John Cleary joins Keith Ricken as new Cork football coach

Castlehaven club man Cleary is vastly experienced and twice came close to being appointed as Rebel football manager himself
John Cleary joins Keith Ricken as new Cork football coach

John Cleary on the line with the Cork ladies football minor team in 2018. Picture: Harry Murphy/Sportsfile

NEW Cork senior football manager Keith Ricken, who replaces Ronan McCarthy on a two-year term, will be joined by John Cleary as coach.

All-Ireland winning U20 boss Ricken was the hot favourite to get the job ahead of John Fintan Daly and Bobbie O'Dwyer so the announcement on Wednesday was expected. 

However, the addition of Cleary to his set-up is a huge boost as the Castlehaven club man has enjoyed great success with his club as well as Cork at U21 level, winning All-Irelands in 2007 and '09. In recent years he was involved with inter-county ladies football having been close to taking over as Cork bainisteoir in 2013 before Brian Cuthbert's appointment and two years later when Peadar Healy was given the job.

Ricken's management team also includes Kerry native Ray Keane, who guided St Finbarr's to the county title three years ago, and Antrim's James Loughrey, who is based in Mallow and only retired from inter-county football at the end of 2019. Keane, from Caherciveen, is a brother of Peter, the Kerry manager for the past three seasons, recently replaced by the returning Jack O'Connor.

Former St Finbarr's manager Ray Keane. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Former St Finbarr's manager Ray Keane. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

St Nicks stalwart Des Cullinane will also be a selector, along with Micheál Ó Cróinín and Barry Corkery, who both assisted Ricken at U20 level. A coach will be appointed shortly.

They will be tasked with refreshing the Cork panel after a hammering in the Munster final in Killarney, bringing through more of the talented U20 panel that McCarthy had blooded across 2020 and this summer. There is undoubted potential in Leeside, given a minor All-Ireland annexed as well in '19, but the step up to senior is significant for any young Rebel. 

A GAA statement read: "The County Executive will be proposing Keith Ricken (St Vincent’s) as incoming Senior Football manager on a two-year term at our next County Committee meeting. 

Picture: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Picture: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

"Selectors will be as follows: Micheál Ó Cróinín (Naomh Abán), Ray Keane (MTU/St Finbarr’s), James Loughrey (St Brigid’s/Mallow), Barry Corkery (Éire Óg) and Des Cullinane (St Nicholas). 

"Coach to be announced in the near future."

Ricken has been Cork U20 football manager for the last three seasons, winning two Munsters and one All-Ireland, and was selected by the five-person looking after the appointment: county board chairman Marc Sheehan, secretary Kevin O’Donovan, vice-chairman Pat Horgan, Cork GAA director of football Conor Counihan, and development officer Noel O’Callaghan.

Keith Ricken Cork U20 football manager speaking to the media this summer. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Keith Ricken Cork U20 football manager speaking to the media this summer. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

Ricken is the GAA officer in CIT, now MTU, and coached them to Sigerson Cup success. He was also to fore with his native St Vincent's in PIFC victories in '06 and 2012, while on the hurling front he guided CIT to the 2011 county final, where they lost to Carrigtwohill. Ricken now lives in Carrig', and was involved with their hurlers when they made the 2019 SHC semi-final.

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