ENOUGH game-time to develop every player in the squad is the cornerstone of Cobh Ramblers U14 manager David O’Leary’s plans for this season.
In the inaugural SSE U14 league campaign, O’Leary believes developing the players is his main aim and his plan is that no player is the bench at the start of consecutive games.
“We decided that before the season started we wouldn’t use a set starting 11, for us, it’s all about game time and development at this age,” said O’Leary.
“If you start week one on the bench and you’re fit and ready to play week two you will then start that game. No kid will ever sit on the bench to start a game in consecutive matches, barring injury, or behavioral issues in training, which we haven’t had, yet!
“All players play in every game, it’s great having roll-on, roll-off subs. The only position we try not to change during the game is our Keeper, we do like to try get them the full 80 minutes.”
Into his second season with Cobh Ramblers, the father of two from Ballyphehane along with his backroom staff of Eric Goulding, Conor Walsh and Brendan Keating are confident his side can finish at the top end of the table.
“Before the season started we had one goal — finish top two in our group and advance to the final group phase. We’re well on track for that, so I am happy with how things are going so far.
“We’re going through the season with an 18-man squad — three keepers and 15 outfield players. We’ve still got two spots left in the squad that we can fill and hope to fill, so some lads are in on trials for the next few weeks seeing as how their CSL season concluded recently.
“The lads have been amazing so far this season, from all the pre-season Zoom S&C classes to when we finally got back onto the grass all those weeks ago, they’re an amazing bunch. We’ve got such a great blend in the squad, personality-wise.
We’ve got the messers, we’ve got the serious ones, we’ve fellas in between. It’s also very pleasing to see how quickly they all gelled as one team.
“Naturally, when you come from the same CSL team or same school you bunch together before training or matches, but now it’s got to the stage whereby fellas who never knew each other 12 weeks ago are inseparable.
“That’s definitely the most pleasing aspect of this so far, they’re a really good, mannered, honest, and likable bunch.”
While some may disagree with players leaving the CSL at such a young age, O’Leary believes it’s a great opportunity for players to be playing at a high level from an early age.
“I think the league idea and format is great. I’m a firm believer that the players who want to play at this level and want to test themselves at League of Ireland level should be allowed to do so, regardless of age. I think kids, especially those from ages 13 to 17, should get every opportunity and chance they can to be the best version of themselves sporting-wise.
“If they decide that playing LOI at age 13 or 14 is best for them and their development as a person and player, then they should 100% be allowed do so and given that chance.
The standard is so good at this age group, every game you’re in a proper battle. The kids are so clued in, even tactically and with what goes on off the ball, it’s great to see how the game is evolving.
“The time and hard work being put in by the players, coaches and also the parents are there for all to see on the pitch come kick-off on a Saturday.
“There are some kids who would have been the so-called ‘star’ at their local club, now coming into a setting where the standard is very even across the team and they do need to adapt their games as such. You don’t get as much time on the ball in a game, you don’t get away with not tracking back or following a runner like you may have done.
“It’s a very high standard and the harsh reality really is one mistake and chances are there’s a lad on the opposing team who could be an Irish International and you’re a goal behind. So they’re learning with every game, and you can already see a totally different team to the one we had in our first session.
“We’re in a regionalised five-team group to start off our season, alongside Waterford, Kerry, Treaty and Cork City.”
There is also a cup competition and while they shipped a heavy defeat lately to a very talented Cork City side, their performances and results have been hugely encouraging to date.
Sam Murphy, Odhran O’Sullivan, Frankie Sheehan, Dijus Otegbayo, Daniel Mellerick, Dylan O’Sullivan, Devon Gibson, Mark OBrien, Jack OBrien, Chris Harrington, Padraig McGrath, Mathew Herbert, Sean Kelani, James Traynor, Killian Goggin, AJ Nash, Josh Barry, Mathew Gillen.