Midleton face UCC this weekend in search of their first Munster Division One win following their swift rise in recent times.
Formed in 2002, for a long-time the club existed in the more ‘social’ realms of the province’s league ladder with Midleton College’s brightest stars destined for clubs in Cork city and beyond. But a concerted effort to put more structure in place has yielded big dividends, culminating in their move into the top tier during the summer.
Such structure at youth level has seen numerous representative call-ups; currently, there are six Munster U16 panelists and five in the U18 equivalent. Keeping them at the club, though, was the big challenge.
“With the lads coming through, Division One is where we need to be at. We don’t want to be a feeder to an EY club anymore - we want to keep these guys and compete,” said co-coach Andrew Whitaker, a decorated player with Cork C of I before moving east.
“Over the years, when time was up at the school, they finished and went to UCC and then drifted off to Dublin or C of I and Quins and never really came back to Midleton. Between myself, John Jeffrey, Simon Casey and Andy Levis, we said we needed to put structure around training to get more discipline into it. A few years ago, four or five lads were finishing in school and we said ‘stay with the club and we will give this a good crack’. In the first year, the results weren’t great but the mindset did change.”
It is part of a wider development at the club with over 100 boys and girls under the age of 11 providing a sustainable project. “It’s a world away from where we were four or five years ago. The women’s team came and went; there were two men’s teams. Now we have 300-plus members - it’s a real development. But to hang onto players, we felt we had to get to division one for the boys.”
Whitaker says they have been competitive but naive in their first two outings, conceding twice in the last 10 minutes against Waterford to fall to 2-0 defeat while Ashton also struck twice late on in a 3-0 outcome.
UCC on Saturday, though, represent a major opportunity following the College side's 9-0 defeat at the hands of C of I.
Elsewhere, Hockey Ireland appears to be softening its initially draconian stance on teams unwilling to fulfil EY Hockey League fixtures. Three Cork teams did not travel and were initially fearful of mandatory 5-0 defeats being imposed - as per the regulations released last Friday - but that situation is now set to be reviewed.