FORMER Ireland managers Martin O’Neil and Mick McCarthy, Roy Keane, and John Caulfield are just some of the coaches Colin Healy played under.
They guided the legendary midfielder to a host of top honours, including a treble success with Celtic in 2001, when he had a stormer in the League Cup final; and FAI Cup triumphs in 2007 and 2016.
Throughout his playing career, Healy made a mental notebook of training ground routines and tactics which he now hopes to implement in his role as Cork City manager.
“They are all different,” he opened up on the coaches who influenced him.
They all have their own styles of coaching. You take different things from different managers.
“For me, what I saw at that level was how professional the game can be. You learn a lot in those dressing rooms.
“You learn how senior players train and how they conduct themselves. You learn a lot at that level and I would like to bring that here. I also want to put my own spin on things.”
It was the ultra-professional environments in England and Scotland which planted the idea coaching into Healy’s head.
“I started thinking about coaching towards the end of my career,” he explained.
“As a player, I had an interest in coaching. I worked under a lot of very good managers and they put on very good sessions.
“That gave me an interest. I was lucky then to get a role in the Cork City Academy which I really enjoyed.
”I also worked with Tom Mohan and the Irish U19s for two years. That was fantastic and I learned a lot from that.
“Then I got an opportunity to train the first team at Cork City.”
The academy in Bishopstown gave Healy a blank canvas to build a centre of excellence. It was his first experience as a coach, and he poured everything he had into the opportunity.
“Working with the academy was very good,” he said. “I got across the ideas I wanted to do with the players that were coming up through the academy.
“I had different ideas like training sessions which I picked up during my time as a player.
“I put my stamp on things and I made things more professional. There was a lot of work in it, but I had some great coaches to do that work.
“A lot of people put their time into it.”
Then, in October 2020, Healy was asked to take over the relegation-bound Cork City first-team.
It was a massive job to take as they were rock bottom of the Premier Division and the club’s financial structures has taken a battering that year. Healy stared into this storm and said yes with no hesitation.
“I came into a difficult period,” he recalled. “The team wasn’t performing and there was an unsettled dressing room. It was difficult.
I knew it was going to be a very big job, but I wanted to do it. I wanted a challenge. I knew it would be a tough challenge and I wanted to do it.
“I have some very good coaches with me and they are helping. Things have changed financially over the years in Cork and I had to go with a lot of younger players.
“It was a difficult start, but the players got better and better. That bad start cost us a place in the play-offs at the end of the season.”
City started off the season with a 2-1 victory against local rivals Cobh Ramblers.
After that the club lost four games on the bounce, and they ended up in the bottom half of the First Division.
The team rallied in the final few weeks of the season and finished sixth, four points from a place in the promotion/relegation play-offs.
This late-season surge was done with a team filled with graduates from the Cork City academy.
Healy used his experience and coaching techniques to seamlessly integrate players emerging from squads in the Underage National Leagues.
Cian Murphy is one of the young players who stepped up. The striker made 27 appearances last year and scored 11 goals for the Rebel Army.
Goalkeeper David Harrington also thrived in the senior environment. He played in City’s final four league games and he only conceded once, this was away to an in-form UCD.
Healy’s impact as a coach was clear on the final night of the 2021 First Division season.
That night, Cork City hosted Galway United at Turner’s Cross and five of the starting 11 were graduates from the club’s academy.
Four of the subs who came on — Cian Bargary, Cathal Heffernan, Darragh Crowley, and Beineon O’Brien-Whitmarsh — were also with squads from the academy.
“We had a lot of young players,” he said. “Look at that game against Galway, we had seven or eight in the starting team.
When you’re playing academy football and results don’t go your way, nobody says anything to you.
“The manager might pull you in and tell you what you can do better. When you’re playing first-team football, you’re judged solely on that. People will voice their opinion, and rightly so.
”It was tough and players were getting knocked down. The big thing was that they stepped up and kept going.
“They got better and better. They were flying towards the end of the season. The challenge now for these players is to pick up where they left off and go again.
“They are learning from the experiences they had last season.
“We need to start better next season because that might give us a better chance of doing better than last year.”