GIVING back to the game can be so rewarding.
As footballers, many of us do this whether it be through coaching, refereeing or administration, so staying involved in the game and helping out at club level is important.
One man I caught up with recently was Douglas Hall Junior manager Mark Malone. Here he tells us what it means to him to give back to a game that he got so much from over the years.
“I try to help out wherever I can, be it coaching, involved in committees, lining pitches or digging out drains in the car park,” said Malone.
A volunteer’s work is never really done! Do I view it as a chore? — no!
“To me, it’s a way of giving back. I remember my coaches from years gone by and without their likes and the commitment they gave, our club and others like it would be well gone. Do I need accolades?— no! I get my rewards from seeing the kids grow into players, teenagers, adults and gentlemen/women, and the respect and gratitude they show me is all I could wish for.
“Through managing teams, I’ve had the pleasure of dealing with some of the most wonderful boys and girls you could ever hope to meet.”
The father of three from Rochestown has pretty much summed up how much volunteers are needed, and the impact they can make on kids in sport.
While currently manager of the club's second junior side, who are doing extremely well this season, Malone has coached at many other age levels at the club, all of whom have given him great pleasure and experience.
“I had coached several schoolboy teams over the years and many of the boys I coached had left the club for one reason or the other.
“As with all clubs, the main problem is identifying coaches/managers to commit. Once I realised that we as a club were looking for someone to manage our second junior team I saw an opportunity to get the “band back together” so to speak.
“I reached out to the boys I had coached previously, to see if they’d come back; the response was overwhelming.
“I knew that we’d have a team of quality players that would need proper structure so I brought in a few of my fellow coaches that helped me to keep sane over the years - football can be a trying environment.
“I brought in Dave Cunnigham and Tony Kelleher. They would have had kids at different levels, some playing for Kennedy Cup and then on to Cork City.
We also found a semi-professional Ukrainian coach Alex, who has found himself in Ireland with his wife and three children due to the war and looking for an outlet.
“The season thus far has been brilliant, played 15 games in all competitions, won 12, drew two and a loss in the fourth round of the FAI Junior Cup to Trim Celtic. We did lose to Passage in a penalty shootout in the Munster Junior Cup, but I view that as a draw.
“Expectations for this season are to get promoted first and foremost and if we can do that by winning the league then even better.
“We have been lucky in that a lot of the players that came back to us are able to play at a higher level but they’re not able to commit to the stricter regime of higher divisions. We currently top our division, but there’s a long way to go.
“It’s a funny league to be honest in that anyone could win it. Rockmount, Innisvilla, Castleview and Corinthians will all have a say about who lifts the trophy this year.
“We overcame Corinthians this weekend to put a bit of daylight between us and them, but there’s a long way to go in a division of 12 teams meaning 22 games have to be played for every team.
“We’re in a strange place, while we have players that certainly draw interest from our Seniors and Junior Premier managers, circumstances such as work and college just don’t allow the boys commit for now.
“The boys are happier playing in a more relaxed environment and largely just playing with their buddies. I feel as a club we have an obligation to facilitate that— they were there for us in their younger years, now it’s our turn.
“I’ve been involved in the club for the last 10 or 12 years in one form or the other. There was a time when I coached three teams in the same season, under 16 boys, under 13 boys and under 12 girls, but I was happy to be able to do so.
“I will continue to help kids reach their potential while doing so in a fun environment.”