THE 2021 League Of Ireland season really does feel like a campaign that marks the start of a new chapter at Cork City FC.
Although times have been difficult both on and off the pitch, the First Division allows an opportunity for the Rebel Army to start afresh and hopefully build for a promising future.
With that in mind, the role of the underage section will play an ever-greater role in the future of the football club and it will be crucial for City to blood some young talented players.
At the centre of that building project will be Liam Kearney, who has been appointed recently as the Head Of Academy at the club.
“I am very pleased to have everything confirmed and looking forward to working with the managers for the coming season.
"We have some excellent young players at the club, and I know they will be in good hands with the coaching staff we have here,” said Kearney.
Indeed right across the various underage teams, which range from U14 right up to U19 level, it is safe to say the young footballing talent on Leeside is in very astute hands.
With the U14 side at City as manager is Greg Yelverton, who is a UEFA Pro Licence coach and is well regarded for the work he does in UCC as a soccer development officer.
Yelverton has plenty of knowledge to pass onto the young City players, as also evidenced by his work as the Ireland Colleges and Universities Men's National Team Head Coach.
Stephen Bermingham is in charge of the City U15 team for the forthcoming campaign.
During his previous stint in the club’s underage setup, he was at the helm of a gifted City U19 side, that faced Italian giants AS Roma in the UEFA Youth League in 2016 Bermingham had a good group of City U19 players who he worked with.
Conor McCarthy, now with St Mirren in the Scottish Premiership, is another who was in Bermingham’s Cork City U19 side a few years back, while others are forging careers for themselves in the League Of Ireland, including Alec Byrne and Cian Coleman (both at Cork City), Denzil Fernandes (Shelbourne), Pierce Phillips (Cobh Ramblers).
Bermingham is a well-regarded coach in Cork footballing circles and he will be looking to play a key role in the underage development at City over the coming months.
Dave Moore moves up from the U15s to take on the role of U17 manager. He too also is a coach well regarded on Leeside and should be another key asset for Kearney to have in the City underage setup.
The Cork City U19s have a club playing legend at the helm as manager in Dan Murray, someone who has been doing coaching in the underage setup at the Rebel Army in recent times.
During his own playing career, Murray went on to win the Premier Division in 2005, the FAI Cup in 2007 and the Setanta Sports Cup in 2008.
While he moved to Shamrock Rovers in 2010 and won two more league titles as well as captaining the Hoops in the Europa League group stages.
Murray had a fine footballing career and he will hope some players in his U19s can go on to forge successful careers for themselves also.
A noteworthy member of Murray’s backroom staff is a current first-team player, the returning Steven Beattie.
In terms of bridging the gap between the U19s and the first team, Beattie will be somebody who can provide brilliant advice as to what will be required of the underage Cork players to make the breakthrough into the senior setup.
On an overall level, having a man like Colin Healy as first-team boss, who knows the underage system so well at Cork City from his most recent previous role at the club, is an encouraging sign for the path the club are seeking to go down.
Outgoing Head of Academy, Healy, said: “I would like to thank all of the coaches, players and parents that I worked with during my time at the academy.
"It was a very enjoyable time, and I know that the academy is in good hands with Liam and his team going forward.”
The underage system will indeed play a strong role in the future of the club, as City seek to move on what has been a challenging few years.