AFTER more than two decades with his beloved club Rockmount, Billy Cronin is now enjoying a well-deserved break, spending more time with his grandchildren while still being able to watch games without any pressure.
Cronin stepped down as manager at the end of the season, having built up an incredible CV which saw him win every trophy available to him as a Munster Senior League boss, with the Munster Senior Cup success against Cork City last year his final trophy.
Such is his passion for the beautiful game of football, it would never be easy for Cronin to just walk away from the game and in fact, his decision wasn’t an easy one, but one which he felt was coming for a while. And although his managerial role has ended for now, he can still be seen at games across the city.
“There isn’t anyone moment where I decided to step down from my role as manager of Rockmount, it was more of a gradual thing,” said Cronin. "I had it in the back of my mind for a few years but could only leave when I was happy that the team was in a strong place within itself and in relation to other teams in the league.
"I have happily given a lot of my time to football over the years and was ready to take a step back.
“My time with Rockmount started as a player and then I went in as manager in 1997 when I was joint manager with Noel Burke. Except for a couple of years, I have been there ever since. We had a lot of success, but this success wasn’t just mine, it was everyone involved in the club from players to the committee to past managers, who worked with me and before me.
"We were lucky enough to go on and win a few more Intermediate Cups after that.
“Throughout my years with the team, Rockmount won a lot of silverware but the one thing that evaded us was the Munster Senior Cup. After making it to a few finals, we finally won it in 2020, adding the final piece to the jigsaw.
“It’s great to win for the players you have signed, as they have made the choice to play for you and I like to think every player who signed was involved in winning something. I am grateful to all the players I signed over the years, they showed huge dedication and we had some great times.”
For the Turner’s Cross man, it was always about a will to win and appreciating his players, and this made him one of the most successful and motivated managers in the country.
“I would say the key factor for me to keep players motivated year after year was senior players got to know me and the way I worked and we developed a good rapport built on mutual respect. The motivation came from my want to win regardless of the status of what we were playing, putting our best effort out there was always a must!
“I always believe every manager should appreciate their players, as at the end of the day, the players have signed for you and they are doing you the favour by playing for you.
“Any manager from youth football to senior football, I would say fair play to them for doing it, it's hard work and easy for people to be knocking you but it's them who are putting themselves on the line and giving up their time.”
Filling the boots of Cronin will be tough and for newly-appointed manager Edward Kenny, Cronin believes he will do well and wishes him all the best.
“Eddie has been with me for five years and I have every confidence he will do very well. Eddie and the lads, Derek Clarke, Steven Montgomery, Sean Barry, Ethan McCarthy and Richard Morris Roe are a good crew and all work well together.
"He also has a few good, experienced senior players to fall back on as well such as Brendan O'Connell, who is the captain of the Irish intermediate team and a great asset for Rockmount. He has a lot of experience and can always be relied upon. Derek Clarke is an invaluable member of the team, he has been involved in numerous roles within Rockmount and it’s great to see him still involved!
“Rockmount are going well and the lads are doing a good job. What I miss the most is the banter in the dressing room. There was always a great atmosphere out in Rockmount and we had a good rapport. I go to a lot of games still, not just Rockmount but I have a keen interest in Cork football in general. Eddie knows he can ring me if he needs me but they are going well at the moment and he is doing a great job.”
So how does a man who gave so much of his time over two decades, suddenly fill his days?
“I have three grandchildren now, Chloe, Alfie and Kaitlyn who I spend a lot of time with. I also enjoy a bit of cycling. I can go away for weekend breaks easily now whereas over the last 24 years with the club, I could count on one hand the number of matches or training sessions I missed.
"In saying that I wouldn’t change that but for now I look forward to spending more time with family and enjoy watching games as a supporter."