LOOKING for positives during this pandemic may sometimes be difficult.
However when you have a passion for sport and a passion to develop your beloved club and it’s players, then life becomes easier.
This certainly has been the case for Leeds AFC’s Director of Football and senior manager James Fogarty. He is better known to most people as Fingers and during this period of lockdown he has a plan to introduce his senior players to the world of coaching.
As director of the underage academy, Fogarty knows the importance of having a structured underage system at a club. Because of this, Fogarty and Leeds are committed to putting a lot of time and effort into developing players from an early age.
The 33-year-old father of one has been with the club for over two decades holding many different roles. First as a player, then as a coach to schoolboy teams, and this year as the senior manager as well as overseeing the underage academy which has over 100 kids.
Each role he has thoroughly enjoyed and none more so than his current positions, with the aim of getting the club playing in the top tier of senior football and challenging for National titles.
“I’ve been involved with the club for 20 years and it’s great to see it in great shape again,” said Fogarty. "There are fantastic people involved at the club who give their time willingly and that’s great.
"I was appointed the manager of our senior team this season and to be honest I had big boots to fill with Decky Fagan doing such a great job for over 15 years but I’m looking forward to the challenge. I’ve got a great team around me in Micky Buckley, Damien Byrne, Paul Fitzgerald and Liam O'Connor and Decky is also never too far away when I need advice.
"I’m also managing our underage academy which has gone from strength to strength over the last number of years. We currently have over 100 kids from ages six to 10 who train in the club every Saturday morning.
“The disruption due to Covid has obviously been awful for everyone but I think we all knew that with the year that we have had that it was inevitable."
He is always looking to make a positive from a negative.
"As the underage side of the club can still train we have encouraged some of our senior players to get involved in coaching in order to keep them occupied and give something back to the club. It’s great to see the senior players coming down to the academy and interacting with the future generations.
“Up to about five or six years ago the underage side of the club was left slip a bit and we are probably only starting to recover from that now."
They now have a schoolboys teams at every age group and two teams at most of them.
"This is down to the great work behind the scenes of our schoolboys committee. In order for the club to be successful we need a strong underage section. You only need to look at other successful clubs in the leagues like Corinthians, Midleton, Carrigaline and Douglas Hall to see the importance of good underage setups.
“We had a great underage in the early 90s and we are very proud of our records of winning every schoolboys premier in one season. This is what we continue to remind our current players about and again give them something to aspire too."
Playing in the MSL Senior First Division and currently sitting third on the table just behind Castleview and leaders Blarney, Fogarty is happy with his performances. He believes with the calibre of players he has, his side could be promoted next season.
“We have had a great start to the new season and we have a brilliant group of young men in the squad. We have 24 players signed and the average age of the squad is 24 which is absolutely ideal. We have a great mix of experience, youth and talent in the squad and so far they have all done exactly as we have asked of them.
"It's great to be unbeaten so far in the season but there are no trophies handed out this early in the season so we need to maintain our efforts to ensure we are back in the premier challenging for titles next season."
Quick to praise the work of his backroom staff, Fogarty has to be credited for his time given to football, especially when his life is so busy also outside of football.
“Juggling work, football and the newest addition of a baby boy earlier in the year has been a huge challenge but a rewarding one. Special mention to my wife Clare for putting up with me training four or five times a week while also working late.
"Without her I wouldn’t be able to give the passion and commitment to my roles. Personally, the first lockdown probably came at a good time for me as it was around the time Oscar was born. It gave me a chance to take a break from football, recharge the batteries and spend time with him which was great. When we did go back it also thought me to not take either for granted.
"The time training is brilliant but the time at home with him is even better. I’ve no doubt in a short few years I’ll be able to mix both. Hand the senior team over to someone else in a better condition than I got it and go down and support Oscar at whatever sport or activity he decides to get involved with.
"For my sake let’s just hope it's soccer!"