Strength in unity key to O’Connell’s ambition for Rebels

The most pressing “to-do” item in the inbox of Cork’s new high performance manager Aidan O’Connell is “getting the right people on the buses”.

Strength in unity key to O’Connell’s ambition for Rebels

The most pressing “to-do” item in the inbox of Cork’s new high performance manager Aidan O’Connell is “getting the right people on the buses”.

Ahead of the 2020 season, O’Connell wants to ensure that each county management team is backed by the best professional support, from strength and conditioning to nutrition to performance psychology.

The Ballyclough man began the role last Monday week having stepped away from Munster Rugby as strength and conditioning coach after being with the province for 17 years. So far it’s been a case of meeting the coaches and managers — new minor hurling manager Dónal Óg Cusack spoke on Wednesday about having discussed plans with O’Connell for a few hours.

O’Connell revealed he has reached out to individuals at the Rugby World Cup about the possibility of coming on board with Cork.

“At this time of year, managements are building their teams so it’s about who do you want on the bus. What about people going off the bus?

“Literally, it’s about having a lot of conversations about the services provided to all the teams and trying to put that jigsaw together.

“Obviously, it’s my first year so I’m trying to get to know as many of these providers as I can in the Cork area and Ireland.

“I’ve made a lot of phone-calls outside Ireland to Australia, to Japan at the moment just looking for people who are interested in helping Cork. It’s like players — the aim is to get the best talent available working for Cork.”

Each appointment O’Connell makes has to meet certain criteria so that synergy can be attained.

“Eventually, there will be fitness test procedures starting at U15 all the way up along so everything will be aligned and connected and the people working there will fit the philosophy of high performance systems. What we’re trying to avoid is renegades and people coming in with their own philosophies. We need it to be aligned and structured so it can grow.

“Obviously, I will support it (the system) but I have to challenge it and constantly review what’s working and what’s not working.

“What was happening with a lot of inter-county teams was there was so much change. Now, at least I provide the stability there.

“I think at one stage there were four strength and conditioning coaches in four years with the footballers. You want to stop that happening.

“You can’t stop management coming and going but you can have a semblance of stability. There are a lot of moving parts. It’s my job to knit those parts together.”

The advertisement for the position “jumped off the page” for O’Connell.

“Firstly, I’m a Cork man through and through. Secondly, there’s a lot of talent in Cork in terms of coaches and players. I felt I could add value to that. Finally, I’m just excited about the vision that Kevin (O’Donovan) and the executive of the board have to move the county forward. It was all those factors combined (that shaped his decision) but it’s a position in which I wanted to challenge myself as well because whether you’re a journalist, a player or a coach there’s always another level in you and this job came up and I wanted to jump up a notch in terms of management. I feel I have the experience at this stage.

“You’re always putting your best foot forward and hopefully the bus that you want to jump onto will pass.”

O’Connell envisages conditioning players along a designated pathway.

“You start with the fundamentals of strength and conditioning (at U16) so can they move well and once they can move well you can start adding weight to that. But what you’re trying to do is develop powerful, strong players; players who have wiry strength — they don’t have to put a huge amount of weight on them.

“You’re also teaching them the fundamentals of nutrition at that stage, the fundamentals of performance psychology at that age and then layer it as they go up the system.

“It’s a progressive approach.”

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