New O’Donovan Rossa football manager Ned English is excited with his latest challenge as he spoke to KIERAN McCARTHY about his ambition to turn Skibb into the real deal
IT’S about time the sleeping giant of Cork club football was woken up – that’s the rallying cry from O’Donovan Rossa’s new senior football manager, Ned English.
The vastly-experienced Duhallow man has answered the Skibbereen club’s call and has been installed in the hot seat, succeeding Shane Crowley who stepped down after two years in charge.
English is very excited about the untapped potential in Skibb and, intriguingly, is preparing to do something that he hasn’t attempted before.
He also takes great encouragement from the noises emanating from the Skibbereen camp with the players, who held a recent meeting, said to be ready for a new challenge.
‘Everybody at this time of year is looking for someone to wave a wand over teams and suddenly change them into some magical. That’s not how it works,’ Kilbrin native English told The Southern Star.
‘What’s important about Skibb this year which is credit-worthy and has attracted me is that they have organised amongst themselves to have a right good go at it. They have done a lot of preparatory work to get themselves ready to apply themselves to whatever is put in front of them.
‘They are up for the challenge, they want to change, they are ready to work hard on all aspects of their game, and now they are challenging the likes of myself to bring some expertise and put challenges in front of them. That’s going to challenge me tremendously.
‘When you have a club like Skibbereen who want to change and are ready to work, then you really have to work at your top level to try and put something in front of them to keep them stimulated and interested, and to match their expectations.
‘I will enjoy the challenge of trying to match their expectations rather than the other way around.’
In 2015 O’Donovan Rossa impressed en route to the Cork SFC semi-finals – where they lost to neighbours Castlehaven – and they also won the Kelleher Shield title that same season, but their fortunes dipped this past year, losing to Avondhu in Round 2B of the championship and finishing mid-table in the league.
In recent years Skibbereen have watched on as other West Cork clubs have won the county senior football championship, notably Carbery Rangers this year and Castlehaven in 2012 and 2013.
In fact, since O’Donovan Rossa won their one and only Cork SFC title in 1992, which opened the door to that famous All-Ireland win, six other West Cork teams have shared 11 county senior football triumphs – Castlehaven (1994, 2003, 2012 and 2013), Bantry Blues (1995 and 1998), Clonakilty (1996 and 2009), Beara (1997), Carbery (2004) and Carbery Rangers (2016).
It’s time that changed, English says.
‘Rossa haven’t hit the high spots like other West Cork clubs in recent times. They’re a sleeping giant and it’s about time that giant was woken up,’ he stated.
‘I think they are ready to step up to the level of excellence, to step up from being a good team to being an excellent team. If you can take that small step from being good to excellent, that’s when you get rewards.
‘Every team is good, there are a load of good teams around West Cork, the challenge is to get to the next level, to be better than good. I sense that Skibb are ready to be excellent, and as such I am more than interested to help them.
‘I consider it a privilege to be involved in a team that sets high standards for itself – that’s the place where I want to be working.
‘They are really ready to put in a right challenge and that excites me.
‘I am going to put some very stimulating stuff in front of them and we are going to run a really professional set-up. They’re up for it. I’ve explained exactly what’s going to happen, we are going to do something that I haven’t attempted before, one because I haven’t had a football-only club for
a long time.
‘I am excited to be part of this. I will need to be at the top of my game to stimulate these guys. I can’t disappoint them, I need to challenge them. These guys’ level of expectation is high and that’s a challenge to the management team.’
English is an experienced operator who led Ballincollig to this season’s Cork SFC final, led Duhallow to the 2012 SFC final, has had stints with Ilen Rovers, Clyda Rovers (won Cork PIFC) and Drom-Broadford in Limerick when the club won the Munster title. He was also in the running for the Cork senior football manager’s role last year before the county board opted for Peadar Healy.
English’s recent meetings with Rossa club officials have also left a favourable impression on the north-Cork man who praised Skibb’s development of club facilities, underage talent, the commitment of club members and the hard work of chairman John Carmody.
He also added: ‘Football is strong in West Cork and it’s a pity it’s so far away because I’d be a lot more involved with sides there if it was nearer. Football means more to them in West Cork then it does in other parts of the county, not just to the people who play but to everyone involved and who support it.
‘Other parts of the county, the bigger metropolitan parts, I don’t think the same heart is there football as there is in West Cork. There’s a passion for the game there that’s a bit special.’