BANDON man Richard Holland is determined to make his mark at League of Ireland level as Cork City FC’s new assistant manager.
The West Cork man made a name for himself at schoolboys league, Munster Senior League, Cork City and FAI academy levels before being announced as Colin Healy’s assistant recently.
Holland takes over from previous incumbent John Cotter and has some serious boots to fill.
But his positive experiences working with Healy and the Cork City U19s, allied with his burgeoning reputation, means the League of Ireland club has signed a dedicated and passionate individual.
‘Colin and I would have a good working relationship from working together in Cork City’s academy in the past,’ Holland told the Star Sport Podcast.
‘I'd been in contact with Colin, just checking in with him, on a weekly basis before I was offered the assistant manager’s position. There was an opportunity to build on my previous U19 coaching role within Cork City, so I expressed an interest (in going for the assistant manager position) to Colin and we worked from there.’
Holland possesses a wealth of coaching experience, not just within City’s academy structures but also with the Cork and West Cork Schoolboys Leagues at Kennedy Cup level, he was a full-time coach at the FAI academy in Mahon plus all those year’s playing and coaching in the Munster Senior League with his native Bandon.
Holder of an Elite UEFA A Coaching Licence, Holland is qualified and ready for the challenge of helping turn Cork City’s League of Ireland fortunes around. Yet for all his achievements and experiences, Holland’s hometown club remains the one closest to his heart.
‘Bandon AFC has always been a huge part of my life,’ Holland said.
‘Going right back to the start, ever since I was a kid, the club has given me the discipline, hunger and love of the game. To be honest, as a player, I would have always been interested in coaching and training sessions.
‘Even at an early age, coaching was something I was thinking about. I took my first coaching role with Bandon when I was 18. I was a month over-age for our U18s and became their manager! That was my first coaching experience. From there, I began my coaching education and have worked at every level in the club game.
‘It was Bandon AFC that gave me my grounding and foundation to become a coach. That’s why it was a great personal honour to eventually take over the club’s senior team and enjoy success with them.
‘I have family members who are deeply ingrained within the club including my brother, Sean, who is Bandon’s current senior manager. I’ll still keep going to all their games.’
Following in the footsteps of acclaimed Bandon managers like Niall O’Regan and Peter Jones was never going to be easy, especially after Bandon’s sensational run to the last 32 of the FAI Intermediate Cup, before losing to Glebe North of Dublin, in 2019.
So, helping Bandon transition and gain promotion from the Munster Senior League Second Division showed Holland possessed the necessary attributes to be a successful coach.
Those experiences, both positive and negative, as a player and coach whilst at Bandon have helped shape his resolve and philosophies.
He will need that resolve and more in his new role at a time Cork City FC lies third-from-bottom in the SSE Airtricity First Division standings. Holland’s working relationship with Colin Healy will be vital if City are to eventually turn things around.
‘Colin and I would have started the same year in Cork City’s Academy,’ he said. ‘Our paths would have crossed quite a lot and it was a relationship that just grew from there. Obviously, there is a lot of trust there.
‘First of all, Colin, as a player, enjoyed a great career. He’s very unassuming but anyone that’s represented their country at senior international level, played in the Premier League and for Celtic is going to possess a fantastic knowledge of the game. Colin is constantly thinking and looking to evolve as a coach to help his team.
‘Colin sets such a high standard in Cork City. I had been away from the training ground for the last six months in my other FAI coaching roles. Now that I’m back, the difference in the environment is crazy. Our training pitch is as good as anything you will get. The player’s room, the high quality of the food players are taking, the gym. Any player coming in to play for Cork City will meet a really positive and professional environment. That’s all down to Colin.’
So, what does Holland bring to the table in his new role as a League of Ireland assistant manager? Cork City are crying out for improved results, performances and, above all, consistency. This new role will test both Colin Healy and Holland’s resolve to the maximum.
The reality is that Cork City are in transition and need to blood and improve as many young players as possible from their academy over the next six months.
Football is a results-driven business though, and Holland doesn’t need reminding that the only way to improve City’s fortunes is to climb that First Division league table as quickly as possible.
‘First of all, before anything to do with coaching, learning someone’s personality will be the most important thing when first working with new people,’ Holland added.
‘Obviously, I will try to develop the players, but I know a lot of the lads already from Cork City’s academy. A good few of the other lads are new to me so creating that coach-athlete relationship will be important.
‘I want to bring my own playing and coaching experiences to City’s management team. The good thing is that Colin and I already work well together and he is always open to new ideas. It is simple really; I have to try and get the best out of the players every day.
‘You mentioned the word transition and I agree with you. In time, we need to see improvements on the pitch even though the First Division is a different type of league that Cork City fans are used to. It is a physical league so for us, it is about adapting to that and also, trying to bring our personality out on the pitch.
‘I've been going to Cork City games since I was a young lad. City fans want to see their players get on the ball and express themselves. They also want to see the other side of it and for players to show a bit of heart and a real desire to play for the club. So, it will be about working on those things every single day as City’s assistant manager.’