There cannot have been too much dispute among the Rebel Óg Monthly Awards judging panel when it came to deciding the final winners of the year.
Throughout the various age-grades, Douglas GAA Club enjoyed a stellar year: The U13 sides won five of seven competitions entered and the U15s and U16s claimed Premier grade doubles, winning both leagues and championships.
High times then for the southside club, but not something that happened overnight, as underage chairman Barry O’Donoghue outlined.
“I’m chairman for the past four years,” he said, “but the structures have been there before that so credit must go to those who put them in place.
“We have 250 underage players in the club so it’s important to keep on top of things. We have weekly meetings on Tuesday nights and if we come across any problems we try to sort them out.
“Everything is at a cost, but we have a great underage committee. We run discos and have a weekly lotto, but it all adds up and we’re always looking for new sponsors and the like.”
With such a volume of success, credit must go to the collective effort, but O’Donoghue feels the work of Eddie Murphy is a major factor for ensuring the high level of output from the production line.
“Eddie is there as a full-time coach. He looks after the kids for after-school training,” he said.
“He also coaches St Columba’s Boys’ National School, who are regularly in the highest-level Sciath na Scol finals. He’s an absolutely fantastic guy, he knows all the kids by their names, he knows their mothers and fathers too. The kids have great respect for him, he’s a great ambassador for our club.”
Of course, it is not all plain sailing, but O’Donoghue feels knowing the weaknesses and threats mean Douglas are well-prepared to deal with them.
“Our biggest problem is pitches, we have two but we’re land-locked,” he said.
“We have the numbers and we have the success at underage, the next step now is to bring that forward. We’re a dual senior club, one of the few, but we need to be winning counties.
“There are a lot of other games, and when kids become teenagers there are other temptations, we lose a few through that.
“Our U16 team, they were beaten in the All-Ireland Féile final two years ago and the majority are still around but it’s about trying to keep them interested.”
The chairman of the judging panel, Mick Evans, is a Douglas man so in the interests of fairness he absented himself from adjudication. In his speech at the ceremony on Monday, though, he spoke of how it is instilled in players from a young age that they are not just a footballer or a hurler, they are a Douglas footballer or hurler.
One of the young stars, U16 player Kevin Flahive, says that pride is real.
“Massively,” he said, “when you put on the jersey there’s nothing better.
“Barry mentioned Eddie Murphy. From the ages of five and six there are young fellas down there and he’s training them and training them, instilling the basics.
“When you start, your ambition is to play for Douglas seniors, so it’s fantastic to be winning at underage on the way up.”
The ultimate aim is to emulate Douglas stars Eoin Cadogan and Eoin Cotter in going on to represent Cork at senior level. Having a pair of role models like them cannot be overestimated in O’Donoghue’s view.
“The two Eoins are fantastic,” he said. “The kids look up to them and if we ask them to come to a presentation or a training session they will.”
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