Cork senior football manager Peadar Healy has endured a tough spell in charge of the Rebels since he took over from Brian Cuthbert. The Cork footballers have at times struggled for consistency, but the Ballyvourney native, who works as a guard in Glengarriff is hopeful his charges can enjoy a successful campaign this season. John Bohane recently met the genial GAA enthusiast who along with his hard working coaching staff are working overtime to bring the glory days back to Cork football.
Peader, who boasts a very impressive coaching resume, previously worked as a coach when the Cork senior footballers were guided by Conor Counihan. Peadar, who was appointed as the Cork senior football manager in October 2015, has been alarmed by the huge hours required to fulfill his managerial duties. “There is a lot of hard work involved. The workload is phenomenal. The time and hours put in by all the coaches and players alike, in their pursuit of success, is very demanding. We knew that before we took on this role, having seen at first hand the time required under Conor’s reign, but the levels of commitment required are unreal. The whole management team are putting in as many as 60 to 70 hours a week finalising preparations, going through analysis, coaching, meeting players and sorting out various issues for players and so on. I am very fortunate that I have a great backroom team with me and the commitment from the players is brilliant. There is a savage time commitment required and it is getting more time consuming which is worrying. There is a big intrusion I suppose also on your family. You are at your happiest really when you are out on the football pitch working with the players. It is a very demanding role, but I am enjoying the challenge.”
The Cork football manager’s job carries with it a great sense of expectation from expectant fans who are craving a return to the glory days. Another challenge Peadar faces is the growing threat of social media, while the mainstream media are also a constant presence. Peadar is not surprised at the high pressure job he has assumed. “No, not one bit to be honest. Every manager faces the same pressure, no matter whether you are Jim Gavin or Peadar Healy. The pressure is always on from fans. They want results today, but it just doesn’t happen overnight. It is going to take time to be competitive at the top level. We have to be patient in our quest to be competitive both in terms of Munster glory and All-Ireland honours. We have had to deal with a large turnover of players. We are focused on developing the players up to a standard where they are consistently competing at the highest standard possible. We have to become far more consistent. It takes time however. We all want the same thing success, but we have to be patient.”
Peadar is lavish in his praise for his family and garda colleagues at Bantry Garda Station whose unwavering support and assistance has enabled Peadar to fulfill his managerial duties with the Rebels. “Their support has been brilliant. It is much appreciated. Being realistic, my role couldn’t be done without their help, as I couldn’t just walk out the front door at home or at my workplace without somebody picking up the pieces. Norma and the kids have been great; their support has been invaluable.”
When the chance to relax from football and work commitments allows, Peadar likes to unwind by running or by relaxing in picturesque Eyeries. “I do a lot of running. I try and get out running around four or five times a week. There are a couple of lovely routes in Glengarriff that I enjoy. I love going to Eyeries and relaxing also. It is a beautiful spot and I just get away from it all and chill out. You can just switch off for a while and get away from the pressure. Another added bonus is the fact that there is no phone reception!”
Peadar, who was himself a gifted football player, initially got into coaching when he started helping out with the Glengarriff U16 football team after he answered an SOS from local youths. Peadar had no ambitions or desires to progress to the top of the managerial ladder at that stage. “Not at all. I had just started working as a guard in Glengarriff when a couple of young lads came knocking at my door wondering would I take on the challenge of coaching them. I accepted and we won the Beara championship. It all just fell into place really from there. It was great to get the Cork manager’s job. It was a very proud moment and a great honour.”
Coaching in recent years has changed significantly. Modern mangers are adopting blanket style defences and implementing specific kick-out strategies. Peadar agrees that the coaching dynamic has changed substantially. “Coaching has changed so much even in the last two or three years. I think everyone is looking for a certain type of player nowadays. You are looking for Croke Park players. What I mean by that is that they are athletes with a high skill level. Strength and conditioning is also a huge presence. Players look after themselves so professionally now. Players are now watching themselves 24/7. They are watching what they eat on a constant basis and they are managing their sleeping patterns. Players are being tested regularly and they are measuring their body fat on a regular basis. It is becoming so professional. All players require that dedication nowadays or else they won’t survive.”
Cork succumbed to Donegal in the fourth round of the All-Ireland qualifiers last season. Cork have not won a Munster championship title since 2012, while they last captured All-Ireland glory in 2010. Peadar accepts the Rebels are playing catch up with other sides in the chase for Sam. “It is a gradual process. First of all you have got to match the top teams for fitness. If you take Kerry and Dublin for example, their middle eight are clocking up between 10-13 kilometres every game, which is a massive statistic. We started at a low base when we took over. We realised that we were way behind with regards our fitness levels last year. We have sought to rectify that this year. We put in massive blocks of fitness training during the league campaign. We have put in savage amount of work and I hope our hard work will pay off. We are way ahead of where we were last year in terms of fitness.”
Peadar is greatly enthused by the dedication and commitment his talented squad of player continue to show in their pursuit of success. “Their attitude and efforts have been outstanding. They are a great group of players to work with. They want to improve and they want to win. They are proud Cork men and they are relentless in their quest for glory. My backroom team have been great also. They have put in a savage effort. Their commitment is top class. The players are operating in a very tough environment also as the margins are so small. Players might just miss out on the starting fifteen, but they then might miss out altogether on the 26 man squad, which is tough. We are trying to create the most competitive environment possible, a winning environment with every player competing against each other for places in the starting team. The players are giving up a lot of their time, they are making a lot of sacrifices to wear the Cork jersey. We couldn’t ask any more from the players. They have been terrific. Hopefully they will get their just rewards for their dedication.”
Cork endured a somewhat disappointing national league campaign this season. Having dropped down to the second division, they were expected to mount a sustained bid for automatic promotion back to the top tier. Peadar admits their league form was a mixed bag. “We wanted more from this year’s league campaign to be honest as every team wants to be operating in the top division. We drew three games which we should have won. We were well ahead in three of the games only to be pegged back for frustrating draws, which cost us three points. We kicked 16 wides against Galway, while we went nine points up against Meath in a home game we should have won. The last game against Down, we should have also closed out. If we had converted those draws into wins we would have been in a league final. The margins are very small. Coming into this year’s league campaign, we wanted to build a team and get more consistency and we achieved that.
The Cork adult teams and underage teams with a few notable exceptions have been starved of success in recent seasons. Peadar has very clear thoughts on how to bridge the gap on other teams. “It is all down to structures. We need to restructure the county championship. We also need a regular and constant training base for our development players and adult players. Every county has a permanent base. We need to get the structures right. The redeveloped Pairc Ui Chaoimh and the 4G training pitch will be great additions and I hope they will lead to a revival in results going forward.”
Peadar is looking forward to a strong championship campaign this season. “We have a very strong squad. We need a good level of consistency, the boys have put in a savage amount of work and I want it to pay off for them. We will take it one game at a time and hopefully we will enjoy a good campaign.”