Cork minor football manager Ray O'Mahony on why Rebel underage structures are working well

'It has taken a bit of time but I believe that the pathways put in place here in Cork are the right ones...'
Cork minor football manager Ray O'Mahony on why Rebel underage structures are working well

Brian Hayes of Cork holds the cup as he celebrates with his teammates after last season's Munster minor football success. Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

CORK GAA minor football manager Ray O’Mahony and his backroom team are diligently preparing their inter-county panel for next year’s championship.

Dublin native Ray O’Mahony is no stranger within Cork GAA circles. 

The new football minor manager’s roots can be traced back to Kilmacud Crokes. O’Mahony moved to Cork 16 years ago, got married and his family have been heavily involved with local club Éire Óg ever since. 

The Dubliner’s coaching CV is bookmarked with numerous successes as part of Éire Óg’s underage, U21 and senior football setups.

Working alongside GDAs like James McCarthy exposed Ray O’Mahony to Cork GAA’s Development squad programme where he looked after the Mid-Cork regional team for a number of years.

Newly introduced coaching pathways allowed O’Mahony to cut his teeth at development squad level before graduating to the Cork U16 and minor inter-county setups.

“First and foremost, it is an honour to be asked to coach the Cork minor footballers. It has taken a bit of time but I believe that the pathways and structures put in place here in Cork are the right ones. A lot of hard work from the likes of Conor Counihan and Kevin O’Callaghan has helped make those pathways happen.

“There are a lot of good people, from right around the county, on board to make sure Cork football’s trajectory moves upwards. Long-term plans are now in place to help Cork GAA become successful.” 

In 2022, Cork’s minors suffered a disappointing start by suffering a 1-16 to 0-5 Munster championship humbling at the hands of old rivals Kerry.

Creditably, the Rebels rebounded in style, seeing off Tipperary 3-20 to 1-13 before gaining revenge on the Kingdom thanks to a 3-11 to 0-9 Munster final win at Páirc Uí Rinn.

Sadly, Derry ended Cork’s All-Ireland minor football aspirations at the quarter-finals stage in O’Moore Park.

Encouragingly, Ray O’Mahony’s two-year stint with the Cork U16’s means the Éire Óg coach already has a good idea of the raw material at his disposal heading into 2023.

Daniel Cronin (St. Mary’s), Eamon O’Connor (Kildorrery), Daire O’Sullivan (Naomh Abán), James Condon (Glanworth) and Declan Murphy (St. Finbarr’s) will form O’Mahony’s management team for next year’s campaign.

The new backroom team have cast their net far and wide in search of Cork’s next batch of inter-county footballers.

“I would know most of the group that we are currently working with since late last year,” the Cork minor football manager said.

“Already this year we took a look at players from all four regions, 123 players in total. We narrowed that down to 60 but also brought in additional players who we thought were performing well at club and schools' level.

Two months ago, we cut the minor squad to 46. It is a hard place to be when you are breaking that kind of news to young lads. It is not a nice part of the job.

“We looked right across the county to see what talent was available to us. As well as that, an invite was sent to all Cork GAA clubs to send anyone they felt was worth trialling for next year’s minor panel. 

"So over the last four weeks, my management team and I have seen an additional 106 players.

“We narrowed that down to 17 and added those to what we already have. So that’s where the minor panel is at right now but what’s clear to me is that there are a lot of talented footballers in this county.” 

COMMITMENT

Current Croke Park rules do not permit any minor inter-county training until January 1 and no challenge matches until the first day of the following month. So the remainder of the year will see the Cork minors completing strength and conditioning gym programmes.

Looking ahead, what are the new Cork GAA minor football manager’s hopes for 2023?

“Well firstly, I have to say that we have a great bunch of lads this year. Anything we ask them to do, they do. The commitment is there. 

Some of these guys are making three-and-a-half-hour roundtrips just to make training.

“Developing these guys as people is important. They are gaining life skills in terms of planning, discipline and balancing their time. On the football side, we want to progress as far as possible in the championship.

“So for 2023, we will take it one game at a time. The Munster championship is our priority, and we will see whatever comes after that.”

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