CAVAN’S new u-20 manager Damien Donohoe is clear about his ambitions with the team.
Success at senior level doesn’t always follow neatly from a good run at underage level, but Donohoe is a firm believer that there’s a positive correlation between the two, citing a number of internal and external examples as a means of proving his case.
Donohoe, who runs the popular We Are Cavan podcast and is a regular contributor to local paper the Anglo Celt, said: “Maybe it’s because I come from the media end of things, but when I came into the role I said I was going to try to be as honest as possible.
“I don’t see any problem in stating that my ambition is to be as successful as possible, and that doesn’t mean it’s in conflict in bringing through players to the senior team.
“Cavan’s success last year was built on the foundation of winning four (Ulster) u-21 titles in the earlier part of the last decade, so they tend to go hand-in-hand.
Take the current Dublin team as well, the likes of Brian Fenton, Ciaran Kilkenny and Con O’Callaghan came through successful underage teams. Michael Murphy won the Ulster U-21 championship, Sean Cavanagh was the same.
“There’s more examples of successful underage players going on to achieve something at senior level than there is the reverse.”
Donohoe has accrued considerable coaching and managerial experience in recent times. He had a stint at his home club Drumlaee, managed Killinkere to a Cavan Intermediate final, and coached the Mullahoran team which reached the Ulster Intermediate final in 2018.
He’s also enlisted a formidable backroom team of former Cavan stalwart Mark McKeever, Padraic Dolan, goalkeeping coach Peter McGinnity, a relation of the Fermanagh legend, Terry Hyland as advisor while Andre Quinn is looking after the strength and conditioning side of things.
It doesn’t really come much better than that so Donohoe is feeling positive about the road ahead.
“What I want ideally is to set a culture that fits in with senior team, so when you’re bringing in someone like Mark McKeever, who played for Cavan for 16 or 17 years, you’re bringing in a great role model.
“I think he’s incomparable in his ability to hone in on the minutiae of a particular skill and know how to coach it.
“Padraic Dolan brings a huge amount of experience to the role. He’s experience goes back to when Tommy Carr was in charge of the Cavan seniors, and he was with Terry Hyland during the u-21 successes. He was still involved with Terry with the Cavan and Leitrim seniors so he’s a huge asset.
“Terry himself is helping me as an advisor. He’ll not be there the whole time, but if there’s anything he can do to help Cavan he’ll be more than willing.”
Donohoe also expanded on the role of Cavan’s full-time strength and conditioning coach Andre Quinn, who has helped give young players a pathway whereby they can eventual excel in the senior ranks.
“The Cavan County Board was very innovative in terms of giving someone a full-time role to focus on that side of the game, and they were also brilliant in their selection of Andre Quinn.
“When I was wearing my media hat before the u-20 role, I tried to get him to do an interview for the local podcast, and while he didn’t say no, he wasn’t that keen as he said he was so busy.
“I thought he was fobbing me off but then when I got working with the u-20s I realised how heavily involved he was in getting these players to be the best they can be.
“Andre getting involved coincided with Mickey Graham coming in as well, and Mickey was very happy to let Andre do his role.
“He’s brought the lads to another level of physical preparation and development, and if you look at the Cavan minors last year, even if they didn’t play to their potential, it was the best minor team I’ve ever seen in Cavan in terms of their development, and that’s largely down to Andre. He’s put in a huge amount of working and lads are buying into his individual programmes at the moment because he stays in regular contact with him.”
Donohoe is also excited by the news that the Cavan County Board are to set to launch a new initiative linking up with local businesses so that footballers can progress their careers without having to move to Dublin.
“County board chairman Kieran Callaghan came up with this initiative and spoke with all the stakeholders, so as u-20 manager I’d a few conversations with him.
“For me it’s such an innovative idea that makes perfect sense. He’s already put a committee in place to put the nuts and bolts of the idea together. If a player can find a career in Cavan, it reduces the load on players as they’ll have far less travelling time.
“Three hours to get to Dublin and back a couple of times a week isn’t the best use of a player’s time, and we’re trying to reduce that with the u-20s as it is.
“The idea is that we put the guidelines in place for a player’s technical and physical development, so once they know what to do they don’t have to come up the road to do a gym session while they’re in college. So Kieran’s idea is really innovative and ties in with what we’re trying to do with the u-20s.”