Interview: Cork City Women’s first-team coach Pedro Rodrigues

By Gerard Mulreaney (@gerardmulreaney)

When the global recession hit in late 2008/early 2009 many people lost their jobs, while others emigrated or went back home. For one young Portuguese coach, it led to him coming to Ireland to see if he could find work.

Pedro Rodrigues was working as a Real Estate Consultant in Portugal but when the recession hit, work dried up. He had a friend living in Cork at the time and it was him who convinced him to come to Ireland and try it out for a year, and he’s still here.

The 38 year-old is now a Customer Services Manager at a Software company and also first-team coach of Cork City’s Women’s National League team.

Cork City will head into the 2019 Women’s National League (WNL) season with an away fixture against Peamount United on Saturday the 9th of March and Pedro is looking forward to getting the season underway saying, “We have been exhaustively preparing for the 2019 season. We know that we will have a very competitive season. All the teams are improving year after year and I can see 2019 being one of the most competitive seasons in the history of the Women’s National League.”

So, how did he get involved in the coaching side of the game? He takes up the story, “I started coaching in Portugal in 2006. I was playing in a regional league and unfortunately due to an injury I couldn’t continue playing, so the manager invited me to join the coaching staff. I really enjoyed it and decided to go ahead and do the national badges.”

Pedro continues, “In 2014 I decided to get involved with local soccer in Ireland. I started with a team in the Business League and then moved onto the AUL with Greenwood. After a friendly match with Cobh Ramblers, I was invited to join their staff team, with focus on Strength and Conditioning also. I stayed there for almost one year and I can consider myself very lucky to have had the opportunity to work with them. I have a special place in my heart for Cobh Ramblers, they’re great people and they deserve to be in the league and they have been showing that to everyone.”

“After I left Cobh I took a small break to organize my life as I moved from Cork to Dungarvan, in Waterford. Then I spent some time with Kilkenny United in the WNL. Last year I was coaching one of the UCC Junior teams and now Cork City FC where I am the Women’s Seniors first-team coach. I honestly have been blessed with great opportunities and I’ve learnt from great people.”

Pedro also spoke about his time with Kilkenny United, which was turbulent to say the least, “I joined Kilkenny 2 years ago after being invited by the chairman Shane Murray to be Noel Kealy’s Assistant Manager. Noel left a month or so before the season started to become UCD Waves manager. Kevin McLoughlin then took over and I stayed with him as well. Things didn’t really work with Kevin and he left just after the season started. I stayed through all of this and Shane asked me to take over the team. Unfortunately, I only stayed for 5 months. I had to step down due to work commitments. Things in Kilkenny weren’t easy either I must admit, but I am quite happy to see that they seem to be (hopefully) on the right track now.”

However, since then things have looked up, as at the beginning of the 2018 season following Frank Kelleher’s departure from the hot-seat, Ronan Collins replaced him taking Pedro on as his first-team coach. He explains how it happened, “I meet Ronan Collins 2 years ago. We have similar football views and philosophies, so we kept in touch. He knows about my passion for the women’s side of the game and my dedication to coaching female players. After Ronan took over Cork City he invited me for a couple of session. I enjoyed it immensely, and I think the girls did as well, so I was invited to join the staff as first-team coach.”

Pedro Rodrigues

I asked Pedro what his personal goals were as a coach and he told me, “To become a better coach year after year. To never stop learning. I had other goals in the past, but my professional situation at this moment takes over everything else. Nevertheless, I dedicate all of my personal time to Cork City FC and I still want to keep following the FAI coaching pathway and complete the remaining courses.”

Furthermore he had this to say on women’s football in Ireland, “What I really want is to see the country that has been my home for almost 10 years to become a reference point for Women’s soccer. The Irish women deserve it, they put an enormous amount of dedication to become better and better, and in return they get very little, or to be completely blunt: Sometimes nothing in return apart from the pleasure of playing ball. It’s not enough. This League needs to grow, not only club wise, but from the structure/organizational point of view as well. I think we are on the right path, but there is still a lot to be done.

Cork City won the FAI Cup in 2017, after a 1-0 win over UCD Waves in the final at the Aviva Stadium, and headed into the 2018 season looking to push on in the league. However, that didn’t materialise. A 5th place finish, a whopping 30 points off champions Wexford Youths, looked from the outside like a disappointing season. Pedro looks at it from a different prospective, “2018 was the a start of a new era for the club. The merge of the women’s side with the men’s team was a great decision. Frank (Kelleher) done superb work with the club, and the Cup win was indeed a great achievement for the club, however the game is evolving and sometimes changes are good for both sides.”

“It’s the nature of the actual worldwide scenario of sport. I wouldn’t measure our success based on last season final classification, I’d rather highlight the work that has been carried between the club, board and staff to ensure that we will have future success based on the structures we are implementing. Cork needs to look, not into the past but focus on the present, so we can thrive in the future. Our Academy will play a vital role on this. It might sound like a cliché, but it’s a genuine overall perspective. We have a responsibility not only to the club, but as well with the WNL, so we want to create a future where all the girls feel that there is a place for them in women’s football and they shouldn’t stop playing for reasons that belong to another era.”

And finally, as the build-up to the new league season gathers pace Pedro spoke to me about the young players, “Our work with our U17’s and the Academy is starting to flourish and we have excellent players coming through the ranks and bringing a lot of talent to the pitches around the country. That will be our main goal, to continue and improve the work we started 6 months ago. I would also like to take this opportunity to tell all the Cork City fans, that these girls wear this jersey with pride, and that the matches can be “cracking games”, so come to Bishopstown and support the girls. We are all very excited and bring on March 9th.”

Pictures courtesy of Pedro Rodrigues

Main Picture Credit: M Lee Media

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