The new SSE Airtricity Under 15 National League; The view from Cork.

Andrew Horgan

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The old Cork City stadium in Bishopstown has played host to many historic football games in its time.
Although it’s best days are certainly behind it as it is now mainly used as a training complex for the first team, it still held such an occasion as recently as the 17th of August.
The club participated in the first-ever SSE Airtricity league under 15 match, which saw the Leesiders edge a five-goal thriller against rivals Kerry.
“League of Ireland clubs will only benefit from having this underage structure,” said Cork City operations manager Eanna Buckley. If you go around the world every club wants to bring through their own players. Look at Barcelona, La Masia and stuff like that, where they bring them in at a certain age, play in a certain system which prepares them for the senior team.
“I’m not saying it’s the same but certainly the earlier the club gets them, the earlier they’ll understand the club, its philosophy, making easier it is for them to graduate to the first team in time. Our plan is to give players every opportunity to progress as far as they can.”
Whilst being able to get the best young players in Cork to sign for the club at an earlier age will only benefit the side in the future, Buckley insisted they don’t want it to come to the detriment of their relationship with the local leagues.
“We’ve been massively lucky for most of our history that we have only had teams at the top of those underage groups and that’s down to the amazing work done by the clubs in the Cork schoolboys league and the West Cork schoolboys league. They have brought these players up and they tend to be at a certain level when they come to us.In the past, the relationship between us wasn’t as good as it should have been.
“But we want to foster that relationship, to build it on trust and put what happened in the past behind us. We won’t always agree on everything, you’re not going to, that’s football. There has to be a respect and a trust there between the club and the leagues, that’s the way it should be.”
Cork City fans in the iconic Shed - photo credit Justin Brockle (flickr)
Cork City fans in the iconic Shed – photo credit Justin Brockle (flickr)
Cork City’s under 17 manager Paul Bowdren is also set to be a major benefactor of this system although he won’t be able to call upon players from the 15’s until next season.
“Those lads are very young, they are mostly 14 so they’ll be able to play that age for another year,” said Bowdren.
“It’s good of course but there’s a problem with players leaving their local clubs who have nurtured them up through the years and now they’re coming to a League of Ireland club.
“Without being disrespectful to those clubs, they’re now playing at a national league and that’s where they have to develop, they’re now playing at the highest level.”
Of course, it’s not just Cork City who have been invited into this league with Cobh Ramblers also taking up the opportunity to register aside.
Unfortunately, their first game didn’t go as well as City’s as they suffered a 9-0 defeat to Wexford Youths.
But Cobh’s under 17 Damian Rowe was keen to echo Bowdren’s sentiments even if it does add further complications.
“For us, it will be great next year because I presume the under 15’s will then be able to play for us so I think that’s a good thing, we very happy with it,” enthused Rowe.
“I don’t even get involved with the financial side of it thank god but the facilities will worry me because we only have one pitch for four teams now.
“We’ve no separate training facilities so trying to get pitches can be very difficult with the Cork schoolboys league games on as well so that would be my concern going forward.
“They lost heavily but I don’t think that really matters.
“The team we have here will have a full year left at 15’s next season as well which will benefit them.”
Unfortunately for Eanna Buckley, he’s unable to escape the financial side of things that this new league brings.
John Caulfield has often spoken about the difficulties the Rebels face compared to other clubs in terms of traveling.
But even though the expenses are set to rise, Buckley is adamant it will ultimately stand the club in good stead.
“Yes it is (extra financial burden) but it has the potential to generate money as well as new fans.
“I still see guys who played for City at underage level and they’re often in Turners Cross with their kids.
“I’m aware of the costs and you can’t avoid those but there is a wealth of opportunity as well with more people becoming part of Cork City.”
Cork City under 15 coach Colin Healy challenges for possession during his playing days with the club - BohemianFC (flickr)
Cork City under 15 coach Colin Healy challenges for possession during his playing days with the club – BohemianFC (flickr)
Whilst the club will now welcome a host of new faces, it has already welcomed back some familiar names.
Former players Dan Murray, Colin Healy and Billy Woods will be in the dugout with the likes of first-team star Alan Bennett providing assistance.
“It’s brilliant to see those guys involved. If you’re 15 and you’ve just signed for Cork City and Colin Healy’s taking the training session that must be fantastic.
“If players are to progress we want to give them the best platform and who better to learn from than them?”
So far this has new initiative has been well received, hopefully, it can lead to more historic games on the horizon.

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Andrew Horgan

Freelance Sports Reporter.

  • Sadbh Maguire

    Great Article Andrew 🙂

  • Great coverage!