The success of the Cork minor football team this year is proof of the benefits of underage coaches migrating upwards with their teams, according to Jamie Wall.
Bobbie O’Dwyer’s side were able to lean on the experience built up over three years together as a group, and Wall, who led the Cork U16 hurling side to an All-Ireland tournament victory earlier this month, feels that such foundations are of immeasurable value.
“I think it’s very important with kids this age, who have so much more going on in their lives nowadays, that you have a management team that has built up a relationship with them,” he says.
“Especially when you move to a two-year age-group like minor is, it’s important to have a reference point from both. I would personally feel strongly that you need to have people who know the players.
“What’s happening now is that there are really good coaches in at underage, so the long-term plan is that it might look like a one-year term as minor manager, but what it actually is that your term starts at U15 and lasts for three years, so that you can develop the group, rather than just parachuting someone in cold at minor level.
“This is going to improve again. It has been good for the last few years but, with Aidan O’Connell in now [as high-performance director], it’ll kick up another notch and you’ll have another level of expertise.
“I think that that’s a progressive pathway to follow.”
Cork beat Limerick and Tipperary to claim the U16 A-grade tournament in Mallow, with 52 players involved across the A and B competitions. Wall was pleased that he and his management team cast the net wide.
While Jim ‘Tough’ Barry said that Cork hurlers were like mushrooms in that they could appear overnight, Wall feels that the end product masks a lot of developmental work.
“I’ve often taken issue with the quote about the mushrooms,” he says.
“Not to say that I’m hammering the greats of Cork hurling, but I actually think it’s the wrong analogy, I think that diamonds is a lot better comparison.
“The thing about mushrooms is that they’re not there one minute and then they are, but that’s never been the case. They’ve always been there in Cork — some of them are at the rock-face and some need a bit of digging.
“The players are there, if you just do your job. It’s too much of a sporting county, with too high a population, for the talent not to be there.
“There’s loads of goodwill there, you just have to harness it. Ballymartle, Blarney, Bandon, Carrigtwohill, all provided pitches, Erin’s Owen dug us out of a hole one day and they couldn’t wait to help.
“Over the course of the summer, we had Brian Murphy and Seán Óg Ó hAilpín coming in to do sessions with our backs, too. They couldn’t wait to do something for Cork — guys are waiting to be asked to help.”