ANY West Cork Schoolboys League graduate fortunate enough to be signed by Cork City’s Youth Academy will gain invaluable experience under the tutelage of former Republic of Ireland international Colin Healy.
Capped 13 times by his country and having made a name for himself at Sunderland, Celtic and Manchester United, Healy has since acquired a UEFA B licence coaching qualification and is in the process of securing his A licence.
It is against this professional backdrop that four West Cork Schoolboys League graduates have agreed to join City’s Academy ahead of the new U13 and U15 League of Ireland campaigns. Along with the club’s coaching staff, Healy has run the rule over and agreed to sign Keith McCarthy (Dunmanway Town) and Sam Bailey (Lyre Rovers) for City’s U13s as well as Aaron Mannix (Dunmanway Town) and John O’Donovan (Ardfield) for City’s U15 squad.
March is an extremely busy time of the year for the Head of Cork City’s Academy with U17 and U19 League of Ireland campaigns a few weeks old and the newly formed U13 grade plus the U15 national leagues about the start.
‘It is a very busy time for us with four Academy teams on the go across a number of different leagues,’ Healy told The Southern Star.
‘The 15s, 17s and 19s have been joined by a brand new U13 age-grade. The U13s are something new for the club in that the FAI has introduced this league for the first time in 2019.
‘We have recruited very well for it including some excellent players from around the city and West Cork as well. There is certainly a lot of work to be done at Academy level within the club this year.’
Healy and his Academy’s decision to cast their nets beyond the city environs have resulted in West Cork Schoolboys League graduates McCarthy, Bailey, Mannix and O’Donovan making the step up to League of Ireland level. All four will be entering an ultra-professional set-up.
‘I am now working full-time inside Cork City as Head of the Academy and coaching our U19s as well,’ Healy explained.
‘Cork has a professional set-up in that we use a number of different coaches at each level (age-grade). Take the U13s for example, there are five very good coaches helping develop those players from the moment they sign.
‘Cork City is delighted to have put together such a strong coaching team to look after our newest and youngest group. We feel it is vital for those players, especially at the young age of 13, to get the best possible start within a League of Ireland club so we have gone out and gotten the best available coaches.
‘David Moore is the U13 manager and has a terrific reputation as one of the best coaches in Cork. Assistant Manager Alan Bennett needs little introduction and brings years of experience as a quality League of Ireland player. We also have Mark Turner (coach), Des O’Neill (coach) and Ian Giltinan (goalkeeping coach) who are all top quality coaches in their own right so any young player that signs for us will be given the best possible start.’
Football is a results-driven business but spend a short amount of time in Healy’s company and two words that keeps popping up are ‘player development’.
The Head of City’s Academy wants to succeed as badly as the next youth manager. Yet the bigger picture of developing a young player’s talents and giving them a foundation to possibly one day progress to senior League of Ireland level supersedes any win-at-all-costs mentality.
Equally refreshing, Healy repeatedly points out the importance of having a quality coaching structure in place so that City’s underage players have every chance of becoming better footballers.
‘David Moore, the other coaches and I spent a good three or four months looking at players all over the county before choosing the ones we wanted to sign for Cork City’s Academy,’ admitted the former Republic of Ireland international.
‘We can only sign a certain amount of players per squad so we did a huge amount of homework before signing anyone. The boys from West Cork have done very well for us so far. Keith (McCarthy) and Sam (Bailey) will be playing against top opposition, week in and week out, in the new U13 League of Ireland.
‘They are training regularly at a high level and getting fantastic experience of working with our coaching staff. That is going to bring them on but we are all about developing them as players first. That takes time but giving those boys the opportunity to grow and learn in a professional environment will make them better players. Again, it is all about developing their talents.
‘We are delighted to have Aaron (Mannix) and John (O’Donovan) on our books as well for the U15s. We are looking for a big season from both of them and all the players within our Academy. They are in the right environment and it is up to the coaches to push them and develop them so they are ready for the next level. Making them better players is the most important thing.’