The Donegal players celebrate after their win over Tyrone in the final of the Buncrana Cup. Photo: Geraldine Diver.
As Donegal opened their championship campaign on Sunday with victory against Cavan, I thought I'd take time to fully appreciate last week’s U16 Buncrana Cup success under the guidance of All Ireland winner Rory Kavanagh.
I spoke to the management team during the week, including trainer David O'Herlihy.
“The main focus for for this year was to educate the young players on how best to prepare for inter county football," David said.
"That includes training, nutrition, recovery and dealing with the mental side of things as well."
The players were in an extremely lucky position to have someone like Rory Kavanagh managing the team this year. Getting buy in from younger players can be difficult sometimes but having a manager who has won numerous senior Ulster medals and an All-Ireland meant it was never going to be an issue.
"Also, from the very first training session they knew we meant business!," David added.
"From a coaching perspective it was evident right from the start that we had an extremely honest and hard working set of players on our hands. Everything that was said to them was taken on board."
While winning the first two group games against Down and Armagh, Kavanagh and his staff managed to get look at a number of different players over both games. They defeated Monaghan in the semi-final with a very strong finish.
The final against Tyrone was the best display of the tournament, winning by a point.
“It’s hard to single any one player out as our strength all year was in the collective, from our goalkeeper right down to the boys who didn’t make the match day squad of 26," David added.
Manager, Kavanagh, said he was fortunate to have the support of his management team during the campaign: "Having both David and Brian McCabe, both of whom were involved with the county under 15 development squads last year, was invaluable during the trial process at the beginning of the year.
"Training sessions were varied and interesting. The players all received proper coaching throughout and improvements in each player was very evident.”
One cannot underestimate the importance of not just nurturing players at a young age for the future, but also nurturing young managers.
Both Eamon McGee at U20 level and Karl Lacey at senior level under Declan Bonner are following in similar moulds.
After bringing great success to Donegal in his playing career the signs are good that Kavanagh and his team can do the same at management level. He has the experience and the talent to repeat his achievements of his playing days. A
nd hopefully last week’s victory is a good omen for the summer ahead!