BY TOM LYONS
THE Cork U23 football development squad was set up to make sure players don’t fall through the cracks, explained Niall Twomey who was the man in charge against Carbery recently.
‘The squad was set up to cater for U23 players who might not be making the senior squad,’ explained Twomey, of Ballinascarthy and a former Bantry Blues star.
‘The programme runs for over ten weeks from January to March and we played five matches. We played MTU’s Sigerson team, the Cork U20s, the senior team on two occasions with lads who hadn’t played in the national league the previous day, and Carbery here tonight. That’s a game every fortnight.
‘In addition to the games, we’re doing a strength and conditioning programme with the players, under the stewardship of Aidan O’Connell. He has laid out a programme for each player but what’s important is that they are being tested once a month. There’s no hiding if you commit to this programme.
‘This is the senior football development squad, there’s a senior hurling squad and U18 squads as well. Everybody who shows up at club level and wants to be involved, U23, can get involved. Players with winning teams like St Michael’s, Kilmurry, Kilshannig, players who have won All-Irelands with Cork at U20 and minor, who might not make the senior panel, now have a pathway to the senior team. They have the chance to take the next step up, get an extra year or two of development and knock on the door of the senior squad.’
The ten weeks comes to an end on Thursday week, with a full testing for all the players. Players will be tested once a month for the summer. They will also be watched and monitored with their clubs to make sure they are progressing.
‘This squad will be gathered again next October, plus players who have impressed with their clubs during the summer and the next ten-week programme will begin again in January 2024. We stay outside the club window and we’re not asking too much of the players,’ Twomey said.
‘It’s something that was badly needed in Cork football as a lot of potentially good players were slipping through the cracks. And your form with your club is also vital, which is very important. That’s what senior management have asked for: serious competition at all levels to raise standards. The people involved with this squad are Graham Canty, Donagh Wiseman, Alan Quirke, Donncha O’Connor and myself.’