Coaching officer confident underage base is now in place for Rebels to thrive

Coaching officer confident underage base is now in place for Rebels to thrive
Daniel Kennedy, St Finbarr's, chases Dylan Ebili, Ballincollig, in the P1 U16 county final. Picture: Larry Cummins.

COUNTY Board coaching officer Ronan Dwane is hugely optimistic about the future for Cork.

The noughties were barren for the Rebels in terms of All-Ireland hurling titles, while there were numerous dark days on the football front in the wake of lifting Sam Maguire in 2010, before this season’s resurgence. However, in Dwane’s view the structures now in place for young Leesiders should pay off in the next decade across the board.

“We’re lucky in that we’ve huge numbers. That’s a fantastic base to work from. Starting with U7s, U8s, U9s, and U10s, the blitzes are very well run. Colm Crowley does a very good job organising them and it gets the parents and the kids in a regular set of games. They know their slot and the numbers playing are huge. We have more or less half of the blitzes in Munster at U8s and U9s.”

Glenville's Danny Murphy winning the ball a Monster Blitz game against Newcestown. Picture: Gerard Bonus.
Glenville's Danny Murphy winning the ball a Monster Blitz game against Newcestown. Picture: Gerard Bonus.

The Cúl Camp numbers are over 20,000, about 45% of Munster.

“The base is there to get kids immersed in GAA even if they’re not from traditional GAA families.

“There is no soloing in U12 hurling, only one-hop, one-solo in football, and while that can be frustrating it helps even the games out a bit and benefits the weaker or physically smaller player, who could end up being a top-class player a few years down the line as we all know.”

It all gets more serious at U14, where Féile is huge and premier competitions become more intense. At development squad level though, Cork took a step back this year to ease the pressure on youngsters.

“It’s been well flagged that we pulled out of the Tony Forristal in hurling and we’ve eight regions squads instead. That’s about spreading the net as wide as possible. It was too early to be cutting down to two Cork teams at only 13, 14 years of age.

“You don’t want to overemphasise how big the Forristal tournament is, even when I played it some time ago it was well established, but narrowing down to 48 players at that age is too small. Now we’ve the bones of 240 players involved in hurling and football. Probably next year we’ll have to do a bit more coaching with those U14 squads instead of just focusing on the matches.”

Though the Corn Uí Mhuirí has been dominated by Kerry sides lately, schools hurling has picked up considerably. Dwane puts that down to the work going on in the ground from teachers, club coaches, and Games Manager Kevin O’Callaghan and his GDAs.

“With the schools this year, the likes of Colman’s and Midleton CBS, there a second tier competition. Those schools would have 80-odd hurlers in first year and they all need to be catered for. There are an awful lot of hurlers at a high standard and the lad on the second team could end up being the best player on the Harty. Again it’s about spreading the net.

"At U15 last year the A, B, and C finalists were Cork schools. The hurling is broadening at second level, you have Pres, Christians, and so on. The GDAs are doing a great job on the ground there, liaising with schools and upping the profile.

“You need the club link, the school link, the development squads, it all improves the player, in both codes. The Cork U15s and U16s, under Noel Furlong and Jamie Wall and their respective management teams, did superbly.”

Midleton's Sam Quirke is tackled by Glen Rovers' Luke Horgan. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Midleton's Sam Quirke is tackled by Glen Rovers' Luke Horgan. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

Yet for all that, Cork failed to emerge from the minor hurling round-robin system in 2018 and 2019, even if Bobbie Dwyer guided the footballers through the backdoor to September silverware.

“You’d like every year to be very competitive at minor. We should be given the talent. Dublin have only won one All-Ireland minor football since 1984, an amazing statistic. The 2011 team is the star team in terms of who pushed on to the seniors and they lost to Tipp.

“There’s a coaching committee and we’re strategising and always trying to evolve. There’s great good will so you make mistakes and learn from them.

“The underage football has given everybody a great lift. We’ve a big enough playing population to thrive in both.”

Cork supporters were bitterly disappointed by recent All-Ireland final losses at minor, U21, and U20. Dwane, however, feels a bit of context is important.

“In terms of Denis Ring and his management, people forget where we were a few years ago, going to minor and U21 matches and knowing we’d no chance of winning.

“The lads got Cork to three All-Ireland finals in a row, alright we didn’t win, but the county owes them a debt of gratitude. The culture they set and the training from Denis, Johnny Dwyer, the coach, and all the selectors, will pay off throughout the next decade.”

This weekend the county senior hurling final takes centre-stage, Imokilly are gunning for three-in-a-row against Glen, while a week later in the football Duhallow face Nemo.

“The county is so wide geographically, the divisions are very important to expose players to the top level. Take Duhallow and how many small clubs feed in there. Imokilly have had a great run, but it’s cyclical. Overall I think the divisions are good for ambitious players.”

Imokilly won’t be as strong in 2020 as they lose the Fr O’Neill’s and Cloyne contingents under the revamped club competitions. Aghada native Dwane, who regularly pulled on the red and white of his division, feels the overhaul will energise clubs.

“A county is only as good as its clubs and its players. The restructuring of the club competition will be a major benefit in time. Teams had been stagnant. Every club should to a contender or battling relegation and if you go down you just regroup. There’s nothing worse than being in a competition you’ve absolutely no chance of winning.”

More in this section

Sponsored Content