CORK soccer coaching supremo Niall O’Regan is thriving in his role as the FAI Coach Education Manager.
The Bandon native has been in his role since January 2016 and was delighted to see six Cork women recently complete the UEFA B coaching licence.
“It was a great example of the work UEFA and the FAI are striving to do to ensure the female game grows on and off the pitch. The course had 26 females complete their UEFA B Licence over 15 months, with the course being fully funded 50/50 from both UEFA and the FAI,” revealed the soccer enthusiast.
Niall is confident the FAI will now find places for the recently qualified soccer coaches to maintain their development and impart their coaching knowledge onto the next generation of soccer stars.
“The important next step for the FAI is to place these coaches, so they are active within the game, and create a pathway to employment within football for these coaches. Examples of this have already happened with some of the coaches taking up roles in League of Ireland and Women’s National League clubs. One coach has become a member of the Republic of Ireland Women’s U17 management team.
“It was great to see girls from Cork whom I had worked with as players now making the transition to coaching such as Barbara O’Connell, Aoife, Amy O’Reilly, Chelsea Noonan and Katie McCarthy completing the licence.”
O’Regan recently returned from a trip to Glasgow, where his remit was to observe the progress of former Ireland soccer star Damien Duff who is now a first-team coach with Celtic FC.
“Since the introduction of the player development plan, the ethos has been simple. We in the FAI want better players. For better players, we need better coaches. This, in turn, needs better coach education. That is what we are trying to achieve. We work closely under the UEFA Coaching Convention which emphasises the importance of Reality-Based Learning and creating coaches whom become lifelong learners and that is our motivation on a day to day basis.
“Every year, we have seen increases in the amount of coaches completing coach education. I recently spent a few days with Damien Duff in his coaching role with Celtic. My remit was evaluating Damien for his UEFA Pro Licence Club Visit.
“I observed him preparing first team coaching practices and in the Champions League qualifier. Working so closely in this environment and seeing how the coach works in their own environment is the best learning experience.”
He is also working with some other household and high profile soccer stars who have recently retired from club and international football.
“The current UEFA Pro Licence Group is a very special group as it has a large number of very experienced coaches and former professional players. Working within this environment brings significant challenges, but it is very enjoyable to see how the group strives for knowledge. They are always looking to develop themselves and it is very clear to see why so many of the current group will end up working at the highest level of the game.
“The high profile group has Damien with Celtic; Robbie Keane working as Mick McCarthy’s assistant and also with Jonathan Woodgate at Middlesbrough; Andy Reid is working with the Republic of Ireland U18s, while Keith Andrews is working with Stephen Kenny and the Ireland U21 team. We also have a number of League of Ireland coaches in the group such as Neale Fenn, John Cotter, Ger O’Brien and Dundalk’s Vinny Perth.
“The group is very impressive. It is great to see coaches who I have worked with on the B and A Licence now working in the game and completing the highest coaching licence the UEFA Pro Licence. Another great example is former Ireland underage player Paddy McCarthy who is working with the Crystal Palace U23 team.”
The former soccer star who started his coaching career with his beloved local club Bandon AFC greatly enjoys the classroom element to his new coaching education role.
“I miss being out on the pitch and working closely with players. The matchday experience and the magic of working with a group of players is something I miss. Having been away from it now over three years, I will be looking to get back in the dug-out in the foreseeable future.”