League of Ireland academies key to develop Cork's talented young players

League of Ireland academies key to develop Cork's talented young players
The All-Ireland U12 soccer team winning coaches from 2019: James Goodwin, Stevie O'Brien, Darren Haines, Robbie O'Sullivan, Dave O'Leary, Shane Healy and Stevie O'Keeffe.

AT the helm as the new Cork City U17 manager is Robbie O’Sullivan, who is in a role which is an important one in terms of overall footballing development at the club.

During a spell which sees City in very much a rebuilding phase, O’Sullivan will be in the position during a spell which the Rebel Army look set to be even more increasingly dependent on their underage structures to produce first-team footballers.

“I want to lay the foundations and give these building blocks that they will have long into their careers and that they can build their own careers,” O’Sullivan tells The Echo.

“We have to lay the foundations in the academy for these players to have that, to give them the building blocks to drive on with their careers.

“Hopefully these lads can have long careers in football and hopefully with Cork City.

“Success for the management team and myself would be to see young players make the breakthrough into the U19s and hopefully after that the first team, even go further afield.”

O’Sullivan has a good footballing CV on Leeside to date and he is keen to showcase his managerial skills on the national stage.

Starting off his coaching career with Park United in the Cork AUL, he was to then also coach in the Munster Senior League with the likes of Fermoy and Avondale United.

O’Sullivan also has experience of coaching at underage League Of Ireland level with Cobh Ramblers, working with Ethan McCarthy with the U19s.

Now he is keen to play his role in the City underage structure, which is overseen by former Ireland international Colin Healy.

O’Sullivan added on his City U17 squad: “There is a 50-50 split. Half of the players are on the age and half will come up from Dan Murray and Billy Woods’s U15s from last year.

“My aim would be to build on the work from the previous management teams, including Dan Murray, Liam Kearney and Billy Woods, back to the work done with the players at Cork Schoolboys Level. It is really to build on the work that they have done already.

“I suppose look, it is the determination for me to help push the club to the heights it was previously at.

“Get success back for these players and success back for the club in the long term.”

Among those working on O’Sullivan’s U17 backroom team is a Cork City legend in Dan Murray, a man who will forever be recalled fondly by Rebel Army supporters from his own playing days.

Derry City's Rory Patterson with Dan Murray of Cork City at Brandywell. Murray is now involved with City's underage. Picture: Margaret McLaughlin
Derry City's Rory Patterson with Dan Murray of Cork City at Brandywell. Murray is now involved with City's underage. Picture: Margaret McLaughlin

While the current head of the City underage setup is Colin Healy, a man that played at a high level for clubs such as Celtic and Sunderland, along with making appearances at senior level internationally for the Republic Of Ireland.

All in all, this provides great insight for young underage City players to tap into, players who will have aspirations themselves of also playing at a high level in first-team football.

“That is huge for any player because they have played at the highest level and they know what it is about,” describes O’Sullivan on what the likes of Murray and Healy can provide to the City underage structure.

“They are great people to be around and the advice they give is second to none.

“In Colin Healy, the academy director, I have a great mentor and a person who I can turn to for advice.

“If Colin is not around, I can turn to Dan Murray for advice. Also, the players can turn to the likes of Dan and Colin.”

With the way the footballing landscape is starting to shape up, young Irish footballers look like they will have to remain at home longer and develop domestically.

That is why having a strong and vibrant League Of Ireland is crucial going forward.

Jack Byrne at Shamrock Rovers has been in senior Republic Of Ireland squads on merit and it looks like the numbers of players getting national call-ups from the League Of Ireland is going to increase even more as the years progress.

Through having a strong underage setup domestically, a strong national league is vital for the future development of the game.

“Definitely you’d have to say what the academies are doing in developing players is the right thing.

“They are not just about a first-team, they are a club. They are about the people and that is what drives the club. From volunteers, management and coaches, players. There is a lot of good people involved.

“That is the main thing about academy football. It is getting players and creating that pathway, that there is a pathway for the players to play at the highest level in this country.

“Look if they are good enough, they will move onto bigger and better things.

“But it is great to have that pathway in this country.

“The players can continue their education and develop as elite-level footballers in this country.”

When O’Sullivan and City will get to commence their season remains at this stage unclear, due to the postponement of all football-related activities until further notice.

But whenever the action does get back underway, he will be more than determined in his role with the Cork City U17s to try and produce the next generation of City first-team players.

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