BY GER McCARTHY
FORMER Skibbereen and West Cork Schoolboys League Kennedy Cup underage star Alex Minihane enjoyed a fantastic first season with Cork City by claiming an SSE Airtricity U17 League winners’ medal.
Currently studying at Skibbereen Community School, 16-year-old Minihane is basking in the glow of a memorable debut season in Cork City FC’s colours.
Dad Martin, mother Donna, sister Eve and brother Robbie couldn’t be prouder of Alex’s achievements, a fledgling career that began lining out at his local Baltimore Road ground.
‘I started playing with Skibbereen AFC at the age of seven and represented all the age-grades up to U14,’ Minihane commented.
‘I was lucky enough to play under some great coaches during my time with Skibb including Stephan Guiblin, Jim Hunter, Gene Hourihane and Patrick Murray.
‘One of my best memories of playing with Skibbereen in the West Cork Schoolboys League was winning the SuperValu U14 Cup at Cork City’s home ground.
‘That was a brilliant experience, especially getting to play at Turner’s Cross with all my Skibb teammates. Winning the cup against Bantry Bay Rovers, the way we did it, just made it an even more memorable day. I scored a penalty with the last kick of the game and the final went to a penalty shootout which was quite a nerve wracking experience but we got there in the end.’
Minihane’s consistent performances in a Skibbereen jersey earned the versatile player two Kennedy Cup call-ups with West Cork Schoolboys League in consecutive summers.
It came as little surprise to see the former Skibbereen and WCSL player’s versatility capture Cork City’s attention. The League of Ireland club’s initial invitation and trial period went well resulting in Paul Bowdren and the City staff offering Minihane a contract.
The former Skibbereen player’s decision to take Cork up on their offer proved a timely one with City capturing the 2017 SSE Airtricity League U17 title following a penalty shootout win over Bohemians in front of a packed Turner’s Cross Stadium.
‘I was asked to come to Cork City and train with them the day I returned from my summer holidays and that simply wasn’t an opportunity I was going to turn down,’ Minihane stated.
‘There was a five-week training block before I was asked to sign a contract. I had my mind made up long before that and instantly agreed. It was a real honour to become an official Cork City player. Paul Bowdren is my coach and been absolutely fantastic for me as his training sessions are first class. You see John Caulfield around quite a lot which is a bit surreal at times as he’s another West Cork man.
‘Joining up with the U17 squad proved a brilliant choice because they are so driven to be successful. I remember going up to Donegal and falling behind twice in one particular game before coming back to win. From that day on, the entire squad really bonded and wouldn’t stop until we secured success.
‘Stepping out on to Turner’s Cross for the final game of the season and representing Cork City was one of the best days of my life. I was brought on with 20 minutes to go and we went on to win the League of Ireland U17 title on penalties.’
Despite his recent success with Cork City, Minihane’s ties to Castlehaven GAA remain strong and, whenever possible, the U17 League of Ireland winner is glad to be available to line out for the Carbery club.
‘I have played and continue to turn out for Castlehaven and was also past of some Cork inter-county squads,’ commented Minihane.
‘It was hard to keep both sports going but for a long time I wasn’t willing to giving up GAA or soccer for either one. In the end, a decision had to be made this past year but I always try to make myself available for Castlehaven whenever I can.
‘I firmly believe that people should not be made choose one sport, GAA, soccer or any other sport, over another. When the time comes that you cannot fit them in, then I suppose you have to then make a choice and choose the sport that you prefer.
‘For me personally, it was soccer but as I said, I try to train and play for Castlehaven now whenever I can. It comes down to scheduling but once matches and training started clashing it became very difficult. As well as that, trying to go from one game to another was just wrecking my legs and I just couldn’t do it.
‘I’m also playing GAA for Skibbereen Community School at the moment and the beauty of the soccer season is that I’m off until January so can give it my full attention
An U17 medal in his first Cork City campaign, Alex Minihane is a name you are going to be hearing a lot more of in the coming years.