While Keith Ricken can boast a coaching CV with some notable successes such as the 2009 Sigerson Cup with CIT, county PIFCs with St Vincent’s and the 2019 All-Ireland U20 with Cork, his style is holistic rather than win-at-all-costs.
The logic is that, if you develop the players in the right way, then success becomes a by-product rather than the only motivation, and it has worked well so far. It makes sense therefore that Ricken and Barry Corkery – a member of the successful backroom team of 2019 minor side and current U20 selector with Ricken – should speak at a Cork GAA webinar on Friday night which focuses on helping parents and children to get back to sporting activity. Though there might be a concern that time off has made children more sedentary, Ricken doesn’t have any fears.
“I live on a cul-de-sac and I’m looking out on the green,” he says.
“There’s a goalmouth between two trees and there’s not a blade of grass there. There’s a penalty spot and puck marks from lads practising sideline cuts. The basketball board is out there – kids do want to play and I can see that.”
Ricken will theme his presentation around the idea of new beginnings and trying to make sure that an appreciation for the small things remains.
“The basic thing for me is what’s important,” he says.
“Before there’s ever a tragedy, you have a thousand wishes and then, after one, you’ve only one wish. That would be the theme of my talk.
“Obviously, there were people dying and sick, but in a GAA sense, what was the tragedy for us? There was nobody near a field, the grass was growing in the goalmouths and there was no activity.
“Everybody’s wish was, ‘Wouldn’t it be great to get back to the field and hit a ball?’. There was nobody talking about winning All-Irelands but, now that we’re back on the pitch, will we forget all of that again?
“I would like to bring their attention to that, as such. I don’t know exactly what way I’ll do it, but I will do it. That’s the message I want to get across.
“I get a sense now that there’s an excitement but there’s an anxiety, too – will the kids turn up? – but I think they will. It’s like in the Bible, where God spares Sodom and Gomorrah because Abraham finds one good man.
“Essentially, the whole thing will centre around the idea of a fresh start.”
To that end, it’s vital that the outlook is on what lies ahead rather than lamenting what has been missed.
“You have to focus on what you have and not what you haven’t,” Ricken says.
“There have been a lot of advantages over the last 12 months, in taking time to breathe. There seems to be a collective acceptance there that we have come to realise what’s important and that’s family and community.
“For some reason, we had forgotten that we are social creatures and that has been rediscovered. The importance of team sport goes way behind competing for victories or representing the pride of the parish.
“We’ve seen how communities have pulled together and obeyed the rules to save lives, so there’s a celebration in coming to the end of that for the moment, whether it’s temporary or full-time.
“For me, I’m looking forward to starting with Carrigtwohill U11s next week, then in a few weeks’ time the Vincent’s camogie girls will be back and I’m looking forward to that.
“I’m looking forward to meeting them. For many of the teams, we were on Zoom, so we could only use the senses of our speech and our hearing and our sight.
“Our touch and our smell and our taste, none of them were tested but they’re all present when you go down to the pitch, you can smell the cut grass and almost taste the excitement in the air. I’m looking forward to that, whether it’s 10 there or if it’s 30.”