U20 football boss Ricken wants Cork to keep soaring after Munster title

U20 football boss Ricken wants Cork to keep soaring after Munster title
Picture: Denis Minihane.


All-Ireland U20 football semi-final: Cork v Tyrone, Tullamore, 4pm.

KEEP on flying! That's the message from Cork coach Keith Ricken to his Munster champions as they bid for a place in the All-Ireland final against either Dublin or Galway.

Cork's stirring 13-point provincial victory over warm favourites Kerry had all big-ball followers on Cloud 9 after such an unexpected trouncing of the champions.

And while some soothsayers say the crop of 2019 should come down from the high to meet the challenge from the Ulster standard-bearers, Ricken takes an opposing view.

“The hardest thing all year was getting them off terra firma, getting them off the ground to fly and believe in themselves.

“So, I am certainly not going to bring them down to earth after doing something well.

“For us, it's being realistic about what our goals are, what our next target is and our next aims.

“That's easy enough to do. We were back training on Sunday night and the lads were very focussed.

“What's done is done now and behind us. It's confined to history and the next time we'll deal with that match is at some function at the end of the year to receive the medals.

“I'm not into the kind of stuff of bringing them back a peg or two. I genuinely believe that young people thrive on confidence, which they get from not by winning as such, but by being able to solve their problems.

“As we all know, winning is a fickle thing. You know you have the arsenal inside you to solve your own problems or to face your own problems. That you can face them individually and collectively.

“I think that is the real success of what we're trying to do. We're attempting to build a resilient bunch.

“Of course, they will have their own setbacks as a team and as individuals.

“And I don't think bringing them about down to earth is the thing to do. Let them fly for as long as they can,” Ricken said.

It must have been three-quarters-of-an-hour after the final whistle and the buzz on the Páirc Uí Rinn pitch was still obvious.

Apart from the obvious satisfaction of winning and playing with gusto and verve, the reaction from all and sundry caught the coach's eye.

The level of joy following the 3-16 to 0-12 victory reached heights not witnessed by any Cork football team for what seems like an age.

“It's not just the players, their families and their clubs but the Cork football fraternity in general.

“They are the people who follow it year in and year out, put up with the good and the bad. It was great to see so many happy faces. And that stood out as well.

“Anyone who knows me knows I enjoy winning, but I move on to the next game almost straight away.

“Yet, you have to celebrate games like this and allow people suck up those moments, which are important moments, too.

“As we know in Cork, they don't come down every year, so we're delighted to have experienced that, particularly from the players' point of view and the families involved, too.

“And I also include the families of the mentors involved as well because they sacrifice a lot too, so I was also delighted from that point of view,” Ricken commented.

Cork are marginal favourites, but it's too close to call. There are some key tussles which will have a big bearing, starting at midfield. 

It goes without saying, but the battles involving Cork pair of Brian Hartnett and either Daniel O'Connell or Eanna O'Hanlon and Tyrone's Ruairí Gormley and Joe Oguz will help paint the pattern.

Cork dictated matters in the middle third against Kerry's formidable pair and this should stand to them against Tyrone captain Gormley and Oguz, who has a reputation for winning possession in the air.

Tyrone full-back Conor Quinn faces in-form Cathal O'Mahony, who has been tormenting defences all summer.

And it's not just the ranging Mitchelstown attacker either-scorer of 1-5 against Kerry-because Mark Cronin was on fire, scoring 0-5, while Damien Gore's pace and trickery make this Cork inside line very difficult to handle.

On the basis Millstreet's Shane Hickey slots in at centre-back he'll have danger-man Darragh Canavan for company.

It's another intriguing head-to-head with the Tyrone forward building a reputation as a playmaker of the highest standards and will need minding.

“We've seen Tyrone, but I keep saying it that every team and every game re-invents itself,” Ricken commented.

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