West Cork League call on specials guests to prepare for Kennedy Cup 

Former Ireland midfielder Andy Reid offered young players his insight
West Cork League call on specials guests to prepare for Kennedy Cup 

Members of the 2021 West Cork Schoolboys League Kennedy Cup training in small pods in Clonakilty before restrictions.

FORMER Republic of Ireland international Andy Reid was one of many guest speakers who interacted with the West Cork Schoolboys League Kennedy Cup squad recently.

The SFAI has yet to announce if or when the 2021 SFAI Kennedy Cup will take place.

Ongoing HSE and government guidelines to suppress the Covid-19 virus will dictate if the annual tournament gets the go-ahead involving 32 schoolboy leagues from around the country.

West Cork’s Kennedy Cup squad has remained positive throughout the pandemic.

The squad were busily preparing for a summer return to the University of Limerick complex with a series of small pod/group training sessions shortly before Christmas. Since then, as with every other schoolboy league in the country, the WCSL has had to turn to online training methods during necessary consecutive lockdowns.

To their credit, the West Cork Kennedy Cup management team have been inventive in their approach to keeping their players engaged. Not content with hosting weekly online quizzes, West Cork’s coaches also arranged a series of online Zoom sessions with invited guests and permitted their squad members to engage in Q and A sessions.

“We have been trying out a lot of things with this squad of players, especially during the second lockdown,” WCSL Kennedy Cup coach Sean Spenser told the Echo.

“Our online quizzes using Kahoot proved very popular and we were able to have online coaching sessions using MS Teams with smaller groups of players. That was time-consuming from a coaching point of view but allowed us to run various fitness sessions with the lads.

“Probably the most helpful thing we have been able to do is to bring in guest speakers for a Zoom session with the lads.”

2021 West Cork Schoolboys League Kennedy Cup coaching team Seán Spenser (Skibbereen AFC), Ross Smith (Bandon), Áine O’Donovan (Bandon) and Stephen O’Keefe (Richmond).
2021 West Cork Schoolboys League Kennedy Cup coaching team Seán Spenser (Skibbereen AFC), Ross Smith (Bandon), Áine O’Donovan (Bandon) and Stephen O’Keefe (Richmond).

Admirably, the WCSL was able to call upon former West Cork Kennedy Cup players Ronan Hurley (Cork City) and Denzil Fernandes (Shelbourne). Former Cork City and current Crystal Palace U23 Jake O’Brien plus Alex Minihane, James Hickey and Cian Murphy also made time to speak to the WCSL Kennedy Cup panel.

Yet, the most high-profile guest on one of those Zoom get-togethers was former Republic of Ireland international and Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Andy Reid. The former international was capped 29 times for his country and coached the Irish U18’s until moving back to one of his former clubs, Nottingham Forest, to become full-time U23 Head Coach last January.

A regular pundit on Sky Sports, unsurprisingly, Reid proved a big hit with the West Cork Kennedy Cup squad.

You know you have a top guest speaker in Andy Reid when his response to a question about the best player he ever faced is Ronaldinho!” 

“The lads absolutely loved listening to Andy’s stories about all the players he played alongside and against during his career. It was a long list.

“Andy is a respected coach but was kind enough not to focus too much on that side of things and instead, answer all of our lads' questions. He was questioned on a wide range of subjects, more than he might have bargained for, but was generous with his time and the lads loved every minute of that particular zoom session.” 

Current SSE Airtricity League of Ireland players Ronan Hurley (Cork City) and Denzil Fernandes (Shelbourne) are two players whose talents were nurtured by West Cork Schoolboys League clubs.

Hurley was a mainstay at the back for Bunratty United’s underage teams while Fernandes terrorised defences all over the West Cork region in the colours of Drinagh Rangers. Both players have flourished and progressed to the League of Ireland where they may yet come face to face when Cork City and Shelbourne cross swords later this season.

“Last season, some of the WCSL coaches took a group of U13 and U14 inter-league players to see Cork City play Shelbourne in the SSE Airtricity Premier Division,” Spenser said.

“It was one of the first games of the season and the first time that two former West Cork Schoolboys League players faced off against each other in a League of Ireland game. That was a unique occasion but the lads really enjoyed the trip and got to see two former Kennedy Cup players representing two different League of Ireland clubs.

“Both Ronan and Denzil were more than happy to make time to talk to our Kennedy Cup players recently. They offered very good advice and, as with Andy Reid, had to answer lots of questions as well.” 

THRIVING

Jake O’Brien left Cork City at the end of last season and moved on loan to English Premier League club Crystal Palace. O’Brien’s career is progressing nicely and the young defender is producing consistent displays for the London side’s U23’s.

O’Brien offered some interesting insights into what it takes to become a professional footballer whilst online with the WCSL Kennedy Cup players.

“I would have coached Jake when he was with the Cork City U19s,” Sean Spenser commented.

“The amount of work Jake puts in both on and off the pitch is something else. That hasn’t changed since he moved to Crystal Palace. It was good for our lads to hear about all the sacrifices Jake has had to make. He was honest and admitted he spent six or seven days a week working on his skills when he was our lads’ age.

“Very few people are willing to put in that amount of effort at the age of 13. So, it was great for the West Cork Schoolboys League players to hear that coming from someone as talented and dedicated as Jake O’Brien.”

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