TRYING to emulate the style and environment of a GAA club, is a main focus for newly appointed Leeds soccer manager Micky Buckley.
The father of one from Dublin Hill takes over from James Fogarty having been assistant for the past two seasons, in a quest to get the club back up playing in the top tier of Cork football.
Not an easy task as they finished fifth in the first division last season, however, Buckley is confident he has the back room staff and support from the club to do so.
Here he tells us about his experience in coaching and his plans for his beloved Leeds, whom he has been involved with for over three decades.
“I am really looking forward to next season as manager,” said Buckley.
“I was Assistant to James Fogarty (Fingerz) last season and we had planned for me to take over this year with him staying on as Head Coach so preparations have been going on awhile.
“We are only losing one or two players from last season which isn't much in today's local soccer scene.
"We also get back a few really important players like Adam Bruton and Ciaràn Hanifin who both missed the whole of last season with bad knee injuries.
"We hope to add five or six new players before the season starts, but no names yet.”
While pre-season starts tonight, the Northside club have been tipping away building their squad, one in which Buckley believes will compete for honours.
“We have been playing five a side and a few games of ball the last few weeks but we start proper training tonight.
“I expect us to have a squad capable of winning a League and an Intermediate Cup. I wouldn't do it unless I thought that.
“We have gone from just myself and James last season really to seven lads this year.
"Ray Anthony, Brian Kenny, Kenneth Harrington (Strength and Conditioning coach) Edward Fuller (Sports Psychologist) have all joined the management team.
"Also, Colin Yelverton has joined as a Coach and will work with James Fogarty.
"I believe we have the two best young coaches in Cork in the two lads. We all have the same ideas of football being played in the right way.”
A disappointing season last year for Leeds but the former Cork City player felt bad luck had a lot to do with it.
“Last season was a strange one because of all the players we had out injured and also our home game ban.
"We finished fifth in the end and lost a cup final but it certainly was a good learning experience for our very young squad.
“My hope is to bring a GAA type environment to this team. A setting where everyone does stuff together outside of football.
"Making sure that every time you come to training or a match you're looking forward to it. Enjoyment is key.
"A place where everyone helps one another with things like getting employment or if there are any mental health issues, that we are aware of it and can help in any way we can.
"That togetherness is what’s needed in every team.”
As we know the first division can be a tough place to get out of and Buckley is under no illusions that it’s a tough task ahead, however he is looking forward to the challenge.
“It’s the toughest amateur league in Munster to get out of. I do believe we can return to the Premier and compete up there and I will be trying everything possible to get us back up there.
“The Club was last promoted in 2018. It would mean everything, especially to special people like our chairman Mickey Hourihane to get back there.”
In his fifth season coaching, Buckley is hoping his experience as a number two added with his experience of playing can bring a lot to this year's squad.
“I started as assistant manager to Patsy Freyne at Douglas Hall for three seasons from 2017 to 2020.
"I then went to Leeds as assistant manager to James and I’ve learned a lot from both roles but now I’m looking forward to putting my own stamp on things as Manager.
“I played with Leeds from the age of five winning numerous underage titles. Then went to Cork City 17s, Youths then into the first team squad under Pat Dolan.
"I got into management because when something traumatic happens in your life you realise the importance of helping people.
"And that’s my focus going forward.”
Buckley was once quoted for saying that some players made it in football because of pure luck or attitude as opposed to ability.
He also feels that the modern game is more about fitness and structure rather than ability.
He hopes he can find a blend of the aforementioned qualities that make a great footballer.
“There are many qualities that make a great footballer. For us as coaches, it’s about finding as many of those in a person as possible.
"For me, enjoyment is key. To put on an enjoyable training session is where it needs to start.
"When lads are looking forward to training that’s half the battle. The football will take care of itself.
"If this enjoyment and camaderie amongst the players can then transpire to the pitch on match day, then that’s what can bring success.
"Everyone at the club is looking forward to the new season. Let’s hope it can be a good one.”