THE West Cork Schoolboys League’s Emerging Talent Programme is continuing its build-up to next year’s SFAI Subway National Championships and New Balance Kennedy Cup.
Covid-19 caused havoc with this past season’s provincial and national inter-league competitions. Heading towards December, the WCSL’s ETP continues to work with hundreds of the region’s youngest footballers despite no guarantees of if or when the SFAI’s competitions will go ahead in 2021.
For the West Cork Kennedy Cup squad, a welcome mid-term training camp has been followed by regular midweek training sessions under the floodlights at Clonakilty Sports Complex throughout the month of November.
A squad of over 30 players is being put through their paces by a new-look coaching team, overseen by manager Lorne Edmeade and Head Coach Stephen O’Keefe.
Yet, for the 13-year-old and 14-year-old players who make up the current WCSL Kennedy Cup panel, just getting out on a training pitch represents a welcome and positive distraction from Covid-19.
Luke Murphy (Clonakilty), Jack Hennigan and Rory McCarthy (both Lyre Rovers) are three Kennedy Cup hopefuls who took part in a recent training camp that included specialised sessions with Cork City Women’s FC manager Ronán Collins.
“It has been brilliant to get so much training done over the past few weeks,” Luke Murphy told The Echo.
“Normally, we wouldn’t have this amount of training completed at this time of the year. Covid has affected everything as well and made life fairly boring, to be honest.
“We have not had much to do because of it so it was great to get out on the pitch and train as a squad with all our coaches again. Whatever about playing soccer, just getting out and getting some exercise was great.”
The 2021 WCSL Kennedy Cup coaching team has been boosted by Stephen O’Keefe, Sean Spenser, Áine O’Donovan and Ross Smith’s arrivals, something Luke Murphy is appreciative of.
“It’s been very good to work with a new (Kennedy Cup) coaching team,” Clonakilty’s Murphy stated.
“They were able to work on our (individual) abilities and help us improve on things during the mid-term camp. I think we got a lot more out of training because the coaches were able to spend so much time with us even though we had to train in smaller groups due to Covid.
“It is good to have the bit of craic with the lads and the coaches during training as well. Everyone is just looking forward to (hopefully) playing in the Kennedy Cup next year.”
Rory McCarthy is one of Lyre Rovers’ brightest prospects and enjoying his time working with West Cork’s U14 Kennedy Cup coaches. The step up from U13 level is steep but a new coaching setup is helping push McCarthy and his fellow teammates.
“Having more coaches to look after us this year is great,” McCarthy commented.
“U13 was tough but we have a very good squad and lots of coaches to work with now for the rest of the year. Everyone has really enjoyed the training sessions so far and they have been very good.
“It is the Kennedy Cup so you have to work hard every time you train. We are being pushed to the best of our abilities and to improve in every session by our coaches.
“There is a big squad this year of about 30 players. We would all know each other, mostly from last year’s Under13’s and playing against each other in the West Cork Schoolboys League. The quality of our Kennedy Cup squad is quite good and we have had some new players join up this year as well.”
McCarthy’s club mate and fellow Kennedy Cup hopeful Jack Hennigan feels the increase in training sessions coupled with a happy squad bodes well for West Cork in 2021.
“Our mid-term training camp was very good and we are training most week’s now which is brilliant,” Hennigan said.
“Things were very boring there for a while because of Covid and we couldn’t do much. Then we managed to get in four or five days training during the mid-term. It was great even though we had to split up into small groups of five or six players because of Covid (regulations).
“You have to do your best, day in, day out. The coaches are always asking you to do better because there are 30 of us in the squad so if you want to be involved to have to try your hardest in training.
“There is a small bit of pressure but I don’t mind that. You just get on with it like everyone else. Our coaches are very good and everyone seems to be enjoying the training sessions.”
West Cork has a huge amount of preparation work to complete between the end of this year and if and when the SFAI announce a date for the 2021 New Balance Kennedy Cup.
Staying positive, the WCSL’s best U13 and U14 players are being put through their paces by a dedicated coaching team. Everyone is preparing for a week-long trip to the University of Limerick until they are told otherwise by the governing body, the SFAI.
It has been an unprecedented and difficult year for young footballers all over the country and not just in West Cork.
Yet, the prospect of representing their families, clubs and region at the SFAI’s most prestigious schoolboys tournament will keep the WCSL Kennedy squad fully focussed throughout the winter months.