PAUL HOLLAND is one of a number of Cork senior club football managers to step away from his role following a productive two-year stint with Clonakilty GAA.
Ahead of the 2018 Cork SFC, at least three Carbery sides (and that number is likely to increase over the winter months) will be on the lookout for a new bainisteoir.
At a time the demands placed on club managers are at an all-time high, Ned English (O’Donovan Rossa), Maurice Moore (Carbery Rangers), Shane Crowley (also Carbery Rangers) and now Holland (Clonakilty) have decided to move on from their respective West Cork clubs.
In Paul Holland’s case, the former Cork minor football selector took over in November 2015 but has a long association with the club.
Holland’s family followed the club’s fortunes for over thirty years, bringing Paul to Clon’s matches so he could watch his first cousin Eoin O’Mahony in action.
Holland knew from his previous GAA experience as both a player and coach what was involved in taking over a senior football squad.
He went into management with his eyes open and helped improve a young panel that narrowly avoided relegation to a respectable 2017 showing that included a Kelleher Shield final loss to Ballincollig.
“I suppose I had been involved as a selector and coach with the Cork minors two years previously so had a fair idea, time wise, what I was getting myself into,” the former Clonakilty manager explained.
“Yet, taking control of a senior football team like Clon and the situation they were in - trying to rebound from winning a relegation final - meant pretty much all of my time would be taken up with turning things around.
“I took a conscious decision to strip down the club’s existing senior setup after meeting the players for the first time.
"I realised that there were gaps in the structure and started off by introducing a new strength and conditioning programme.
"The best plan, as a new manager, was to use outside, professional guys to look after the team’s conditioning.
"It was a big box that needed ticking plus introducing new instructors would represent a fresh start for the players.
“Definitely, being a senior club manager is incredibly time-consuming.
"Clonakilty’s current senior setup is very similar to most other football clubs in that the age profile of the squad is quite young.
"You are talking about up to thirty guys, most of whom are completing second level or third level education, working part-time and involved in the most active social time of their lives.
“As a manger, before you ever step out onto a pitch, all those factors have to be taken into consideration.
"Nowadays, anyone coming into the job also has to deal with the fact most of the players have very little (competitive) senior experience.
“There’s a lot of ground work to be done before any serious matches take place like getting guys to buy into and stick with pre-season programmes.
"Being a senior manager is full on, takes a lot of work and unsurprisingly a huge amount of your time, away from the pitch.”
After two incredibly busy years, what would Paul Holland’s advice be to any aspiring manager, irrespective of age and experience, before accepting a club’s most important role?
“From a football point of view, the first thing any new manager must do is build a solid backroom team,” the former Clonakilty bainisteoir noted.
“It is vitally important to have men or women you can trust.
"Having people who are on the same wavelength as you, the same commitment, loyalty and hard work is essential.
"Another big thing is that egos have to be left outside the door.
“One of the most important elements is having the right support network to deal with any off the pitch issues.
"Looking after thirty sports people, in any club, any community, not just in West Cork means that you are going to be dealing with non-sporting issues that you may not be qualified to deal with.
“Helping and just being there for your players will take up a huge amount of your spare time.
"It is just part of what a manager has to do nowadays and there is no getting away from it.
"More and more footballers and hurlers are done with the GAA by their mid to late twenties, that’s a fact.
"To be successful at the top level of any sport demands intensity, training and commitment more than ever before.”
Finally, Holland’s two years in charge included plenty ups and downs but one favourite memory sticks out from his time in charge of the Brewery Town.
“From a football point of view, the memory that sticks out most was Clonakilty’s performance in our 2016 first round loss to Castlehaven,” Holland said.
“I remember being in my parent’s house in Blarney, eating my dinner and listening to the county football draw on the radio.
"Out came the Haven’s name and to be honest there wasn’t much dinner eaten after hearing that!
"They had been beaten in the replay of the previous year’s county final while Clonakilty barely avoided relegation.
“Leaving Ahamilla that day, I knew we were going to perform.
"The one-point loss was disappointing but the performance against such a star-studded team gave myself and the Clonakilty players the confidence we needed to push things on.
"As well as that, getting to this year’s Kelleher Shield final was a lovely way to finish and there is plenty raw material for the new manager to work with whenever they come in.”