Pictured above: The Bandon soccer contingent pictured after they helped Cork Schoolboys win last season’s U16s. Niall O'Regan, Peter Callanan (who has just joined Cobh Ramblers), Cathal Manning and Richie Holland.
John Bohane talks to Bandon native Niall O’Regan, who was recently rewarded for his coaching prowess when he was appointed as the new FAI Coach Education Manager, following the departure of his predecessor Greig Patterson to a similar coaching role with the Scottish FA.
Niall O’Regan has enjoyed a glittering coaching career since he first started coaching back in 2001, after he sustained a career-ending injury, which curtailed the playing activities of a gifted player who had represented Bandon AFC, Killreen Celtic and Castleview with great distinction. Niall participated in the first ever soccer academy at Colaiste Stiofan Naofa under former Cork City manager Liam Murphy for two years. He completed his UEFA B licence in 2006, before securing his UEFA A licence in 2011. Niall coached the Cork Schoolboy League team for 14 years, where he worked with players including Bandon ace Conor Hourihane, now plying his trade with League 1 outfit Barnsley and Celtic first team squad member Eoghan O’Connell. John Bohane reports.
Niall has progressed though the various coaching ranks with a history of coaching prowess at all levels of the game, from underage teams to adult teams in both men’s and women’s soccer. He has successfully managed Cork City Women’s FC and led Bandon AFC into the Munster Senior League Premier Division. He also coached Knockavilla FC in the Cork AUL. He has also coached Cork AUL’s Oscar Traynor Cup squad, the MSL representiative side, Munster’s inter-provincial squad, CIT women’s team and UCC men’s team in college soccer.
Niall is thrilled with his recent appointment as the new FAI Coach Education Manager, as he revealed. “I am absolutely delighted with my appointment. Over the past 15 years, I have worked my way through so many aspects of soccer here in both Cork and Munster. I have genuinely been involved in so many programmes that it is difficult, at times, to remember them all. They have, however, all played crucial roles in helping me build my coaching profile and have helped shape my coaching philosophy and ethos.”
Following on from the senior international teams successful qualification for the forthcoming European Championships, which will be played in France this summer, Niall is very confident that the various development plans implemented in recent years by the FAI will bear fruit in the imminent future as he elaborated. “I believe the coming two to three years will be extremely significant for the future of soccer in Ireland. Ruud Dokter released his player development plan last year to much acclaim, the recommendations from that are currently being processed at present. It is an exciting time to be involved in Irish soccer. The main role I will have going forward will be to continue the excellent work that Greig Patterson has done during his tenure as Coach Education Manager. Greig has worked tirelessly to ensure improvements were made on the coach education programme. He leaves his role in an excellent condition. There are many exciting programmes to finish off such as the alignment of the coaching pathway to the new player development plan, the introduction of new courses to ensure the coaching pathway provides a holistic achievable and logical sequence. Another key objective for me is the writing of specific curriculums and syllabus for the pathway. There is plenty to look forward to and plenty of work to be continued. That really excites me. Over the past 15 years I have worked extremely hard and committed my life to coaching, managing, working with coaches and analysing other sports. I will continue my professional development through the various courses available both academically and soccer specifically. This will however be the first time that I can give one role my complete focus, and that really excites me.”
Niall is indebted to his immediate family for their unrelenting support over the course of the last 15 years when he first started out on his coaching odyssey as he explains. “For me being appointed to this role with the FAI, demonstrates if you want to work in soccer it is possible. It takes a lot of commitment and hard work, but that is the same as what is required to win in any sport. I believe my success on and off the field is down to a lot of hard work. When you lead by example you enjoy the results and the success even more so. I genuinely have so many good memories to take with me into my new role. During all of this I have to thank my family members, my parents, brothers and sisters have been so supportive. They help drive you on when you hit those brick walls. I want to especially acknowledge the role my wife Stacey played. She has been so patient with me; there are times I am coaching or working seven days a week and we see each other very infrequently. She has always supported and driven me on. It takes a very special person to put my career ahead of us at times and having that support at home is the foundation to my success. Even though the new role is taking me away to Dublin, because my focus will be on one role going forward, it will enable me to spend more quality time at home. I am looking forward to that.”
Niall is also keen to pay tribute to all the clubs who displayed great faith and confidence in his coaching abilities over the last 15 years. “It really has been an amazing 15 years. I would really like to thanks all the various leagues and clubs who have supported me and given me great opportunities to learn my craft. Their belief has enabled me to develop myself as a coach, develop my ethos and philosophy. All of the hard work has really paid off but in truth it is only really starting again.”
As Niall previously alluded to, his new role with the FAI will see him decamp to their luxurious new headquarters in Abbotstown, Dublin on a full-time basis. Niall cannot wait to commence work with his new employers.
“The role will see me based in the FAI headquarters which are located in Abbotstown. I will be working under the guidance of the FAI High Performance Director Ruud Dokter. My main role will be the day-to-day management of the Coach Education staff, made up of some of the most experienced coaches in the country including Cork’s own Colin O’Brien, who is a former Cork City player. He is currently the Ireland U15 team manager. My role will see me manage the planning, preparation and delivery of the coaching courses throughout the country. I will be working closely with all the tutors, development officers and staff involved in the delivery of coach education courses. Additionally, Ruud has identified that we will be introducing new steps on the pathway and as part of this we will be travelling to other associations throughout the world in the coming weeks to evaluate and identify current best practice. Our first trip will be to the Belgium Association in the coming weeks, which is something I am really looking forward to. The Belgian Association has a very good coaching reputation. They have produced a number of very talented players into their senior international team in recent years following a development plan, which was first initiated in the aftermath of a failed qualification campaign. They have a very strong academy programme and development system, which we intend to study intently.”
Niall is very encouraged by the great progress of talented West Cork duo Peter Callanan and Connor Ellis, who are currently plying their trade with Cobh Ramblers and Cork City respectively. “I believe soccer in West Cork has a really bright future. It was great to see West Cork being so well represented in the league last season with Bandon’s Peter Callanan (formerly of Cork City), who will be playing for Cobh Ramblers for the coming season. Kealkil lad Conor Ellis is also performing very well at U19 level for Cork City. He is a very skillful and talented player, who is capable of performing at the highest level. He will no doubt be looking to get into the first team with Cork City sooner rather than later. With Ireland qualifying for the European Championships also, it is going to be an exciting summer of soccer ahead, which will only encourage more and more young people to get involved.
“On the facilities front, soccer in Ireland has taken huge steps forward in recent years thanks to the support of the FAI and through funding from grants etc. A large number of clubs are moving towards having the astroturf option. It is very important for the continued development of the game to ensure facilities are very good for the development of players. The introduction of the new player development and its emphasis on players getting more touches of the ball, in a non competitive environment in their earliest years is a great initiative. It really is an exciting time to be part of the development of soccer in Ireland.”
This soccer enthusiast and coaching prophet is always keen to keep learning and harnessing his natural coaching ability as he revealed his immediate short-term dreams. “My goals going forward are to learn as much as I can from the coaching education team and especially from Ruud Dokter, who has a very good coaching reputation. My aim is to work together with all the coaches within the FAI system to help continue to build the coach education pathway and help develop the best coaching programmes for our talented young coaches. During my coaching career I have been lucky to work with some amazing people and I have to thank Liam Murphy, Stuart Ashton, Mick Conroy, Jim McCarthy, Ken and Lesley Doyle MSL, Frank Kelleher, Ger Grady, and John Caulfield who have all mentored me over the past 14 years. In more recent years my management team of Richard Holland, Ivan Bevan, Kieran Dunlea, Andrew Doyle, Paul Hunt and Eileen Ring, were as committed and as professional as any coaches I have ever worked with. I cannot wait to get started in my new role.”