KEITH Ricken was on the receiving end with Cork IT when they lost to Carrigtwohill in the Cork County SHC final of 2011 and now eight years later he has taken the club side to within an hour of another final appearance.
Carrig’s travails at the start of the year have been well documented but after proving too strong for Ballyhea in last Sunday’s quarter-final, they are now in the semi-final on merit.
Ricken, alongside team manager Marty McConville, has overseen a dramatic transformation in the club team’s fortunes but it’s the players and the spirit within the camp that he prefers to talk about.
“Delighted with that; you live in the community and you come down and pass the pitch every night and you see the lads out hurling every night for the past few years. They had good teams and not so good but they have worked hard, but they probably have been on a downward trajectory for a while.
“But this year the lads have got their games in the championship, they put down their heads and worked very hard,” he said.
“We lost a bit of control there near the end today but that can happen and there’s a very young panel there.
“There’s a future for the club; the underage is getting very strong, so for us, it’s important that we put down a platform.” Trailing by just a point at the break, Ricken was happy enough with how things were panning out as the game progressed.
“I thought we hurled well enough in the opening half. Ballyhea were ahead of us in the work-rate ethic but we addressed that in the first 10 minutes of the second half. We got in the blocks and hooks a lot more and you could see that. We turned them over a few times and it opened up for us inside and we started getting the scores that we knew we could get and had been threatening to get all year.
“I am not surprised at the victory and am very happy with it, but I do think there’s more in them still.”
So from a first-round trouncing by the Barrs, Carrig are motoring with a very clean engine now — some transformation? “We are not doing a whole lot more than what any other club is doing except we are getting the lads to give us their all. If you leave everything out on the field you cannot ask for anything more than that. They had an awful start to the year; they were in Division 2 and struggling.
“One thing, I think these bunch of guys from a Carrigtwohill viewpoint are one of the greatest because any other crowd would have walked away.
“It would have been easy to pull a hamstring, go on a J1, and I have absolutely huge admiration because they stuck around, stuck with it.
“Now there’s a great energy about the place again that’s just great for the whole community.”