AVONDALE UNITED will start the new Munster Senior League season with a new manager at the helm.
Frank Kelleher has taken the reins in Avondale Park, the third manager to take charge of the club’s flagship team in the past three years.
Kelleher will take over from Damian Roddis, who had steered Avondale to third spot in the Beamish Stout Senior Premier Division table before the season came to a halt in March.
Ken Bruton had previously led Avondale to FAI Intermediate Cup success and they remain the holders, until next month at least, and Kelleher knows that success on the national stage is the yardstick by which Avondale managers are usually measured.
Kelleher, though, is no stranger to success in the FAI arena having managed Cork City women’s team to FAI Cup success in 2017, during his three seasons at the helm.
He also had a spell as manager of Cork City’s League of Ireland team with John Cotter prior to the appointment of Neale Fenn last season.
Kelleher was previously involved in the Cork and Munster Youths inter-league teams with whom he enjoyed success and he was involved in the Cork Youth League academy, where he helped in the development of some of Cork’s best young talent.
He headed up the Carrigaline United academy and he was in charge of youth development at Cobh Ramblers for a spell.
It’s an impressive CV, but his move to Avondale will be the first time he has managed in the Munster Senior League and it’s a job he is really looking forward to, but one that didn’t exactly come out of the blue.
“It’s my first role with a Munster Senior League club, but I had been approached over the last few years to see if I would be interesting in working with Avondale,” Kelleher said.
“I played with the club in the Munster Senior League, so I have a connection there, but the timing wasn’t right for a return then, but this year it is, so I’m delighted to be here.”
There was disappointment all round when the the 2019/20 campaign was cancelled. Avondale were eight points off leaders Rockmount when the last ball last kicked in March and, in truth, the league race was that of the two-horse variety with the Whitechurch club and Ringmahon Rangers the contenders.
Kelleher prefers instead to think of himself picking up where the Intermediate Cup winning team left off in 2018, with most of the players involved in that success back on board for the new season and their preparations for the new campaign are already well underway.
“We’ve managed to get most players back from last season plus players who were involved in the 2019 Intermediate Cup win.
“David Shovlin, Mark Horgan, Mark O’Sullivan, Jack Walsh, and Declan Cahill have all been training and we have Simon Falvey back also from UCC, though he is currently injured.
“We did loose Killian Cooper from last season, but we have a few others who are training, but who haven’t yet committed.
Another player back in action is club stalwart Eoghan Lougheed who returns after a serious leg injury.
“It’s great to have Eoghan back, he’s taking part in full training at the moment and he’s very determined.”
Kelleher, will have former Leeds boss Danny Quinlan as his assistant manager for the new season while he is also working closely with the club’s junior manager Eoin Kelly.
The new Avondale manager is pleased with the way pre-season has gone to date as they prepare for the campaign and he is aware of the expectations at the club.
“We are in a good starting positions, but it’s one of those scenarios where we will have to see how we go in the next few weeks.
“We are training three times a week, Mondays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays, unless we have a game in between.
“We have a friendly lined against Cobh Ramblers tomorrow and we will face Cork City next Tuesday. Those games will give us a chance to have a good look at the squad.
“Our ambition is to be knocking on the door of the league and reaching at the least the semi-finals of the cups. With the strength of our squad, the expectations are that we would do well.”
He acknowledges, though, that there will be stiff competition particularly from Rockmount and Ringmahon who will driven to succeed having missed out on the opportunity to win the title last season.
“It’s a very strong league. Ringmahon, Rockmount, College Corinthians, Douglas Hall — they are all big teams who will provide us with difficult competition.”
Off the pitch, Avondale were delighted to sign up Luke Dennehy, Health and Fitness again as their main sponsor for the season.
Health and fitness is one of the industries that have suffered during the lockdown and Dennehy’s recently opened their gyms again and club’s PRO Noel Long was quick with praise for Luke and his team.
“Dennehy’s Health and Fitness have been tremendous supporters of Avondale in the last few years,” Long said.
“It’s not easy to secure good sponsorship in these uncertain times, but we are thrilled to have Luke and his team on board again this year.”