It wasn’t too long ago that Cork City were on the brink. After a turbulent time the club who just battled their way to brilliant title success were in the courts battling for their life.
Indeed, in 2009 the High Court issued a wind up order on a club that couldn’t pay its debts. Then there is the famous story of how seven years ago one of Ireland’s most celebrated football names went to play away in Derry City as a club made up of only 13 players and a bag of tracksuits.
During those dark times League of Ireland top flight success seemed light years away. However, while the club and team were miles off ultimate Irish football success now manager John Caulfield was even further away.
Cork were in trouble, but still being part of the league meant however unlikely League of Ireland success was still possible. The manager, who masterminded this seasons title victory, was at that stage only in a position to celebrate amateur footballing success.
Before Caulfield took charge of Cork in 2014 he had build a reputation as a manger of note at grassroots level. The former City front man had an extremely impressive spell with Avondale before taking the reigns at UCC and a job that has a little more scope to it.
— Cork City FC (@CorkCityFC) October 17, 2017
The manager, who has brought the buzz and flow back to Leeside, did coach at underage level, but really caught the eye at ‘The Dale. Indeed, he transformed the club in his eight year stint with the now Munster Senior League big guns.
Caulfield took over a side in the second tier and pushed them side to promotion and beyond.
In fact he oversaw back to back FAI Intermediate Cups from 2005-2007 and won two MSL top flight league titles during his reign. He also laid the foundations that would see the amateur side become the most feared Intermediate side in Ireland.
The manager of the current League of Ireland champions then moved to UCC and stepped back down to the MSL second tier. Caulfield was then tasked with bringing back the glory days and while he won promotion-as champions- and the Collingwood Cup in his first season he didn’t quite have time to repeat his Avondale FAI Intermediate success.
Cork City manager John Caulfield gets caught in the midst of the celebrations, as he leads his side to their first title since 2005! pic.twitter.com/wLiGwBIjqO
— Sportsfile (@sportsfile) October 18, 2017
However, the former coach is credited with laying foundations that helped the Students win the Munster Senior League Premier title last season and they enter this term as ones to watch out for in the nationwide competition that is decided at the Aviva Stadium.
It’s a brilliant tale, the kind only sport can produce. A road that started coaching kids locally and took pit stops in the Munster Senior League and within the collegiate set up lead to title success and leaves Champions League football just around the corner.
Personally it’s a sensational achievement for the manager himself, but could Cork’s title win and it’s roots in amateur football be a boost for the grass roots game?
When Caufield hit out a ‘cosy cartel’ of managers this season he did so in defence of criticism his side were receiving, but the phrase wouldn’t have been lost on amateur managers around the country.
There is a feeling among the amateur game and even among those involved in the League of Ireland that the same old faces pop up in different places. At times the League of Ireland has the same feel to it as the celebrity TV show circuit.
Old faces jumping from club to club like former celebs following stints on I am a Celbrity Big Brother Get Me Out Of Here with time spent on Dancing on Ice before a cameo appearance in Love Island.
That analogy might be a bit too harsh as there are a host of good coaches in the league, but there is always questions among grass roots followers as to why when appointing a new manager those competing at the highest level of the amateur set up are never considered.
"We felt we could go to another level" – Cork City manager John Caulfield on winning the Airtricity League Premier Division. pic.twitter.com/bqRPsPCwNq
— Soccer Republic (@SoccRepublic) October 17, 2017
The name on the top of the CV often means more than the achievements typed lower down the page. Granted even Caulfield himself admits there are differences between non league and league football and claims the step up was ‘huge’.
However, all the challenges sent the way of the former amateur manager were both embraced and conquered. Why haven’t others be given the opportunity? The fact they are not is not a criticism, each club makes the choice they feel is best for their team, but it is strange no top end managers are even mentioned in the running for League of Ireland jobs or are approached by clubs to see if they are qualified enough to take the reigns.
LSL Senior Sunday, the Munster Senior League and even the top end of the Premier A is deemed by some to be the same standard as the League of Ireland’s second tier. In fact in some cases even better. So the managers succeeding in these leagues are proving their worth. Indeed considering they have less training time, no budgets and full time jobs they could be deemed to be out performing coaches at a higher level.
Caulfield and the likes of former St Francis manager Pete Mahon maybe once of coaches of brilliance. Mangers who excelled at amateur level and went on to be successful in the top Irish league. However, it is strange that no one has asked if some of their abilities, know how and indeed eventual success came from things learnt at grass roots level. Maybe there is something beneficiary about working under constraints and at a level were is all about the love of the game?
Could Caulfield’s and Cork’s title victory see a change in how the powers that be view amateur set up and coaching success within it?
With the ‘cosy cartel’ element seemingly alive and well, possibly not!
You do have to factor in Caulfield came to Cork City as a playing legend and all time top scorer. In that regard he was a know name and a fan favourite- although there are managers in the amateur ranks with cross channel and League of Ireland playing previous.
Then there is the coaching badge element and the rules and expenses surrounding that, but that is something the League and the FAI should look into and something we have looked into previously.