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Hoops up in the air

SHAMROCK ROVERS midfielder Conor McCormack admits that the Hoops squad are concerned for their own futures due to the imminent departure of manager Michael O'Neill.

The Armagh man will take charge of Rovers for the last time and end his three-year spell as Hoops boss in tomorrow's Europa League tie at home to Tottenham.

His exit has yet to be officially confirmed by the club or by O'Neill himself, but it appears to be a done deal given that the Ulster native informed his players earlier this week that he was leaving after talks on a new contract for the manager broke down.

Only a handful of Rovers players are under contract for next season, so the remainder are facing into an anxious period over the festive season, as their last pay date is next week – after that they are officially unemployed.

Enda Stevens is one definitely on the way as he's agreed a contract with Aston Villa and will formally link up with the club when the transfer window opens in the new year, while Rohan Ricketts has also stated his desire to leave the club. Former Manchester United midfielder McCormack is one of those out of contract but eager to stay, though he is uncertain about his future plans.

“I'm in limbo like a lot of the players. It's all up in the air and no one knows what the next move is,” said the Co Louth man, who joined Rovers 12 months ago after a two-year spell with Italian side Triestina.

“I think there are only four or five lads who are contracted for next season, the rest of us are up and with the manager on his way out of the club, no one knows where they stand. The board might move quickly to get a new manager in, or they might take their time and leave it for a few weeks.

“Then when a new man comes in he might have his own ideas about players and the squad and want to bring in all new players,” added McCormack.

“I am sorry to see Michael leave the club as he was great to me, he was the manager who gave me a real chance in the game.

“I'm disappointed for Rovers sake that he is leaving but it could be a great opportunity for him to move on and get a good job somewhere. I think Rovers players and supporters will always appreciate what he did for the club.”

The 22-year-old will not take part in tomorrow's clash with Spurs as he was due in for an operation on a long-standing calf problem today. But he is eager to stay on in Dublin and sign up for another stint with the Hoops. “I've really enjoyed my time here,” said McCormack, who made only three appearances in his time with Serie B side Triestina. “I got to play first-team football, I got to play in Europe and win some medals. It's been a brilliant experience and if it was possible to stay on I'd love to do that.

“Maybe the board will sit down with the out-of-contract players in the next while and lay out their plans, but I'd like to get something sorted as soon as possible.

“I'm out of contract next week, I'll be out of action for a month after the operation so there's not a lot I can do in the next few weeks,” he added.

McCormack turned his career around following his move to Rovers. He spent two years as a trainee at Manchester United but was released in 2008. Despite offers of trials from other English clubs, he took the brave step – along with fellow Irishman Michael Collins – in moving to Triestina.

He signed a three-year deal with the club but struggled to make an impact in the first team, largely due to a large turnover of managers, and made only a handful of appearances before deciding to cancel his contract and join Rovers at the start of this year.