HAVING the right staff is key to success.
Along with several first-team coaches, John Connors has played an important role in Cork City’s campaign this year.
The strength-and-conditioning coach, who is in third season with the club, says the willingness of the players to improve has been significant in City’s drive for promotion.
Connors, a Tipperary native, commutes from the Premier County, but he enjoys the journey as he loves his role at City.
“This is my third season. I was initially asked by Joe Gamble, just before Covid hit in the January 2020 pre-season,” Connors said.
“My first trip was down to Fota, where we did our pre-season down there. That was obviously my first pre-season and it was a great experience. So, I’ve worked under Neale Fenn and Healers during my time here.
“I was an intern when I initially came into the club. I went to Setanta College with Gamble. Then, when he got the job with Fenn, I just gave him a call to catch up and just to see if there were anything going at the club, would he keep me in mind.
“Next thing, he gave me a shout back to meet up for a coffee and we took it from there. At first, it was two days a week, then it went to three days.
“After that, it was more of a case of how many times could I make it down from Tipperary.
“I had qualified in November 2019 and I thought that it was the perfect opportunity to get a bit of work experience.
“When Fenn and Gamble were relieved of their duties,; I went in early that Thursday morning and bumped into Healers.
“He said something along the lines of, ‘You’re in early today John’ to which I replied, ‘I am. I’m wondering who’s the person now I need to be more friendly towards’,” Connors jokingly said.
“Healers said, ‘Come into my office’. I always had a good relationship with Healers before he became first-team manager.
“His office during his time in charge of the academy was next to our office. So, I was able to get to know Healers in that year that I was there and then it just all fell into place when he was appointed first-team manager.
“I still travel up and down from Tipperary three days a week. Travelling doesn’t bother me, because I love what I do.
I think what makes the job more enjoyable is the attitude of the players. It’s not a case of me having to pull a player aside and say he has to work on a certain aspect to improve.
“I have been in that situation in the past and it is more difficult because players can feel they are being segregated. They see it as more of a punishment rather than me trying to help them improve.
“Those players are argumentative and look to blame everyone else rather than themselves.
“That isn’t the case now. The players come to me and nearly demand that I find ways of improving them.
“Of course, that can be a challenge for us, because it involves the S&C department coming up with new ways of improving a player, but that’s our job and that’s what we want.
“I love working with the players because none of them are bluffers. They all genuinely want to progress their career.
“They aren’t happy playing in the First Division. They want to be playing at the highest level possible.”
Having been involved in the S&C side of football for some time, Connors believes that the biggest change over the past number of years has been managers’ and players’ acceptance of how important data is in the game.
“I started my degree in 2016, and the biggest thing I have noticed is the data. Managers are buying big time into the data now.
“Data like the distance a player has travelled. What their maximum speed is, and how to manage players. Healers has really bought into it.
“It helps identify why a player might be tired. We can look at the data and see the workload players have done.
“Players as well are keen to know the distance they covered in games and training.
“They can find out their own individual stats, but we do not display the results of every player for everyone to see. It’s only their own data a player receives.”