AS with all aspects of life, 2020 was a year like no other for League Of Ireland club Cobh Ramblers.
Despite the challenges the past number of months brought, Ramblers are steadily making progress on and off the pitch.
That includes the underage system at the club, where Ivan Bevan is the Cobh Ramblers Head Of Youth Development.
“It was a strange time and it was unprecedented for everybody.
“So over the first stage of the Covid break from March to July, we kept the players going with fitness programmes and Zoom calls.
“We kept in contact with the lads once or twice a week, over the three underage teams. When we came back, we went straight into training three nights a week. Then the season recommenced in August.
“All four teams in Cobh Ramblers outperformed from 2019 on the field, which was great.
“The first team were 19 points away from the playoffs in 2019 and only missed out because of a last-minute goal by Galway on the final night.
“With the U19s, we got drawn in a tough group with Cork City (who Cobh beat in Bishopstown) and Waterford. We were disappointed not to come out of the group in the end.
“In the Shield, we lost the first game to UCD, but we still felt we could have a chance of beating Kerry and Galway.
“The U17s had a great season."
To reach the cup groups was a fantastic achievement for Darren Dennehy’s squad.
“They were a strong attacking side with some wonderful players throughout the team and played a lovely brand of football.
“For the U15s, we could see improvements and that came to the fore then in the Shield, where they had a wonderful midweek win down in Waterford.
“So overall it was a fantastic season on the field. The main aim for any academy side is progression.”
Progression has clearly been evident, with a number of Bevan’s U19 side featuring for the Ramblers senior side in the First Division. As Bevan outlines, Cobh have ambitious plans and the underage system will play a crucial role.
With that in mind, it is great for Bevan to have a first team manager in Cobh in the form of Stuart Ashton, who has an excellent track record with developing young players on Leeside.
“It makes the academy when you have a first team manager who is interested in the academy. If a first team manager is solely interested in his own team, it takes away from the academy.
“Stuart Ashton was a regular visitor to academy training, which the players noticed. He knows a lot of the players on first name terms, not just at U19s, but U17s and U15s as well.
“He had a relationship with all of the coaches throughout the academy, which is great. Stuart would ring around the three underage managers every Monday to offer advice or congratulate on a weekend well done.
“So it is a huge asset for the Cobh Ramblers academy.”
The trojan work of the committee and volunteers at Ramblers has deservingly earned plenty of praise over the past number of months. Bevan feels that those at the club are putting in great work and that those involved in the academy can see it.
“For a club to work it is the players, the coaching staff and the committee, it is all working together.
“The committee is very engaging and very strong. They cannot do enough for us, everything we have asked for, they have been right behind us the whole way.
“The committee at Ramblers, they don’t rest on their laurels and it is all about what can we do next, how can we get better.
"Within the coaching structure, there are coaches from Cobh within the seniors, U19s, U17s and U15s. Player-wise, there are players right throughout the four teams from Cobh, which is really important, to have that local feeling.
“As a club we want to expand beyond that and become a second team in Cork, in the same way that there are multiple clubs in Dublin.
“It would be good for Cork if we had two strong teams challenging each other. We will see that next year with the derby, it is just a pity it is in the First Division and not the Premier."