BY TOM LYONS
THE bigger towns must contribute more if West Cork schools are to compete properly in the Corn Uí Mhuirí, according to James McCarthy.
Skibbereen Community School, Clonakilty Community College and Hamilton High School of Bandon all competed in Munster’s top-level secondary schools football competition this year, but none of the three reached the knockout stages.
As well as being involved with the Skibb team, McCarthy is a full-time games development administrator (GDA) with the Cork County Board and next year he will take charge of the one-off Cork U17 team, which will cater for the players who miss out when minor changes from U18 to U17 in 2018.
Having seen Skibb lose to De La Salle Macroom in the Simox Cup (Cork post-primary U18âFC) last week, McCarthy feels that a greater push is needed.
‘At the moment we just don’t have the players and there’s a huge gap in ages,’ he says.
‘Against Macroom, Skibb had players ranging from 15 and a half to 18. The players are just not in the clubs, the numbers aren’t there. Skibb should be drawing from eight clubs but only three clubs were represented.
‘Our clubs, especially our big town teams, are competing at too low a level. This year you had Skibb, Castlehaven and Bantry all competing at minor A level, that’s three grades down from the top. Our big clubs in West Cork should be competing at premier level in all age groups, with the schools feeding off that.
‘It’s the same with the other schools. The last time Skibb won the Corn Uí Mhuirí, there was only one player from the Haven and one from Ilen on the team. These country clubs are now expected to backbone the school teams but, in fairness, while they are producing good players, they haven’t got the numbers every year. The big town teams should be backboning the schools.’
McCarthy is optimistic regarding progress, though.
‘I’d be confident that in a few years the kids now playing our ‘monster’ blitzes at U8 and U10 will come through,’ he says.
‘We have great numbers there, every rural club able to field at least one team and some of the towns like Clon, fielding three. But they must be organised and coached properly. If that is done we should prosper.
‘However, if Cork want to win the Corn Mhuirí any time soon, it must come from the city schools. They have the numbers now and they have the premier club players. Other counties are putting resources into central schools just for the football.’
The schools alone won’t solve the problem, however.
‘The basic skills have to be done properly before the kids ever get to secondary school,’ McCarthy says, ‘and then the teachers in those secondary schools could concentrate on just putting the team together.
‘The teachers just don’t have the time to be doing fitness, conditioning and skill work. The structures must be examined, too, the clash between club and school games.
‘Teachers can’t train teams when the players are training flat out with their clubs at the same time.’