to stop a cross, to prevent a goal. The supporters can’t see us allowing an opponent to just run past us. Perhaps because we’re a young team and confidence is low, the fact that we are trying doesn’t come across. We lose an early goal and all of a sudden everyone’s back is against the wall. We very rarely open the scoring, it seems as though we’re always trying to climb back into matches. It feels like Groundhog Day, with me sitting saying the same stuff as before. We’re doing our best, we’re trying everything we can think of for the manager. It might not look like that on the pitch but we’re definitely giving our all. When you’re losing most weeks, as we are at the moment, then your confidence is very low."

 

05: Stuart Findlay | 07: Rory McKenzie


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