FORMER Clann na nGael footballer Ricky Maher has enjoyed great success since he joined Laois kingpins Portlaoise following his move from Drimoleague to the midlands county.
The talented footballer has helped his new team achieve huge success in recent years. Ricky is very grateful to all at Clann na nGael GAA club who helped nurture his talent.
“I have very fond memories of playing for Clann na nGael. I was a late bloomer,” said Ricky. “I was about 10 years old when I first started with them. Captaining Castledonovan to a Sciath na Scol title is still up there with some of my best memories.”
Ricky started playing with the Carbery divisional club at U12 level.
Such was his fast progress, he made his junior debut at the tender age of 15.
Ricky loved playing for the Scorchers: “Playing junior at 15 was tough. I played with a lot of good players: The twins, Paul and Derek Crowley, Eoin Daly and William O’Mahony amongst many other top players.
“I learned so much from all the coaches. Two, in particular, stood out. They really believed in me. One was the headmaster of Castledonovan NS, Dan Daly. He always believed in my ability on and off the field.
“The other coach was Seán Collins. He got the best out of me and I learned a lot from him.
“I love west Cork. I still travel down as often as possible. It brings back a lot of great memories for me.
“I still have a lot of family and friends down there.”
The Cork man moved to Portlaoise from Drimoleague in 2005.
He immediately joined the Portlaoise CBS senior football team.
His footballing ability quickly alerted local senior team Portlaoise to his obvious talent.
He is loving life with his new team.
“I ended up playing a couple of school games with Portlaoise CBS after I moved to the area and we ended up winning a Leinster Schools A championship title.
“Before I knew it I was snapped up by Portlaoise GAA and I have never looked back since.
“I have had quite a lot of success with Portlaoise. I have won U16 and minor titles. I have won nine senior county titles and one Leinster medal which we won in 2009.
“They are a super club to be involved with. It is a privilege to be involved with a team of lads who all want success,” said the ace forward.
“Our facilities are great. We have six pitches and a huge airport hangar-like gym which is great.”
Ricky helped the Portlaoise senior footballers win their last Leinster football title in 2009, his first year on the senior panel.
They subsequently lost the All-Ireland semi-final to Clare team, Kilmurry Ibrickane.
Ricky has always relished playing against strong opponents in the Leinster football championship.
“2009 was a great experience. It is the pinnacle of Leinster club football and we have been very successful in the competition since it began.
“Losing to Kilmury Ibrickane was a bad defeat. It was one of the days you just want to forget about really.
“Hopefully, we will get back to that level again soon. Playing in Leinster is a different level.
“There are some serious clubs involved, but we absolutely love being there. It’s where you want to be. Diarmuid Connolly would have been the toughest player I have played against.
“If my memory serves me right, I tried to stop him tearing up the field for Ballyboden only to be turned upside down with a shoulder.
“He is a big unit. You get tough opponents in training anyway, so it prepares you for anyone to be honest.”
Ricky and his Portlaoise team-mates are currently training on their own due to the Covid-19 situation.
The 29-year-old is fulfilling all his gym and nutritional requirements so when the GAA season gets the go ahead to resume, he will be ready to go.
“We have to stay on top of our fitness and nutrition as we still have to be ready for the start of the season.
“Our lads are a great bunch of lads however and it’s never any problem doing a bit of extra running or gym to keep the body ticking over.
“Lads know where they need to be, come championship time. Hopefully this virus won’t affect the GAA too much because it’s a huge part of people’s lives.
“Our first target is always going to be trying to retain the county title. We have been at the top of Laois football now for a number of years and it’s that success that drives us on every year.
“We also love playing in Leinster. It is a competition that is close to a lot of players’ and fans’ hearts. The ultimate dream is the All-Ireland club title, “ said Ricky. “Winning in Croke Park with family and friends around your team. That is the dream.”
His abiding memory is winning the Man of the Match award in the 2018 Laois senior county final as he recalls that special day.
“The best memory I have is from the 2018 county final. Getting to march behind the band with my little fella Noah was special.
“We went on to win and I managed to get 2-2. It really was a dream come through.”