JOE CARROLL is the man at the helm of the Cork Minor Ladies Football team for the 2020 campaign.
As we meet in the Macroom GAA pavilion, where Carroll holds the role of the club chairman, the hunger and passion he has for the game instantly come across.
Carroll was a member of the management team of John Cleary’s All-Ireland Minor Ladies winning side of last year.
The 2019 All-Ireland decider saw the Rebels overcome Monaghan at Bord na Móna O’Connor Park in Tullamore, with a full-time score of Cork 4-11 to the 1-8 of Monaghan.
This was a closer game than the score-line suggests, as Monaghan were in contention for large periods of the game, but Cork were always in control and played some excellent football throughout the match.
Katie Quirke was magnificent for the victors scoring 1-7 over the course of the game in what was a very good individual performance and Fiona Keating found the net twice for Cleary’s side.
The Cork Minor Ladies will most certainly be looking for another very productive year in 2020.
“It was a learning curve for me,” Carroll explains about working as part of Cleary’s management team.
“Club football and County Football are two different things, there is a far bigger commitment to it.
“From my own point of view, there is far more responsibility on my shoulders this year then there was last year.
“John was so organised that you basically had to turn up and you knew your role.
“I have been very lucky in the new management team that is there. I have Anne O’Grady from last year, who is an absolute superb organiser.
“We got in Timmy O’Callaghan, Tadhg Buckley and Anne Walsh. They have been excellent since they came on board, which has helped us hugely.”
On top of trying to win game by game in the short term, this role for Carroll is an important one with regards to player development.
From the Minor All-Ireland winning side of 2019, players such as Katie Quirke, Abbie O’Mahony, Eve Mullins and Fiona Keating have been in the Cork senior setup.
There are still a number of players from the successful side of last year still around for the 2020 Minor campaign including Erika O’Shea, Faye Ahern, Claudia Keane, Isobel Sheehan, Cliona Dooley and Aoife Twomey.
While winning honours will be gratefully welcomed, long term Ladies Football in Leeside will be keen for young players to progress to the Senior ranks, as they have done so quite frequently over recent years.
“If you look at this year Cork Senior panel, there are a few of last year’s minors gone in," adds Carroll.
"If you look at the panel from the year previous to that, there is a few more gone in. So there is a supply chain there.
“There was an U21 competition last year. But it is only run at Munster level and there isn’t a big emphasis on it.
“Basically minor level is a huge stepping stone for anyone who wants to play senior for Cork.
“It keeps players involved. If you can make progress in the Munster Minor Championship, you are going to be involved until August.
“It is a long year. Good training, playing with good players and playing against good teams. That is going to benefit you and will bring you on.”
The first championship contest on the agenda sees Cork take on a Tipperary side that will be keen to get back on track, who were defeated by Kerry in the opening game of this year's Munster Championship.
They then must play the Kingdom after that to conclude the round-robin phase of the competition.
When asked about what his targets are for over the next few months, Carroll outlines that they are not looking beyond the Tipp clash and all their energy is on trying to get the right result out of that contest.
“Our target is to try and win our first game against Tipperary and we are looking no further than that.
“You can play all the challenge games you want, but you have to play Championship and see where you are at.
“We are just going to take it game by game. We’ll have a break between the Tipperary and the Kerry match.
“So we are just trying to target as best we can to win the first game. Training has gone well and we are looking forward to it at this stage.
“Tipp didn’t really perform against Kerry. They have a good eight or nine on the Tipperary senior panel, who are doing quite well in the league.
“I would expect a massive improvement. Last year in Eire Og, we were lucky enough to get out of it on the day and to win it, before we went on to win the All Ireland.
“So I would expect a huge challenge from Tipperary.”
When that Tipp clash will be played remains unclear at this stage, due to all sport in Ireland and across the world being brought to a halt because of the COVID-19 outbreak.
But when the action eventually does get back underway, Carroll will hope to have some of the potential next generation of Cork talent ready for battle out on the field of play.