THOSE who remember junior soccer in the sixties are forever eulogising about players from their own golden age.
There was then an abundance of pin-up stars and a few more in the seventies. Well, we remember the eighties like it was just yesteryear and an amateur star who ticked all the boxes was the elegant Irish junior international Austin Ricken.
He was a notably gifted player with a great range of passing and natural ability. Austin, like so many other prodigies, had his skills nurtured in the colours of Rockmount.
In terms of silverware, little came their way as his group were graduating through the grades at the same time as a brilliant Tramore squad.
At the age of 15 Austin made the unusual decision to jump up to junior soccer where he began competing against hardened men’s teams like Castleview, St Mary’s, and Ballincollig.
Wisely, he returned after one season to continue his apprenticeship with Rockmount and was named on the Cork Youths Inter-League team in 1980. Rockmount had by then assembled a youthful senior team and Austin helped them claim their first ever senior trophy in 1982 when they captured the Beamish Cup and doubled up with the Keane Cup.
After those earlier than expected triumphs, the Mount were entitled to be optimistic for the immediate future.
One season of success led into a second which was then followed by a third and so on.
Sports analysts call this development a dynasty. Every league has had their memorable teams which dominated at one time or another and Temple joined that list.
They dominated Cork soccer and repeatedly won every trophy available for competition. Included in their triumphs were Munster Cup, Premier League ‘85, 87, 88 and 89 and Intermediate League ‘90, 92, 93, 94 and 95.
In 1990, the AUL formed its own Intermediate League and Temple qualified for the FAI Senior Cup at the first attempt in which they put up a great show agai
Cork City wanted Austin to sign in 1986, but not surprisingly in the circumstances. he chose not to as Temple were chasing history.
A Cork team hadn’t won the FAI Junior Cup since 1945 or appeared in the decider since St Mary’s gallant attempt in 1972.
Temple defeated Usher Celtic (Dublin) in the semi-final to qualify for a meeting with Cherry Orchard.
Unfortunately, they had to return to the Leeside beaten but unbowed with home advantage probably deciding the tie in the Dubliners favour.
Consolation awaited and Austin captained the side which won the Munster Cup to complete a clean sweep of every trophy in the province. It had been a great few years for him as he was capped against England (twice) and Scotland, very significant achievements at the time as only one or maybe two internationals were played each season. Three caps then would equate to sackfulls in the modern era. He had been a regular on the AUL Oscar Traynor team for years and with the formation of the senior division had the distinction of representing the league in youths, junior and intermediate.
In 1992, Austin suffered a career threatening injury and was side-lined for over two years and didn’t return until 1995 when he helped Temple to another clean sweep.
The following year Temple along with others transferred to the Munster Senior League where they won the division 1 league and Beamish Cup double in their debut season.
Austin was absent for a few months in the latter part of his great career as he was overseas in Lebanon with the army.
Football was still a big part of his life and he travelled to France on international duty with the Irish Defence Forces.
Like many former Temple stalwarts, Austin became dejected when, after a lean period in the noughties, Temple were forced to pull out of football.
Adversity, it can break you or make you if you let it, the choice is yours.
It is in adversity that heroes shine and Austin along with other outstanding characters grabbed the bull by the horns and unceremoniously, unnoticed by many, restarted from scratch and entered underage teams which has to this day made a difference in the lives of others.
Austin is now doing what his father Freddie used to do when they (John and himself) were young Temple players — coaching, cutting grass, lining pitches, and much more.
The Ricken name is more synonymous with Temple than ever before as now Austin has three sons, four nephews and a cousin playing with the club.
He deservedly joins the lists of those honoured for Distinguished Service to Cork Soccer.