'Whether you coach a male or female team, they have to enjoy the set-up'

Henry Cullen loves his role with Castleview women's team
'Whether you coach a male or female team, they have to enjoy the set-up'

Henry Cullen, on the right, during a game in St Colman’s Park

EACH year it’s great to see new teams enter into the Cork Women’s and Schoolgirls Soccer League.

At times it can be difficult to sustain however for northside club Castleview, two years later and the women’s side continue to progress.

Having the correct people involved will play a huge factor in the running of a club and for the women’s side, they are grateful to have a passionate and driven manager such as Henry Cullen, known as Hena.

Having played against his side in the past I have seen his passion and hunger from the sideline and although at times he amused us with his actions on the line, such was his motivation to see his side do well and I admire that. I would imagine his players would run through a brick wall for him. And sometimes that respect is enough to drive any team on.

Cullen got involved back in women’s soccer back in 2019 and is thoroughly enjoying his time ever since.

“Back in 2019 I got involved with Hollyhill women’s however the interest wasn’t huge at the time and I felt the women’s deserved more attention... so I then saw an opportunity elsewhere,” said Cullen.

“I saw that there was a huge interest in the area of Knocknehenny and so I decided to put a team together for Castleview. The interest was amazing and it was a great feeling to know that we as a club can provide this for the local girls because it was badly needed.

“It was my first time coaching an exclusive women’s team and I’m not saying it was all plain sailing but it definitely went smoother than I thought. The women were enthusiastic and wanted to play and that’s half the battle really. We began with a mix of abilities really.

Some had never played before and others had played underage but all had the same ambition and that was to play the game in an enjoyable manner and to represent their local community meant a lot to them.”

Cullen was steeped in football from an early age starting his schoolboy career with a very good Nufarm side. From here he progressed onto the Cork Kennedy cup squad and later joined Rockmount at U17 level where he spent many years before joining local side Grattan United where he again enjoyed a lot of success.

Unfortunately, after a car accident, Cullen’s playing days were cut short however his passion for the game always meant that he would stay involved in the game in some capacity, and thankfully for the game, he chose the route of coaching.

“I started coaching very early, helping out as early as 14 years of age. At the time I just couldn’t get enough of football so when I wasn’t playing, I was coaching and I loved it. However, my first manager’s job wasn’t until I was 20 when I took on the Nufarm U12s managers role.

Henry Cullen with the Nufarm U16 league winning squad
Henry Cullen with the Nufarm U16 league winning squad

“From here I decided to upskill myself so I began my coaching badges which I felt were a real help. I’ve always enjoyed coaching however the highlight of my coaching career so far was being a coach of the U19 Cobh Ramblers team that won the Enda McGill Cup in 2016. This was a fantastic learning experience and from here I was promoted to coach of Ramblers senior side under Martin Cambridge.

“After Martin resigned I stayed on with Stephen Henderson for one season which was an awesome experience but halfway through that season I went to help with the Cobh U17 set up and again another great learning experience.

Henry Cullen pictured with Johnathon Creamer and the Enda McGill U19 Cup.
Henry Cullen pictured with Johnathon Creamer and the Enda McGill U19 Cup.

DIFFERENT

“Now coaching the women has brought a new and different experience in itself. There are a few differences to coaching the women from the men but mainly very similar. The main difference is the intensity and quality in the men’s game are slightly higher however the camaraderie and work ethic is very similar though. 

I’ve learned that both the men and women teams have to enjoy the setup or it would die very fast and that’s my role to make sure it’s as enjoyable as possible.

“We are currently playing in the First Division of the Cork women’s league. It’s a tough division but we hope to stand our ground. We had a great win in our opening game against Kilmichael so we hope to build on that. Our aim is to be competitive in every game.

“We have a good mixture of youth and experience and a great bunch of girls full stop. We have girls who never played at any level such as Donna Crowley and Mary Hornibrook and they are doing really well. Mix that in with players such as Katlyn O’Brien and Maggie Cullen who wouldn’t look out of place at any level and you’ve a good squad.

“We drafted in Gemma Lynch as goalkeeper who comes from a GAA background and she had a great game for us so it’s all about progressing from our opening game.

“I have a great backroom staff and support from the club. Damien Rea is a great help and has a wealth of experience that he brings to the team from junior soccer. Joanne Crowley is vital to the squad and the management structure of the team and never has to be asked twice to help out. Pat Cummins and Ian O’Brien are always forthcoming with their time and advice and the club Castleview are 100% behind the women’s team which is fantastic.

“During my years involved in the women’s game I have seen massive improvements in the game and although I would like to see more teams and leagues and equal funding. It’s going in the right direction.

“There is a great interest in Knocknaheeny over the last few years and that’s down to local girl Irish international player Denise O’Sullivan. She is one of our own and a great ambassador for the women’s game also her niece Kathlyn O’Sullivan is a star for us in our team so it’s great for girls to have someone to look up to.”

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