NEW Cork City manager Colin Healy is confident that West Cork can remain a strong breeding ground for the club.
Schull’s Ronan Hurley is one of the City senior players who has re-signed for the coming season under Healy, who has stepped up his role as head of the club’s academy to take the reins of the senior team.
The former Republic of Ireland international believes that Hurley’s success will be a good example for future youngsters from the west seeking to make it with the Rebel Army.
In the recent past, Dylan O’Neill of Rosscarbery, Kilmeen’s Sam and Tim Bailey, Liam Murray (Caheragh), Bantry native Brian O’Sullivan-Connell, Aaron Mannix from Dunmanway and Ardfield's John O’Donovan have become part of the club’s academy and Healy wants to find more like them.
‘We did bring some young lads up from West Cork to join the academy and they did really well,’ he says.
‘We have boys in the U13s and the U15s and they’ve made an impression. We have a big catchment area and the academy is going very well. You’d like to think that, if they are too good for the local leagues, they’d be willing to test themselves with better players inside in the academy.
‘You see Ronan Hurley breaking through into the first team, which is great. He’s a good example for them to look at.
‘You have to show the right attitude, show that you want to become a professional footballer and that you’re willing to put in the hard graft. If they do that, then there will be opportunities.’
Having been in interim charge of the team after Neale Fenn’s departure in October, Healy had his appointment as full-time boss confirmed on Christmas Eve. Since then, he has been working on securing the services of much of last year’s team.
‘It was done on Christmas Eve and it was more or less straight to work then after that,’ he says.
‘It was a case of speaking to the players and seeing what could be done. With the takeover and all that kind of stuff in the background, there were a lot of people worried about what was happening, players didn’t know what they were doing.
‘When I did get the job then, it was case of getting the head down, getting to work and speaking to the players as quickly as possible.
‘A lot of the guys have re-signed back and it’s great that they have. The season last year didn’t go well for them, it didn’t go well for anybody to be honest, but it’s great for them to stay with the club and to say, “Listen, we can go on and have a good season.”
‘It just shows that loyalty that the lads have, they’re the players that you want and that, when you put them on the pitch, you know what you’re going to get out of them.’
Healy is also confident that his previous role involved with the underage sides will allow for a seamless pathway to the top level.
‘I know all the kids in the academy, it was my job to do that,’ he says.
‘I know all of the players in the U17s and the U19s, there’s some fantastic talent in there. They’re still young at the moment, but the academy is in a very good position.
‘I’ve been there and I know the kids, so that’s a big help if I need to tap into the underage set-up.
‘I love the academy. I was there for two or three years and I really enjoyed it. We had a lot of good coaches and good players and I met some really nice people there.
‘I got into the interim role with the first team for the last five or six weeks of the season. I know it was difficult times and obviously relegation wasn’t good but I enjoyed it and I got a good buzz from it.
‘I felt that if the job did come up for me, I would definitely be interested in it and luckily it did.’
With a date for the beginning of the SSE Airtricity League season still to be announced, City haven’t returned to training just yet. Even so, Healy is aware of the size of the task as they prepare for life in the first division, with John Caulfield’s Galway United one of their promotion rivals.
‘There’s always expectations at Cork City,’ he says.
‘I keep going back to this but we didn’t have a great season last year. We just have to put a team together at the moment and we’ll just see how things go.
‘At the end of the day, it’s all about three points. There are going to be different styles of play, you can’t just stick to one. There will be different tactics, when you’re playing different teams you’re going to have make changes. That’s just the way it is, it’s about trying to find a solution to win three points. That’s what we’ll do.
‘We’ll keep working hard and if players become available then we’ll look at them. With Covid now, looking at players around the country and abroad is difficult but we were on the lookout for players, definitely.
‘Things are up in the air at the moment with a few players and we’re still talking to people as well. It’s still early days.’