BALLYDEHOB football fanatic Kevin O’Brien is enhancing his reputation as an up-and-coming coach with Cork City FC Academy’s set-up.
Thousands of Irish people end up becoming a coach at some point of their adult lives, but it’s rare to come across an individual as young and committed to the idea as this 21-year-old West Cork man.
Few people are prepared to take on such a time-consuming role so what is it that attracts O’Brien to such a demanding position?
‘I guess it all started when I became interested in the reporting side of sports during my mid-teens,’ O’Brien explained.
‘Working with The Southern Star and a few other newspapers was a real thrill. Coaching wasn’t on my radar at that point. As a player, I spent most of my time on the side-lines as a substitute so I found myself talking and encouraging players more and more as time went on. I became interested in how the team worked, how things changed during a game and what could be done to help a team succeed.
‘The person who encouraged me to try out coaching properly was my cousin Paul Dunton, who is himself a coach and scout. If it wasn’t for Paul I don’t know if I would have had the confidence to pursue coaching, to be honest.
‘I’m studying Business in CIT at the moment but it was my work experience whilst in transition year in secondary school where I began to understand what being a coach is all about – how important the role is in dealing with players on the pitch and even more so off it. My interest grew from there.’
Greg Yelverton is one of many individuals who has had a positive influence on O’Brien’s fledgling career. So much so, that O’Brien is Cork City FC U14 coach for the 2021 season. He will be working under manager Yelverton for a second consecutive year after a successful stint with the UEFA Pro Licence holder at U13 level.
‘I first met Greg when I was in transition year back in 2015,’ O’Brien said.
‘My work experience was in the Sports Department at UCC that year where Greg is Head of Football. It was Paul Dunton who first put me in touch with him.
‘After that stint, I didn’t run into Greg again until the 2019 college intervarsity competition in Belfast. By that time, I had become assistant manager of the CIT Women’s soccer team under Craig Robinson. That was when I knew that this was the job I wanted to do. This is where I wanted to be.
‘I am a people person and love being around people. Having an undying passion for soccer and GAA also helps. I’m a Liverpool fan too and Jurgen Klopp once said he had the brain of a Bundesliga player but not the feet. I feel the same way!
‘Greg asked if I would be interested in one day possibly working with him at Cork City. I immediately said yes. That was a dream come true because I grew up supporting the club and going to Turner’s Cross every second weekend to attend their home games. I began coaching at City’s Academy and have been there since.
‘I have to mention Drinagh Rangers’ Rob Oldham as well, goalkeeper coach with UCC Women’s senior team, as he was another important mentor to me on my coaching journey.’
Coaching is clearly something O’Brien loves. The former West Cork Schoolboys League club player enjoyed success with Bunratty United during his formative years. O’Brien is using all his positive (and negative) experiences as a player to help develop the next generation of Cork City graduates.
‘I won schoolboys league and cup trophies with Bunratty and got to play at Turner’s Cross in a U16 West Cork Schoolboys League final as well,’ he said.
‘I joined Ballydehob men’s team when I was 17 years old but it was during Bunratty’s U18 double-winning season that I first started dabbling in coaching. All my friends were playing for Bunratty U18s under coaches Gerdie and his brother TJ O’Donovan. They asked me to help out on the side-line and I really enjoyed that experience.’
There are two West Cork players in Cork City U14’s squad for 2021. Lyre Rovers’ Tim Bailey and Ardfield ‘s Dylan O’Neill will be coached by O’Brien having featured regularly for City during the 2020 U13 campaign.
‘Tim is an excellent right-back, consistent and has a bright future ahead of him. Dylan is a bit like Jordan Henderson, he can play anywhere is another brilliant player,’ O’Brien explained.
‘Right now, we don’t know what is happening with the 2021 U14 League of Ireland season but have been working hard with our lads via Zoom sessions to be ready. A start date of April 9th remains unconfirmed but for now we are just taking things week by week.’
Kevin O’Brien is a name to keep an eye on. He has already carved out an impressive coaching career and all before he turns 22 years of age. A bright future lies ahead.