NEW Dohenys senior football manager Declan O’Dwyer is looking ahead to the 2021 season with optimism.
O’Dwyer takes over a young Dohenys panel that was unlucky not to emerge from last year’s Cork SAFC group stage. Defeat to Fermoy plus draws with Bandon and Clyda Rovers represented a disappointing return for an ambitious squad but O’Dwyer sees plenty of potential for the upcoming season.
‘To be fair to Denis Healy (previous Dohenys manager), he brought me in to help out with senior training about two years ago. The minute I did, I absolutely loved it and loved working with the lads,’ O’Dwyer says.
‘I was a lot more hands on last year and got more involved in the coaching side of things. Maybe I’m mad but my wife Amy knows me too well at this stage and has been extremely accommodating. We have a young daughter, May, so things are very busy at the moment.’
Dohenys GAA Club has been a part of O’Dwyer’s life for as long as he can remember. The transition from player to manager is a natural progression for someone steeped in his local club’s history.
‘I am involved with Dohenys all my life and played underage with Sam Maguires from a young age,’ O’Dwyer explains.
‘I played senior for the club for close to 12 years until I had to have an operation on one of my knees a couple of years ago. At the time, I was starting a new job and away from home for a few months. I guess I drifted away from football, to be honest, around that time.
‘That’s also the time my interest in coaching became more serious. I’ve always been interested in it, reading and listening to podcasts on the subject. I guess I knew that I’d end up becoming a coach or manager at some stage.’
There is a proud GAA tradition within the O’Dwyer family. Declan’s father James has been involved in coaching numerous underage teams and working on the administrative side of Dohenys’ set-up. Declan’s brothers, Micheal and John, have also represented the club at underage and adult level.
O’Dwyer has assembled a new management team including Robbie Ahern, Daniel O’Donovan, Paul Deane, Noel O’Donovan and Alison Hayes (strength and conditioning). This is unknown territory for the rookie senior football manager but O’Dwyer has hit the ground running.
‘Alison put a plan in place for the players last November. They have been working away since then and she has prepared an updated programme up until the end of January,’ O’Dwyer says.
‘Dohenys might have been a bit behind the top senior teams for a while but we are trying to change all that now. The base of our panel is from an exceptional minor team from three years ago. We had ten players starting senior A championship last year. That means progress will take time.
‘Senior A is an extremely hard championship but a great competition for Dohenys to be involved in right now. Results didn’t go the way we wanted last year and there is definitely room for improvement. We were treading water in the (old) senior championship so the restructuring has really helped Dohenys.’
The 2021 county championship draws are yet to be made but Dohenys know they will be a fourth seed.
That means three difficult games no matter who comes out of the hat but O’Dwyer is confident his young team can rise to the challenge.
‘This year, we are playing Division 3 League even though no one is quite sure of the format. It will absolutely key we get out of that division as quickly as we can. Dohenys played a few Division 1 and 2 teams in challenge games and the difference is standard was clear. Playing those types of teams on a regular basis can only benefit us,’ O’Dwyer adds.