ROCKMOUNT club are one of the most successful in the country.
Over the years they have produced some fantastic players, most noticeably Mr Roy Keane. However not only have they produced great players, but they have produced great people, all of whom have done Trojan work for the club.
One such man is Derek Clarke who I spoke to recently. The father of two from Larchfield Close has dedicated most of his life to his beloved club and through the years he is proud of the progress made at the Whitechurch club.
A former teammate of his good friend Keane, Clarke started out with the club as a schoolboy where he enjoyed a lot of success, and it was here his position as a goalkeeper began and his love for developing players still continues today.
“I played on goal for Rockmount on a very good schoolboy team managed by Timmy Murphy and Gene O'Sullivan,” said Clarke. "At youth level, I was lucky enough to captain the team that went on to have a lot of success. I also had the pleasure to play alongside Roy Keane, Len Downey, Paul McCarthy, Philip Murphy and Damien Martin.
"Unfortunately I had a few knee problems so I then decided to get involved in coaching which led me to manage the schoolboy team which my son Dylan was a part of and we won a league and had a few promotions which was obviously great.”
Currently, Clarke is the goalkeeping coach for the club's senior team, while also he is the Assistant Manager of their youths team. A busy schedule but one in which he thoroughly enjoys and one in which he is really missing at the moment with sport on hold.
“Life has been difficult without football but as I am a postman I have been kept busy in my job. I also had a knee replacement two years ago which forced me to take a step back for a few months however hopefully when Covid is over I am hoping to get back on the pitch again training teams and doing what I love.
"What I have learned from this period is to keep in contact with people especially our club people such as John Delea and John O’Shea."
“Billy appointed me as a coach in 2003 and I have been by his side ever since. Billy’s record speaks for itself but on a personal level, he has been a fantastic guy to work with and I suppose a reason why I have stayed involved with coaching for so long is a lot to do with the person he is.
"Apart from always ensuring he is surrounded by good staff, his man-management skills are excellent and his dedication to the job of being the Manager of Rockmount is admirable. If you need advice on anything you can ring anytime and he’ll always help.
“I thoroughly enjoy my role at the club. At present, I am a goalkeeping coach but I also assist the other coaches and to oversee such things as getting new footballs and keeping on top of first aid and playing kits. As well as being involved in the seniors I'm the assistant manager of the youths team my son Calum plays for.
“We’re a really close knit club and everyone involved is there for the good of the players. From the schoolboys section which is run by Paul Philips, as chairman of the school boys he is working hard with the other schoolboy coaches to bring them through. There really is a lot of work that goes into the underage which is so important and valuable for our senior team.
"There are a lot of great coaches right throughout the club and through my involvement with the seniors I also see great work been done by the coaches there. Billy’s assistant manager Eddie Kenny coaches Ethan McCarthy and Cian Forde along with Kieran O’Sullivan, Alan Corcoran, Seanie, Barry, Richie and Stephen Monty and Alan Martin all do Trojan work behind the scenes and I believe each of us bring something different to the overall running of the senior team.”
Last year was obviously a disappointing one for all involved with the leagues and although Rockmount got off to a shaky start, Clarke wasn’t worried and still confident the team would do well, but equally was enjoying the competitive league.
“The 2020 season was difficult to get started because of the previous season being cancelled but with a manager of Billy Cronin’s calibre we didn’t panic and knew the squad we had were good enough to cope with the circumstances and we proved this by winning the Munster Senior Cup against Cork City.
"The overall standard in the league is good. When I first started in this league it was ourselves and Avondale going for the league year after year, whereas now it’s a lot more competitive as four or five teams could win now which is great.
"Because of this competitiveness, we have all upped our standard of training and professionalism. Although we are currently in lockdown we are keeping in touch with the players to keep on top of their fitness by doing their own personal training. This is where the coaching staff come in and do a great job.
“If the season doesn’t resume we are hopeful the majority of the squad will stay on next season. One of the reasons that I went down to the youth squad and got involved was to develop players for the senior team to hopefully come through our club when needed. This is something we as a club feel strongly about and long may it continue."