THE West Cork Schoolboys and Schoolgirls U13 Inter-League are planning a summer trip to Belfast in preparation for the 2021 SFAI Munster Subway Championships.
David Hall and Danny Logan have been in charge of the WCSSL U13s since their young players first entered their region’s FAI Emerging Talent Programme aged 11.
Since then, a 2019 trip to Barcelona to play a number of friendlies preceded a global pandemic that temporarily halted a talented squad’s progress. Now, back on the pitch and raring to go, West Cork will travel north for a series of friendlies next August ahead of the return of this season’s SFAI Subway Inter-League Championships.
“At this moment in time, the SFAI plan to run their U13 Inter-League Championships as normal,” David Hall said.
“So, for West Cork’s U13s it will be the standard inter-league games against schoolboys teams from other Munster counties before knockout national championship cup and plate competitions.
"Attendance is normally 100 percent even though we are behind where we would like to be in terms of our preparations because of Covid. Every schoolboys inter-league squad in the country is in the same situation though.”
The WCSSL U13s only recently returned to full-contact training on outdoor pitches following the HSE and government’s easing of nationwide restrictions.
West Cork’s coaches regularly engaged with their squad via Zoom sessions during the previous lockdown. Special guests like former Republic of Ireland international and Liverpool legend Ray Houghton joined some of those Zoom sessions to speak to the young players.
The WCSSL ETP’s partnership with Carbery Physiotherapy Group has also reaped dividends during that same timeframe.
Mary Gleasure of the Carbery Physiotherapy Group developed individual training programmes for each of West Cork’s players during the recent lockdowns. These programmes were delivered online and each player was assigned a specific set of exercises.
The WCSSL inter-league squad members were able to work on their CORE, hip flexors and glutes, keeping those important areas in prime shape. As a result, each squad member has avoided injury since returning to training.
Most importantly of all, David Hall and his fellow ETP coaches are not defining winning matches or trophies as success for this particular group. Instead, West Cork are playing the long game with their emerging talent.
“The West Cork U13s engaged with us on a numerous Zoom sessions during the lockdown where we covered things like tactics, positioning and theory work,” David Hall said.
“Mary Gleasure of Carbery Physiotherapy Group is doing tremendous work in physically preparing our players. We have just purchased a VEO camera and have a nutritionist coming in to speak to the lads as well. We are taking an Academy style approach to preparing this particular age group. The whole process has been very enjoyable.
“I told the players then and still tell them now that results won’t matter until their reach SFAI Kennedy Cup level. Our methodology is to create an environment where winning is not a measure of success.
"For West Cork, it is how we approach, perform and play. Our lads are learning how to play the game and not the occasion. What’s happened is our players now play without any pressure and are just focused on retaining possession and passing the ball.
“That Barcelona trip showed them where they needed to get to. We have created an environment for our players where winning is not the measure of their success. Our ethos in West Cork is that it isn’t whether we win or lose but rather how we play.”
West Cork are continuing their build-up towards the 2021 SFAI Subway Championships but will step up preparations with a trip north of the border on the August Bank Holiday weekend. Depending on Covid restrictions, a large panel of both U12 and U13 West Cork players will make the journey to Belfast.
“We are going to take the West Cork U12s and U13s up to Belfast and will definitely be playing Cliftonville in a friendly in August.
“There are two other very strong club sides being lined up for friendlies during the trip as well, we just need to confirm with them. On the way home, our intention is to play a top Dublin Schoolboys League club but obviously, that will all depend on correct Covid protocols being adhered to."