THERE is little doubting that football in Mallow has been on the rise over the last decade or so.
After competing for far too long at Intermediate level, the club finally made the jump back-to-back in 2017, their third time winning the premier crown, and their first since 2007.
Mallow were able to boast a host of top class players on that title winning team with players of the quality of James Loughrey, Mattie Taylor and Cian O’Riordan firing on all cylinders but few could ignore the influence of a man that grew up on the “wrong side” of the Cork/Kerry border.
Keith Moynihan may well be living in Mallow and teaching Irish in Christians however his roots are firmly planted in Annascaul County Kerry where he learned his craft as a footballer.
After moving to Mallow a decade ago the Kerry native gave a couple of years on the field for his adopted town before taking over the club’s intermediate side in 2017 and as they say the rest is most certainly history.
“When I took over at Mallow I really was lucky. It was great timing for me,” said Moynihan who is now in his fourth year at the helm.
“I had played with them in 2016 and the position became available at the end of that year and I after talking with a couple of the older players we said we would give it a go.
“I was in the enviable position that I knew what I was taking on and I knew this was a very good team — it has a very strong nucleus and I knew if I could get the planning in place and get lads fit then winning the intermediate was definitely achievable and when we all bought into that it happened pretty quickly.
“You can’t stand still in this or any sport so as soon as that (winning premier) happened the next thing to do is to establish ourselves as a senior team and that is what we set out to do.
“Unfortunately in the first year we really didn’t do that.
“We acquitted ourselves well enough against Valley Rovers and then we lost to the Bars but for me the manner of that defeat was really disappointed because internally we felt any team can be beaten on any given day.
“We just didn’t perform.”
A hard year on the field was followed by a more encouraging season for the Mallow manager as 2019 provided him with more challenges but also more signs that the club were still heading in the right direction.
“Last year was very encouraging. We came back up from Division 2 and to beat Castlehaven, for us, was a very big thing because they are such a traditional club with great players and great management so that was a really confidence boost for us.
“I saw the new structure with senior football as an opportunity for us rather than a demotion as it gave us another steppingstone to strive for.
“Competing at the Senior A level for a period before making that step up again to the senior proper would help us get used to playing at another level but I’m sure the teams that we than battling against recently like Fermoy, Kiskeam, Éire Óg, O’Donovan Rossa and Clyda Rovers are all in the same boat as us and all see this as an opportunity.
“It looks to me like everyone at Senior A is at equal level and it was likely to be marvellous competition in the group stage.
“Six of the eight teams will feel that winning Senior A in the short-term is a realistic goal so we are up against it.
“This year we got off to good start with a winning game in the league so I still believe we are going to right direction so we will have to wait-and-see.”
It is obvious that for Moynihan the relationship he and his backroom team have with his players is hugely important to his side’s success but the manager is around long enough to know that there is a time to leave — although he definitely hasn’t come to that point yet.
“In this team the players feed off me and I feed off the players and that is how we know whether this is still working or not.
“Last year John McGuinness came in with me and Mick Lucy. Gavin O’Sullivan also does a lot of other work with us in the area of data analysis and he gives us a lot of good ideas.
“Tadgh Carroll is also working with us so we have a great team here.
“It is important that we can regenerate and rejuvenate the message that we are giving the lads while at the same time making sure you were not outstaying your welcome and that when I leave I leave them in a better position than they were in when I took over.
“It is important that the systems are in place so that the next person that comes in can carry things forward again but I am living in the community and not going anywhere right now.
“Annascaul is forever my first club but Mallow is certainly my club now and hopefully the club my sons will play for.
“I want this club to be as strong as it possibly can be. It’s a big town with fantastic facilities so there is no reason I can see why Mallow can’t establish itself as one of the top clubs in the county.”