GIVING back to a club that gave him so much as a player has always been on the agenda for Darren Haines.
Although the father of two was part of the Cobh Wanderers side who were top of the Premier Division last season, he felt he was needed more at his local club Casement, who were struggling at the bottom of the Second Division.
And after a call from the committee, he didn’t hesitate to take up the position as manager.
The former goalkeeper from Togher who had spells with Everton, Castleview, Cobh Ramblers,and Casement now continues the role as manager at Casement for the second season running, and he is happy with the squad he has assembled.
“We have a great bunch of lads at the moment with some great quality,” said Haines.
“However, I am always looking to add to the squad in order to compete at the highest level we can.
“Last season when we were hit with Covid, I had been at Cobh Wanderers as first-team coach alongside current Cobh Rambler’s boss Darren Murphy.
“I enjoyed my time at the club, with good staff and great players, however Casement were struggling, and when I met with Pat Mulcahy, my dad Eddie, and brother Ross, I knew Casement was the place for me.
“The club have always been good to me and my family since the day I signed, and especially after we lost our mother during the summer, the club, past and present players, showed me how special this club is.
“When I took over, it wasn’t an easy task at first I must admit, however Jim Haines had done great work in getting numbers onboard.
“However, the squad lacked that bit of quality, and I felt that was my first task.
“When I took over, we got 12 points from a possible 45 before Covid halted the season altogether, and this gave me time to plan ahead and see what we really needed as a club.
Since football has returned after the Covid break, I have seen a real hunger in lads, because they realise what was taken away from them during those tough times.
“Football is a chance to go and relax, meet the lads play the game we all love and just tune out from everything else in our lives.
“This season competing in the second division of the Munster Senior League is a stepping stone in getting this great club back to playing top-tier football.
“We’re under no illusions that it will take time, but it’s definitely a work in progress, and everybody is working hard both on and off the pitch.
“To compete at this level, I needed to add more quality this season, so added again to a strong base that was already there.
“Niall Calnan is rolling back the years in fairness to him, and shows the younger lads the way, along with the experienced Chris Byrnes and Trevor Daly, and also Rob Coughlan, who played with the Irish University team a few seasons back, is a huge signing.
“The team is led by Mick Mulcahy as captain, a great leader, and so I am very excited about the future of this club.
“A lot of credit must go to my assistant Pat Mul, who has done a great job in signing quality players.”
Mulcahy, along with Chris McGuire, Colin Barry, and Ger Long, have completed a great backroom staff for Haines.
They all have a great interest in the club and are on the same wavelength in wanting to see Casement progress.
“Along with having a great backroom staff, we have a great committee,” he says.
“They are always very supportive in whatever is asked of them, and at times I wonder how he does it, but Jamesie Wilson always manages to pull something out of the hat that’s needed.
“These are the types of guys that are needed in every club. They are invaluable to us all.”
While most of their work is done off the pitch, a club could not survive without this. The pitch has gone under a massive revamp in the Carrigrohane Road.
“I think that is how I attracted players this season,” says Haines.
"It’s genuinely like a snooker table — and that’s all down to the committee.
“When I played at Casement we had to use the back pitch most of the time because, as they used to say, ‘a drop of rain and Casement Park flooded’, which was quite true.
“So now it’s great to have a pitch we’re proud of, a pitch we can play good football on, and a place opposition can expect a tough-but-good game of football.
“The league this year is unbelievably competitive in fairness and Wilton and Riverstown are two top sides. After that there isn’t a lot between the rest of us and I would be hoping we would be leading that chasing pack. We have a good squad with great people involved at the club and so I believe the future is looking bright for this great club.”