NEW West Cork Schoolboys League Secretary David Hall is on a mission to enhance and develop the region’s reputation, clubs and young footballers.
Hall is no stranger to the West Cork soccer community. Any Saturday, he can be found refereeing underage games whenever he is not coaching the WCSL U12 Inter-League squad in the SFAI Subway Munster Championship or heavily involved in the West Cork Emerging Talent Programme (ETP).
His desire to build on the schoolboys league’s growing reputation and help develop the region’s clubs as well as their emerging players saw Hall accept the role of secretary in a new-look WCSL Committee.
‘My new role is secretary of the West Cork Schoolboys League and I believe I have a strong skillset to bring to the position,’ Hall explained.
‘When I looked at football in West Cork, I felt that there was a need to move things along and further the great work completed over the past number of years by previous committees. I feel I have fresh ideas and a real desire to bring the West Cork Schoolboys League on a par with other schoolboys leagues around the country. That’s the main reason I took on the role.’
Hall holds a UEFA A Coaching Licence and has been putting his experience to good use since first getting involved with the ETP. What’s clear to the new secretary and U12 Inter-League coach is that a long-term plan is needed to keep youths football on the front foot in West Cork.
‘I have strong views on how we can enhance our ETP and been bringing those ideas to the forefront since I first got involved,’ Hall stated.
‘The professionalism, organisation and administration of how we do things is vital. I’m delighted that we have already had significant buy-in from the parents of children within our West Cork ETP system.
‘I feel that there is an on-going issue with raising funds and developing proper playing facilities in West Cork. What I want to do is put in place a plan, in conjunction with our clubs, to help develop football here. When it comes to (youths) football, we seem to have been going from month to month and been a reactive organisation rather than a proactive one.’
An early example of one of Hall’s proactive ideas is the introduction of a new WCSL U11 age-grade. West Cork has perennially run competitive league, cup and shield tournaments for children aged 12 to 16. As well as that, the WCSL runs hugely popular indoor Futsal (thanks to Ray Claffey and Daniel McCarthy) plus outdoor astro (thanks to Hugh O’Reilly) blitzes for schoolchildren aged between seven and 11 years of age.
Now, the addition of a U11 Championship division – to be played on smaller grass pitches – brings West Cork into line with most other schoolboys leagues in the country.
‘What we have been observing over the past few years is that kids in West Cork have been jumping into the U12 age-grade but lacking the fundamentals to compete in it,’ Hall said.
‘We felt that there was a need for children to get on the pitch and enjoy playing their football at U11 without much competitiveness. That (U11) year will help them understand the basics of playing and moving on a smaller-sized pitch.
‘More importantly, we want them to experience the joy from seeing and playing on a freshly-cut lined pitch with goals. It is a big thing for a boy or girl of that age nowadays so we would like to get West Cork players to experience that sooner than U12.
‘Engaging with players at a younger age is hugely important. We are seeing it at ETP level now when we face the likes of Limerick and Cork in U12 Inter-League competition. They are already a year ahead of us as their kids have already had a structured year at U11. That has had West Cork at a distinct disadvantage but now we have introduced a U11 Inter-League ETP squad as well as a U11 Championship for 2020.’
The West Cork Schoolboys League voted to stick with a March to November calendar season over the next three years after much debate and an emergency general meeting. Clubs were split close to 50-50 on agreeing to change from their traditional format but Hall believes it will be the right decision in the long run.
‘I think it was a vitally important decision but that there has to be some degree of balance,’ he admitted.
‘Responsibility ultimately lies with the clubs, but everyone has to be all in to make it a success. Referees, clubs, club chairman, league officials, we must all pull together for this new season format because if one element falls down it won’t work.’
Covid-19’s outbreak has halted the WCSL’s new season before it ever got a chance to get started. Yet, the right choices are being made when it comes to cancelling sporting events according to Hall.
‘As you’ll notice from our fixture-list, we made a concerted effort to get the league started in early March,’ Hall concluded.
‘It is unfortunate that fixtures have gone but that was done so the government can move on to the next phase of dealing with the virus. The whole nation has its bit to do to stop Covid-19 and football is no different.
‘Sacrifices have to be made everywhere and football is just a small part of that when it comes to the general health of the nation.’