Behind the Scenes: CCFC Academy

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One specific fact at the FORAS AGM in January painted a telling picture of the development of Cork City in terms of football in recent years. At the beginning of 2015, the club had just two teams – a men’s senior and U19 squad. This year, the club will field eight different teams representing players from right across the community (men, women, boys, girls and amputee players).

The U19s and U17s are the most established squads in the underage national leagues, two groups that came back to pre-season training in December. Each squad trains four nights a week, with match fixtures either on Saturdays or Sundays during the season.

A typical week for players includes training on Monday and Tuesday evenings, followed by recovery on Wednesday. Another evening of training on Thursday is followed by further recovery on Fridays. The training schedule includes two gym sessions, video analysis work, a strength and conditioning programme and preparation for the squad’s next fixture.

Head of Academy is Colin Healy, the man responsible for ensuring that everything ticks over day-to-day and standards improve year on year.

“I’ve been a professional player since I was 17. I’ve been at some good clubs where we had the best of everything, and I’d like to think we have high standards here as well,” he told City Edition. “What we want players to understand is that there are standards here and they need to respect the people around them. As time goes on, people will see players coming through and that is my job.”

Colin works with the U19 squad alongside Richy Holland and Colm Bermingham. Liam Kearney, Cathal Lordan, Brendan O’Sullivan and Alan Belmajdoub look after the U17s, Billy Woods, Dan Murray, Cormac Cotter and Anthony Fennelly the U15s, and David Moore, Alan Bennett, Mark Turner, Des O’Neill and Ian Giltinan for the U13s. Eoin Cleary and Barry O’Callaghan give dedicated strength and conditioning support to the U19s and U17s respectively, while each age group also has its own video analysis team.

“There’s a huge amount of work involved with four teams but the coaches are well organised. Each team looks after its own logistics including kit and we also have Éanna (Buckley) who helps out when needed. I focus on ensuring everything’s in place, that training’s up to scratch and help out anywhere that’s needed. With all teams, and especially the U19s, we want to ensure the players are ready for that next step up.”

The coaching teams aim to have players involved at every age group for two years if possible. That does not, however, guarantee any player his place without hard work, effort and adherence to the Academy’s requirements. The coaches see each other throughout the week, and plan regular sit-downs to discuss specific players and what might be done to enhance individual’s progress.

“Everything we do is about getting these kids to the next level. We want to give them every chance to become better players. If they have a chance to get into the Irish setups, for example, it makes a huge difference pulling on that green jersey. The schoolboy clubs do fantastic work, but when players come to us, they’ll be playing against the best in their age group nationally. Doing that, you’re only going to improve as your decision-making has to be quicker, and you’re fitter and stronger.”

What the thing that most surprises people about the Academy?    

“All the coaches want to give these kids every chance of becoming a professional player but you need something back from them as well. We need them to realise there are standards here and that they’ll need to work hard for those standards to be met.”

This article originally appeared in Cork City FC’s match night programme, City Edition.

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