CORK CITY legends Alan Bennett and Neal Horgan have expressed support for the club entering a team into the Munster Senior League to bridge the gap from the academy to senior football.
The idea of City entering a team into the league was raised by former U17 Head Coach Liam Kearney who said to The Echo: “We need something like a reserve league or even Cork City entering a team into the Munster Senior League,” to help develop players for first-team football.
Cork City had a reserve team in the Munster Senior League Premier Division in the 1990s and early 2000s which both Alan Bennett and Neal Horgan featured in.
The pair, who won the League of Ireland in 2005 with City, credit their time in the Munster Senior League for helping their development.
The former Republic of Ireland international said on Twitter: “I agree with Liam Kearney 100%. I played a season in the Munster Senior League when I came out of City’s youths in 2000. I learnt hard lessons about intimidation, physicality and dark arts.
“I played two years MSL with City Reserves (age 18-20) before getting first team contract with CCFC. I needed that time to achieve required physicality for LOI premier division. MSL is an underrated league in many ways.”
A development team had also been in place for City from 2008 to 2011 which played in the Newstalk A Championship, the now defunct third tier of Irish football. Since the league was disbanded, City have had success with Munster Senior League clubs bridging the gap from their academy to senior football.
In recent years, UCC has been used to develop players after they finish playing in underage League of Ireland. FAI Cup winner Michael McSweeney was one of the first to follow this pathway after graduating from the A Championship team in 2009.
He left the college in 2012 to sign for Mervue United and moved back to City in 2014 where he played for three seasons. In 2017 Sean McLoughlin, who played for City’s U19 team, followed in McSweeny’s footsteps. After winning all that he could at the college, McLoughlin signed for City’s first team and became a household name on Leeside before joining Skybet Championship club Hull in 2019.
Derry City and Finn Harps have reserve teams in the Ulster Senior League which are used to develop young talent before they play senior football. Shamrock Rovers have opted for a different approach,entering a development team into the League of Ireland First Division in 2014 and 2020.