ROCKMOUNT will start the new Munster Senior League season with a new manager after Billy Cronin stepped down following another successful spell in charge of the northside club.
Last year, Cronin ticked the final box in an amazing management CV when he steered Rockmount to Munster Senior Cup final success.
Rockmount’s victory over Cork City meant that Cronin had won every trophy available to him as a Munster Senior League manager and it was the highlight of a season that had been cut short with his side set for an interesting league run-in that would have seen Rockmount and Ringmahon battle it out for league honours.
Now, following another postponed season, Edward Kenny will take over the reins in Whitechurch, though he is not exactly operating in strange surroundings having been part of Cronin’s management team for the past few years, and indeed, as a player with the club.
Kenny admits, though, that he has a hard act to follow.
“I’m stepping into some big shoes, huge in fact. Billy is a legend at the club and within the senior league and in amateur soccer all over Ireland,” Kenny said.
“If I have a fraction of the success that Billy has had, then it would be a very good career as a manager.”
Kenny has been part of Rockmount’s management team for the past few years, before which he managed Blarney Street in the Cork AUL and had previously played with both northside clubs.
And while it’s a big step up into one of the biggest jobs in Cork soccer management, he will have some familiar faces around him on the line.
“Kieran O’Sullivan has stepped down from his role and Cian Forde has also moved from us; he’s gone back to Leeside, but Ethan McCarthy and Derek Clarke will still be part of the management team.
“We also have Sean Barry while Stephen Montgomery has retired from playing and he will also be part of the management team.”
Rockmount have been building a side over the past few years in a bid to reclaim a league title that they last won in 2015.
Avondale, Midleton, and UCC (twice) have won the league since then, the Students being the last side to lift the cup in 2019 when they pipped Rockmount on the final day of the campaign.
Rockmount were well-positioned to make a challenge in 2020, along with Ringmahon Rangers, when the season was called off last March, while last season they were well in the mix despite having a poor start.
“It’s been very disruptive for the last few seasons, especially in 2020 when we were challenging. It was definitely disappointing, without going over the history of it too much, with it (the season) being called off with six games to go.
“With the season just gone, they definitely made the right call with just six games played.
“We didn’t have the best of starts last time around, but I think it was a bit of a hangover period after winning the Munster Senior Cup.
“Winning that cup was a great relief after the way that season had gone and it was great for Billy and great for the club and I was delighted for him on a personal level, and for Clarkey and Kieran (O’Sullivan)
“I think the hunger might have dropped a bit at the start of the season then, and we lost our first three games, but we settled after that and won the next three and were hopeful things would kick on after that.”
Kenny was quick to point out, though, that the hunger is definitely back with the squad after a long absence without football and he feels the team is in a good place.
“We have a good foundation which is something that we’ve been working on for the last few years; making sure that we were bringing in young players, players that would have Rockmount ties like former Rockmount schoolboys.”
Pre-season hasn’t been easy for clubs, with such a long lay-off and such a short time to prepare, especially with just one friendly game a week, one of the recommendations after football opened up again.
“It’s going to take time for teams to get into it because of the lack of game time. We played Pearse Celtic in a friendly and that went well for us and we have a game lined up with Cobh Ramblers U19s also. We’ve played a couple of games in-house as well, but we would have loved to have an extra week to prepare.”
Rockmount will start the season with much the same squad as last seasons with a few noted additions.
“We’ve held on to everyone and we’ve added Darren Mannix who played with UCC and Castleview. Jack Waters has come back to us from Leeds and Jack Leonard has come in from Cobh U19s; Nathan Broderick is also back with us.”
The season will kick off tomorrow in the Keane Cup with Rockmount facing UCC in a group that also features Carrigaline United and Ringmahon Rangers.
“It’s a very tough group, especially coming in as a debut manager; it’s a very tough start. UCC have been up there for the last few years and are well coached by Noel (Healy).
“Tim (Mawe) has done a great job with Carrigaline. We’ve played them regularly in the last few years and they get better each time.
“Ringmahon are a very strong team also and whoever comes out of that group will have had a great win.
“We will be treating the Keane Cup as an extension of pre-season; getting fellas ready for the league.”
Looking ahead to the league, Kenny expects it to be a close race.
“Avondale had a good start last year and Frank (Kelleher) will look to keep that going. Joe (Gamble) has recruited well at Corinthians and they will be strong. You could look at five or six teams really and I don’t see it being a two-horse race or anything and even after Christmas there could be three or four in it.”