FORMER Bandon AFC manager and current FAI Academy Coordinator Richie Holland is as busy as ever despite the Covid-19 outbreak.
Living in the outskirts of Bandon with his wife Siobhan and three-year-old daughter Millie, life has never been busier for him. The UEFA A Licensed Coach possesses quite the resumé which includes Coordinator for the FAI Academy in Blarney, Cork City U19 Coach and former Bandon AFC manager.
Juggling three busy roles wasn’t easy so Holland had to forgo his hometown club’s responsibilities due to increased demand on his Cork City and FAI roles. His time at the Munster Senior League Division 1 club proved hugely beneficial however and Holland remains grateful for the opportunity.
“My work with Bandon AFC has been massive for me,” Richie Holland told The Echo.
“My brother is the current senior manager, so I have stepped aside since Bandon achieved promotion to Division 1 since last season. Obviously, my roles with the FAI and Cork City meant I could no longer give the necessary time to all three. My time with Bandon AFC was hugely important though and a great learning curve for me.
“In that (Bandon) role, I was dealing with lots and lots of off-field requirements and not just coaching. There was a huge amount of work to be done within the club to keep everything going before you even stepped out on a training pitch. That’s what made the experience of being involved with Bandon and all the great people I go to work with so worthwhile.”
Holland’s dedication to coaching has seen the Bandon native qualify as a UEFA A Licensed Coach. Yet, it is his role as and FAI Academy Coordinator that has brought the most satisfaction to the Cork City U19 Coach. Working with students from various backgrounds and utilising football as a means to help further their education means Holland is making a positive impact in many young people’s lives.
“My main role is that of QQI Level 4 Player Development Course Coordinator for the FAI Academy in Blarney,” Holland noted.
“It is a busy time working with Dave Hill and Robbie Hammond as well as liaising with the QQI Level 5 Player Development Course in Carrigaline’s Mick Conroy (Coordinator) and Stuart Ashton. Our courses cater for men and women at all levels of the game.
“The main objective of the courses is to provide learners with an educational environment through football. A typical day would involve lots of training, class and gym work. There are eight modules held throughout the year covering subjects like coaching, food and nutrition, communications, and lots more.
“It is a full-time course that lasts 50 weeks. Put simply, it is football through education. It gives our learners an opportunity to experience a full-time academy environment where they come in every day, train and carry on their education. By the end of the course, hopefully, people graduate and have a pathway into college or football.
“Our course focuses on people from disadvantaged areas and early school leavers. The QQI Level 4 gives them an opportunity to be part of a full-time football environment. We have had a lot of success stories with students achieving their scholarships and going on to college. Others have gotten full-time employment as well.”
Naturally, Covid-19 has made life extremely difficult for sporting and education bodies including the FAI’s Player Development Courses. Students being asked to work from home has meant a change in how courses are delivered.
“In terms of our course, luckily, our students were coming towards the end of their educational module (before Covdi-19 hit),” Holland commented.
“We had to extend some of our deadlines because of the pandemic. Everyone is working from home which means students are not getting the usual classroom time. We’ve had to adapt and use online tools like Zoom.
“Hopefully, we are looking to get everyone over the line and graduated by the end of this year. I feel sorry for some of our students because football is the most important aspect for them. The majority of students take on the course because of the football element of it. Education is the bonus. It has been hard for everyone and not easy right now.”
Back on the training pitch, the calibre of player being produced by the Republic of Ireland national underage structures is a huge positive according to Richie Holland. The Cork City U19 mentor is effusive in his praise of the work being carried out by a rising number of FAI-qualified coaches.
“The quality of player representing our Irish international youth teams is superb right now,” Holland concluded.
“Stephen Kenny’s U21 team are a good example. A lot of those players are 19 and still eligible to play in Tom Mohan’s Republic of Ireland U19 setup. I believe it is going to be a very exciting time for football in this country over the next 10 years. I am seeing exciting, attacking players coming through our international ranks that I would not have seen 10 or even 15 years ago.
“The likes of Adam Idah, Troy Parrott and Aaron Connolly, these lads have come through ETP programs. They have represented their local clubs, played in the Kennedy Cup and progressed through the FAI’s Player Pathway to where they are now, on the brink of becoming full-time professional footballers.
“I’m really looking forward to Stephen Kenny’s tenure as Irish international senior manager. I believe Steven will give a lot of young players their opportunity and a lot of good, exciting football will be played.”