The word among local soccer aficionados is that Cavan"s squad for the upcoming Kennedy Cup competition is the stronegst in the four years that the county has been taking part in the annual underage event in Limerick.
However, Cavan-based FAI Development Officer Tom Mohan, a former eircom League player who has been instrumental in helping develop the sport at underage level in the county, plays down expectations.
'They have done very well, there is no doubt it, but at this stage before the Kenendy Cup it"s morte about performances,' says Mohan, referring to Cavan"s impressive recent friendly wins over Longford and Inishowen.
'There have been some very good performances but still room for improvement.'
The Kennedy Cup takes place each June at the University of Limerick and is arguably the most prestigious soccer competition in the country. According to the official tournament website, 'the competition historically is the breeding ground for all future Irish under-age and senior International players'. Former players include Damien Duff, John O"Shea, Ian Harte and Roy Keane, who captained Cork to victory 25 years ago this summer.
'There are 32 leagues in the country and each league gets the opportunity to go into the Kennedy Cup,' explains Mohan.
'There are five or six of this year"s squad who were involved last year and two of them, Jonathan Leddy and Ryan O"Reilly, were there two years ago as well. It will stand them in good stead and give them good experience.'
The game is in rude health at underage level in the county, according to Mohan.
'There are about 12 clubs in the league at the different age groups, about six or seven teams in u13 league feeding into the K Cup team.
'There are a lot of good young players out there and it"s great testament to the clubs who are doing the work at grassroots level. It"s an even greater achievement considering the lack of facilities because a lot of the time you are very dependent on two or three clubs within the league,. Ballyjamesduff and Cootehill Harps have their own grounds and their pitches are used a fair bit. Other clubs hire pitches and get the use of pitches. It"s a major achievement considering the lack of facilities.'
Facilities, then, are everything. Fermanagh native Mohan, himself as former Derry City, Omagh Towna dn Finn Harps player, is adamant that everything else bar pitches are there for soccer to flourish in Cavan.
'The players are there, the coaches are there, the enthusiasm is there, the admin people and refs are there but facilities are holding us back at the minute,' he says.
The Cavan Underage Football League begins at Under 11 level and goes as far as Under 13 and continues to grow. The FAI have rolled out their Emerging Talent programme across the country and the system has come in for glowing praise in Cavan for it"s professional approach.
'The FAI are working with the leagues and there is a criteria that the league must meet every year. You must have up on 30 training sessions, work to different technique practices and tactical practices too.
It"s specific to the age group that the coaches are working with,' says Mohan.
'In fairness the league have been very supportive of the Emerging Talent programme and the clubs have been supportive too. All the coaches must meet a criteria of having the FAI coaching qualification for the specific age group they are working with also.
This year"s Kennedy Cup squad head to Limerick on Monday June 15 and face the daunting prospect of taking on the mighty Dublin District Schoolboys League (DDSL), winners in seven of the last eigth seasons, in their first group match.
'We"re in a very, very difficult group, probably the most difficult group down there,' explains Mohan.
'We"re seeded fourth in our group. The Dublin League is top-seeded and they haven"t been beaten in years, they win it every year. The Midlands and West Cork are also in our group.
Our first game is against the DDSL, it"s a real baptism of fire but has to be played and we"ll give it our best shot. There are good quality players within the squad who, in my opinion, can play in any company within their own age group in this country.
Indeed, the Cavan squad have attracted significant attention from scouts, with representatives of the likes of Blackburn Rovers and Fulham in attendance at recent matches.
Three budding stars - Jonathan Leddy, Caolan Reilly and Ryan O"Reilly - also attended Macherster United trials in Dublin.
'We had three lads went up to the Irish Man United academy and acquitted themselves very well and one of them, Ryan Reilly, has been asked to travel over and back on a number of occasions. Any game we play now, there are a number of scouts from English clubs attending the games,' say Mohan, who singled out league chairman Gerry Arrowsmith and secretary Lars Hammond for their support.
'There are more lads playing and great credit to the league for providing that opportunity for youngsters.
'The manager of the Kennedy Cup is Martin Kiernan Ballyduff, Brian Smith, who is the co-ordinator of the Emerging Talent programme, and Oliver Smith and Mark Quinn are assisting. Adrian McCann the goalkeeping coach, so there"s an excellent backroom team,' said coach Mohan.
'Hopefully, with a bit of luck, we"ll get the performances we"re after.'
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|Date:||Saturday, May 18, 2013 at 10:53:41 PM|