A new board with new ideas is always a healthy welcome at any organisation.
This is no different at Cobh Ramblers FC and chairman Billy O’Leary is excited about the future of the club and the hard work that’s been done on and off the pitch.
“Just like in business, it is not easy to run a football club in times of such uncertainty as Covid is unprecedented as we know,” said O’Leary.
“That said, we have embraced the difficulties and worked very hard without a break really for 18 months.
“Covid has impacted us financially through lost gate revenue and lost bar income, and critically for us it prevented people from coming to watch us play, and to socialise.
“However, as a new board leading the club, I have said many times that our success won’t be defined exclusively by what happens on the pitch.
“We have bigger aspirations than this, which we hope will help provide a platform for this club to sustain and prosper for another 100 years.
“Off the pitch, our intention is to remain financially prudent, to continue to improve our facilities, to strengthen relationships with the community within the context of an open-door policy, and to represent all of the community which is why women’s football is so fundamental.
“On the pitch, we performed really well last year and agonisingly missed out on the playoffs in a super competitive enjoyable season. We hope to improve on that next year, and will face challenges from better-funded teams for sure but that won’t deter us.
“As chairman of the club I am privileged to work with a fantastic board who are driven, ambitious, hardworking, and selfless. I am helping by bringing a systemised management approach, founded on strong leadership. It’s hard work with long hours but I am loving it, grateful and making great memories together."
One big change for the 2021 season is the introduction of a women's section at the club.
Working on the aim to have a second national league women’s team from Cork is a huge focus for O’Leary and his committee. The idea has been brewing for the last 18 months, but with the Springfield Ramblers senior and U20s playing their games at St Colman’s Park, the plan has recently gained traction.
“With Springfield Ramblers essentially a schoolgirls/schoolboys club, agreement was reached to bring the adults teams under the Cobh Ramblers umbrella. The current plan is the following; 2021 to enter a CWSSL team as Cobh Ramblers in both senior and U20 leagues [ex-Springfield Ramblers teams] and in 2022 our aim is to enter a National League senior league team and also continue with CWSSL teams.
“From there we hope in 2023 to enter U17 and U19 national league teams also. We are familiar with the level of managing and coaching required and are in the process of putting management teams in place. Our main focus is the have a level of football available to all ladies who wish to play and introduce a pathway for elite players while ensuring that the club keeps its ethos of being a club for the community.
“Our plan is that CWSSL teams will be feeder teams for the national league teams and welcoming to all players.
For us, to have women’s teams at the club is a big deal for us. We are an inclusive club with a focus on increasing diversity at all levels and a ladies’ national league team is a key initiative along that pathway.
"Ladies’ football is growing at an enormous pace, it is opening up our club to a hugely influential demographic and we are delighted to give the best female talent in the region the chance to play nationally, just what we do with our male teams.
Along with Cork City, I believe two teams will bring lots of positives: local derbies, added competition, more opportunities for girls’ soccer in Cobh, Cork and Munster. Cork and the south is clearly under-represented at this level and we can help fix that.
“We want all players to feel they are welcome at Cobh Ramblers within the context of equanimity and fairness.
“We will provide an option for women in Cork to play at a level that suits their ability. We are an ambitious, proud, community club and feel that our ladies’ teams will further positive momentum and contribute to our upward trajectory as a club.”
Apart from the ladies, O’Leary is looking forward to the season ahead with the men’s and the added spice of the local derby against Cork City.
“It will be exciting for all I am sure with the local derby between ourselves and Cork City this season. Cork is a sports-mad city and region, and things will be very competitive between ourselves and City. Let’s hope that we can push each other and both prosper next year and bring high-level soccer back together.
"David Hurley has moved full time to Galway and we wish him well. We understand his motivation and are thankful to him and his family for being so supportive of the club. Darragh Crowley will return to Cork City after the expiration of his loan spell. We have retained all others and that is a positive validation from the players about our strategy and what we are trying to do here.
“The team on the pitch are complementary to that off the pitch and vice versa. Stuart (Ashton) knows where strengthening is needed with a goal-scorer being top of the wanted list. We have a number of strikers on our radar and will announce something over the coming weeks but for now we will continue to work hard to ensure our club continues to go in the right direction.”