CORK City Women’s FC manager Ronán Collins lent his coaching expertise to the West Cork Schoolboys League Kennedy Cup squad recently.
Collins accepted a WCSL invitation to contribute to a four-day Kennedy Cup coaching hub in Clonakilty during the mid-term break. West Cork’s Stephen O’Keefe, the U14 head coach, has worked extensively with the Collins in the Cork City Women’s setup and was delighted his players got an opportunity to work with the Women’s National League manager.
“As a teacher I'm fortunate in that I have the time to go and do things like this whenever the time permits,” Ronán Collins commented to the Echo.
“I love coaching whenever I'm asked or given an opportunity to do so. I was only too delighted to accept an offer from Stephen O’Keefe to come to West Cork and coach their Kennedy Cup squad for a couple of sessions during the mid-term.
"Stephen works with me at Cork City and the West Cork lads have come and played our U17s a couple of times already. So, they have been a great help to us as well.
“For me, Cork’s the biggest village in the world! All you want to do is try and help anyone you can in the area. I live in Bandon and am at the ‘gate’ to West Cork.
"It was no issue whatsoever to make the trip to Clonakilty to help Stephen out and the other West Cork (Kennedy Cup) coaches. Any excuse to visit Clonakilty and run down to Inchydoney beach afterwards!”
The WCSL enjoys a long and proud tradition when it comes to the SFAI’s annual schoolboys tournament held in the University of Limerick each June. West Cork are currently working with a large squad of 30 players, the majority of whom were involved in the league’s mid-term camp.
“We always say that winning is being better than you were yesterday,” Collins stated.
“That’s why we went into every training session with one key focus in mind for the Kennedy Cup squad. When it comes to coaching young footballers, if you can build one brick on top of the other then you are moving forward all the time.
“I have been involved in many Kennedy Cup squads down through the years. It is an absolutely brilliant week, for players so young, to play at the University of Limerick.
"You put so much time and effort into your preparations for the tournament as well as actually playing in it.
“For me, the Kennedy Cup has been the best learning curve for a young footballer. That’s because if you want to achieve something, it takes a lot of work and dedication over a long period of time.
“Yes, the tournament itself if a great week away for players, coaches, and parents but what’s probably even more important is the journey any player goes through to get to the Kennedy Cup.”
Collins’ resumé includes plenty of schoolboys league experience. The schoolteacher and current Cork City Women’s manager previously led Cork U16s to both Munster and All-Ireland accolades. Productive stints and Wexford Youths Women’s team and Cork City followed.
Collins’ positive Cork Schoolboys League experiences means he is well placed to assess West Cork’s chances of making an impact in the Kennedy Cup. What became abundantly clear to the Cork City Women’s manager during his short stint with the rural squad was their hunger to be successful.
“I was lucky enough to be involved with a great group of lads for about four years and we enjoyed some great success in Cork,” Collins concluded.
“I can sense the hunger and desire from speaking to Stephen (O’Keefe) and the other West Cork coaches that they want to do something special with this squad.
“Even this group of players themselves, how the squad number has expanded to 30 tells you how much they want to kick on. The fact West Cork’s coaches arranged a week-long training programme during mid-term, whilst having to adhere to FAI safety guidelines, and got between 25 and 30 players attending each day says it all really.
“Putting in all this time and effort, the togetherness of the West Cork coaches and their players is really evident to me. That’s when special things begin to happen for a squad.
"On the pitch, sometimes things don’t go your way but here in West Cork, it seems to me that this group are beginning a journey where they something hugely positive will be achieved.
“One thing we always say at Cork City is that football is a vehicle on your development as a person. You only get to see a young person’s characteristics away from the pitch and in a competitive, training environment. Football is a show of character.”
Although the WCSL benefitted hugely from Collins’ presence during the mid-term break, unfortunately, there are still no guarantees that the 2021 New Balance SFAI Kennedy Cup will go ahead.
How well the country is faring in the fight against Covid-19 will dictate if the tournament gets the go ahead at the University of Limerick next summer.
The decision to cancel this season’s Kennedy Cup was not taken lightly by the SFAI but was made with player, management, parents and supporters safety in mind.
A similarly difficult decision may have to be taken next year but for now, West Cork’s Kennedy Cup squad players are staying positive and continuing their preparations.