Colaiste Ide is today known as one of the best resources for American college coaches looking to recruit players to play in the college setting. Jim Conroy and Danny Crowley have to turn people away due to the courses popularity in Ireland. The groundwork was put in by Jim, originally running the course on his own back in the early days of the program. After doing my Leaving Certificate back in 1999 I had no clue what I wanted to do. My points on the leaving had me half way to being a doctor. So close! After seeing a special on Irish television highlighting the purpose of the course my mind was made up. Everyone who attends Ide will come across a number of things that will stay with them forever. Jim’s no nonsense attitude and the craic between everyone on the course. I can only speak for my year but to have characters like Niall McGuirk, Karl “Munchkin” McCabe, Jimmy McEntee and Stuey Murray, we were blessed for people to keep us entertained. Niall was particularly good at keeping us entertained. There was also different types of characters who made up the rest of the team. It was a team with huge morale and confidence. After playing for a couple of clubs around Navan I was looking for some direction and I got exactly that at Ide. I thought I was an okay footballer before Ide and I was definitely a late bloomer. Part of it was not having a huge amount of confidence and the other part of it was never having a coach who put any time into developing players. That changed when Jim challenged me to get better, work everyday and show I could compete for a spot on the starting eleven. Jim has this charisma about him that makes you want to work hard for him. Every good coach has it and he definitely got the best out of a squad of fifteen that year. We played teams from Shelbourne, Saint Patrick’s, the FAS courses around Dublin as well as the one from Cork. In the beginning we struggled but once Jim had time to work with us we were not only competing but winning these games. Jim will tell you straight, not beating around the bush. It’s exactly what you need to hear at the time, regardless of what you may think. The “work hard” ethic is engrained into you very early on by Jim. Everyone works for each other and every player wants to give everything for the team and Jim. Wanting to play for a coach makes a huge difference. Jim pushed us hard that year, challenged us as footballers and men. There was also a time to laugh and joke, that was never until the work was done. A motto to carry forward for all of us. On a trip to play the Cork FAS team I realized I had an ability to compete and play at a good level. Confidence is everything and I never had a huge amount except when I played for Jim. After playing the Cork FAS course and drawing 1-1 Jim named me man of the match. A huge vote of confidence from Jim was all I needed and I went on to do well in the rest of our games. Having Karl McCabe in midfield with me also made it easier. I carried that self belief on into everything I done in life and for that very reason I believe attending Colaiste Ide is one of the best things a young man can do. Niall McGuirk and Phil Kane also describe how beneficial they found Jim’s advice and guidance while on the course: “I never believed in myself and the ability I had as a player until I went to Colaiste Ide. Jim promoted a work ethic that encouraged players to push themselves as hard as they could. Players wanted to impress him and this could be done through working as hard as you could and this process with a good dollop of praise was a positive cycle of continuous hard work. It was at Ide I really learned about the key to success…hard work! And not just on the field but off it as well. My goal was to get a scholarship to America and get a degree and I got it thanks to Jim Conroy and my team mates, many of whom, after 14 years I still keep in touch with. It was without doubt a year that made the biggest impact on my life. I will cherish the memories of that time forever and I have taken the values I learned then and made them the motto of the kids soccer academy of which I’m the director ‘work hard, have fun’.” (Niall)
“Although I never took up a career in Health and Fitness, Sport or Physical Education, I still look back on my year in Colaiste Ide as the most important year in young adult life. I was 17 when we started. I knew nothing and was devoid of confidence. Jim Conroy taught me so much in that time. He didn’t mince his words, just said it as it was. “Phil, you’re over weight. You need to sort out your diet.” 14 years later, I still don’t eat crisps. He made me more aware of my health, he advised me to get contact lenses (because the wind in Cork can be a terrible thing). All of a sudden I grew in confidence. I was fitter, studying better and had finally grown up. That year gave me the foundations to make me who I am now. It gave me great friends and a great love. Colaiste Ide is where I met Marie, my wife and the mother of my children. Colaiste Ide was the start of everything. ” (Phil) After learning everything I could at Colaiste Ide I went on to play four years at Thomas University where I was made captain my junior and senior year due to that work ethic. I went on to coach at high school level and helped create a successful program. One of my players, Christian Quinones also attended Ide. I still keep in contact with Christian and will put him through his off-season strength and conditioning program this summer in Boston to help prepare him for his sophomore season at Martin Methodist college in Tennessee. His freshman season included winning the national championship. Not a bad first season and I can say without a doubt that he fully deserved it. Christian worked hard when I coached him and would go above and beyond in training to make sure he fully prepared for every game. I used to tell him stories about Colaiste Ide. He liked the idea of playing football all the time. Not only did he take in everything I told him but he went and made it a reality by attending. Quite the change of scenery from Georgia. Here is what Cristian had to say. “My experience at Colaiste Ide was different than most. Coming from the southern United States, I was in a very different world. My high school coach was how I found out about the program and from his description it seemed like a dream come true. To be able to play football, become a coach, and prepare for life as a student athlete in the United States encompassed everything that I was looking for in a gap year. The exposure to life in Ireland, as well as living on my own in a foreign country helped me mature and taught me a great deal about being independent. Besides all the learning experience that came with living overseas, I must say that the most memorable thing about my year was the football. I played against good teams, incredible players, and was lucky enough to have two great coaches with years of experience guiding me along the way. After my year in Ireland, I looked at football differently, and after coming home and playing, I realized how much I had improved. My improvement helped me secure a good scholarship at a great school in which I have been able to pursue my academic goals. Several of my current team mates as well as myself acknowledge the opportunity and experience that we acquired in our year at Colaiste Ide and attribute it to our success both on and off the pitch at Martin Methodist College”. A lot of my team mates from Ide are still good friends today. In fact there is a reunion planned for this summer. It is harder and harder to come across genuine people in todays society who are not just out for their own benefit but are also willing to help others. Jim put everyone before himself. Sacrificing time at home to coach us and he also puts in a lot of hours he never gets compensated for. No team ever out worked that Colaiste Ide team and that was down to being coached by Jim. Imagine feeling like you’re unstoppable whoever you play against. It sounds silly to say that but that’s the power of confidence. We were a “machine that kept on rolling” as Niall would say. Being taught that hard work is necessary to get anywhere in life is a basic but vitally important life lesson. Jim showed us the importance of hard work. That belief and work ethic is carried forward in everyday life. It is responsible for many of the successes I have had in life and I am sure everyone who attends the Association Football course would agree. Unfortunately the Association Football course has been discontinued. However, Jim Conroy is now heading a recruitment agency aimed at getting Irish players soccer scholarships to the US.