Having been appointed on Christmas Eve, Colin Healy has just over three months under his belt as the official manager of Cork City, though he had already logged almost the same as interim boss in the wake of Neale Fenn’s departure last October.
Now Healy, who was previously head of the City academy and U19 manager, is preparing for his first full season in charge as the Rebel Army look to bounce back from the relegation of 2020. He is pleased to have a strong backroom team behind him as he continues to adjust.
“You’re always learning,” he says.
“I’m only in there three months and it is a different role to the academy role, absolutely.
“But I’ve got a good coaching staff – John Cotter is very experienced, he has been around for so many years; I’ve Mark McNulty, he’s still a goalkeeper but he’s doing the goalkeeping coaching and he’s a very good coach as well.
“We’ve a good staff with physios and strength and conditioning, so we’ve a good team behind the playing team as well.”
City begin the campaign as joint-fourth favourites for promotion alongside UCD, behind Shelbourne, Galway United and Bray Wanderers. Healy has managed to retain as many of last year’s squad as he wished to keep, as well as bringing in new recruits.
The key for him right now is that the attitude in the camp is right.
“It’s a new group together,” he says, “there are a lot of lads from last year and then we’ve brought in a few new guys too.
“It takes time to gel and to settle, but I think there’s a good atmosphere and the boys are liking their training. There’s a good spirit around the training ground and good performances on the pitch.
“They’re showing signs that there’s a positive attitude towards the training and the games. Hopefully, if that keeps continuing, then it’ll only get better and better.”
To that end, the primary objective from four pre-season games against Premier League opposition – a win away to Waterford and defeats to St Patrick’s Athletic, Shamrock Rovers and Finn Harps – was getting miles into the legs.
“We are happy with it,” Healy says, “we’ve played some good teams and the boys got a good run-out in all of those games.
“The match against Pat’s was a good one against a very good team, the same as up in Rovers. We got what we wanted out of the pre-season games, fitness-wise and to get minutes into the players. That’s the most important thing you want from pre-season.
“If you keep it like that, then obviously we’re set up to go into the season in a good way.”
City’s squad is a large one and Healy acknowledges that keeping everybody happy will be a challenge, but he feels it’s necessary to have a lot of manpower.
“You don’t know how injuries and all of that will affect things,” he says.
“We have a big squad but we have a young squad as well – players will come into form and go out of form, so it’s good to have a big squad.
“For young lads coming in to first-team football, it demands a lot, in training sessions we demand a lot so it’s putting a lot of pressure on their bodies too.
“I don’t mind having a bigger squad, because we’ve a good atmosphere in here. They’re a good group and we’re working really hard at the moment.
“There are loads of formations you can play, and different systems every week, depending on who you’re playing.
“The most important thing is that we’ve got good, young players who are hungry to play and want to do well for themselves and for the team. Once you have that, you’re going the right way.”
Healy expects there to be a lot of contenders for the promotion spots.
“We all know that Shels will be strong, Galway will be strong,” he says.
“You’ve the likes of Bray, Cabinteely – there will be a lot of challenging games. It’s probably the strongest the first division has been in the last ten years or so. It’s going to be a good league and a difficult league.”
And the opening game tonight is certainly in that vein?
“Against Cobh, a derby game, it’s always going to be difficult,” Healy says. “You just have to be focused and have the right mindset, to go out and put in a good performance and see where that takes us.
It’s a challenge he is looking forward to, though, moulding a squad that can compete. And would Colin Healy the player like working under Colin Healy the manager? He hopes so.
“The only thing I want is that, when the players come into training, they enjoy themselves,” he says.
“They go and work hard, give it everything they’ve got and see where it takes them. That’s the only thing, once they come in, they’re happy to train, there’s a good atmosphere and they enjoy it.
“If you enjoy things, then I’d like to think that you’ll go on and always improve as a player. There’s a good camaraderie inside in the dressing room and it’s important to have that.”