Castlehaven is hungry for glory again

Liam Collins

Posted on: 11th April, 2017

Category: Sport & Fitness

Contributor: John Bohane

Castlehaven GAA Club have turned to a steady pair of hands in their former star full back Liam Collins to guide their senior football team this season. This represents a first managerial role for the talismanic figure who carved out a reputation as one of the best full backs in the county during his playing career. Liam now begins a new role as manager of a team that has not captured a senior county final title since 2013.

He will be charged with reviving the fortunes of this illustrious club who have captured the senior county championship title on five occasions. Liam cannot wait to get started with The Haven senior footballers. “It is a huge honour to be chosen as the new senior football manager. It came as a bit of shock to get asked to take the job initially. It was a great privilege to be asked however. My main worry from the outset was how would I get the time to juggle family, work and managing a club team? I was a bit hesitant initially but when they renewed their interest in me, I saw it as a great honour to be chosen to lead the team for the season ahead. The more I thought about the role, the more I felt I could offer them something going forward. Great coaches have gone before me and they weren’t afraid to put their hand up and take control, so I decided I would do it. Hopefully it will go well for me.”

Castlehaven have a strong backroom team who will assist Liam in his quest to bring silverware back to the famed GAA club. He has called upon the services of Fergus Shanahan, Batt Maguire and his uncle Bernard Collins, himself a former great player. Liam is very happy with his selectors. “They are three men I know very well. I played with Fergus throughout my career. Batt has great experience from coaching junior and underage teams. He will do a lot of the administrative work, which will be a great help to me, while Bernard was very eager to get involved. That is the key point; that all three men all wanted to help me, which is great. They are all great football men who have a firm love for the club. We are a happy camp so far.”

Liam, who turned 37 recently, was playing competitive football for Castlehaven up until last season. While he still feels he could compete at junior level this season and his appetite for playing remains as a strong as ever, he accepts that his new managerial role will require all his levels of attention this season, as he elaborated upon. “I don’t think I will play competitive football this season. I haven’t fully decided yet but it would be too hard to combine playing with managing. My body is a bit knackered after so many years playing football. This new role requires my complete focus and dedication, which means I won’t have time to train either, which would rule me out from a fitness perspective anyway. When you are chosen as a coach, I feel you have to take a step back from training on a personal level and devote all my energy and concentration on the players needs. I will miss playing however. I loved playing for the club. If I hadn’t take on this role this season, I would have played junior once again this season.”

Liam enjoyed a stellar and distinguished career with Castlehaven. He is one of the most decorated players ever to adorn the famed blue and white jersey. Liam retains great memories of playing with his beloved club. “I enjoyed a great career, full of great memories and great moments. I am fortunate that I played for Castlehaven during such a successful era in our history. I got so much out of the game. I made great friendships and won a lot. I enjoyed a great career. I also enjoyed playing with the various school and college teams during my career. I was also fortunate to be part of a Cork U21 football team that won a Munster championship title after we defeated Limerick. I built great friendships with all those players during my career which is another great part of playing sport.”

Liam burst on to the Castlehaven senior team in 1997, as a teenage star operating at midfield. He played a key role in propelling them to Munster championship glory. His qualities were then required from a defensive perspective. He became one of the mainstays of the Castlehaven senior football side who captured county honours on three occasions in 2003, 2012 and 2013 respectively. Liam recalls their three county titles with great pride. “They were all great occasions. I was lucky to play with some great players during my playing career. When I first started off in 1997, I was playing with players such as Niall Cahalane, Larry Tompkins and John Cleary. They were superb players. The team in 1997 was full of great players such as David O’Regan, Michael Maguire, Liam O’Connell, Mike O’Brien, the Crowley brothers and all the Cahalane brothers, it was a great team to join. I learned a lot off all those players. It was a great introduction to the senior club scene. Winning the Munster final was an unreal experience. It is now looking back at your career that you treasure these memories.”

Despite his glittering club and underage inter-county career, which saw him capture a plethora of major honours, Liam still regards his best GAA memories as playing with ace duo Larry Tompkins and Niall Cahalane. “I would have to say the experience of playing with them and seeing at first hand they way they played has to be the best memory. They were really special players. I remember going down to Killarney and watching them help Cork defeat Kerry in Munster championship games over a sustained period. To play with them was just an unreal experience. They were truly great players. They were winners. They expected and demanded the best from every player. It was an eye-opener for me at such a young age but it stood to me as my career progressed. If you didn’t learn from players like them there was something wrong. Tompkins was an unbelievable man, a very demanding man on the pitch. He set high standards and losing was not an option. They were great leaders. They had a big influence on my career.”

Liam succeeds James McCarthy in his new role as senior manager. James has previously guided the Castlehaven senior team to two county titles. He has served under a host of great managers during his playing career. Will he try and replicate various coaching styles from previous managers or will he adopt a fresh approach? “I had the privilege of playing under a lot of top managers. I learned a lot off each of them. I haven’t much coaching experience under my belt. I have previously worked with the U21, minor and U16 footballers. I am however always anxious to learn. I have built a good management team around me. I will be constantly picking up new things and learning as I go. We have our own ideas, while I will draw on stuff I have learnt off previous managers. We are determined to go in and do a good job.”

Liam, who works in the family building business, alongside his father Christy and his younger brother Bernie, is indebted to his wife Pamela and his two children Jessica and Tom, for their constant love and support throughout his footballing career. “Their support means everything to me. I am lucky they are so understanding. I have a busy schedule with work and football but I always make sure I enjoy some family time.”

Castlehaven have an array of young and talented footballers coming through at present. Liam is looking forward to working with them. “We have a lot of good young players in the club. We will be expecting them to step up and keep progressing as footballers. It is up to them really. If they put in the effort at training, they will get the opportunities.”

Castlehaven’s hopes of a successful campaign have been dealt a substantial blow with the recurrence of a long-term hamstring injury sustained by their inter-county star Brian Hurley. Liam is hopeful the ace full forward will bounce back in the foreseeable future. “It is devastating news for Brian. He worked so hard to get back playing once again; it is a real blow for him. He loves football and playing for Castlehaven. He has a tough road ahead. He is getting a second opinion on his injury, which will hopefully bring positive news. He has a great attitude, he is very positive and I have no doubt he will be back playing in the near future once again.”

Castlehaven begin their championship campaign with a first round game against CIT on Monday, April 17 in Newcestown. Liam is looking forward to leading his side into championship battle. “We beat them last season but that game will have no bearing on this game. They will have a totally new team. We will prepare as best we can. We will concentrate on ourselves and be ready for a tough game. Hopefully we can enjoy a good year.”

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