Mark Woods profiles the new Cork football management for 2022

There was huge change at senior and U20, with Michael O'Brien remaining at the helm of the minors
Mark Woods profiles the new Cork football management for 2022

New Cork manager Keith Ricken, on the sideline with the U20s last summer. Picture: INPHO/Morgan Treacy

ONE thing is certain, life will not be dull around Keith Ricken’s reign as senior football manager for the next two seasons.

The 51-years-old St Vincent’s club man, domiciled in Carrigtwohill, has endeared himself to those under his wing in a wide-spread coaching career.

The former goalkeeper cut his teeth on the management side of the game with the Saints, guiding them to premier intermediate titles in 2006 and again in 2012.

Ricken, who takes over from Ronan McCarthy, is the GAA Officer at Munster Technology University, formerly Cork Institute of Technology.

One of his crowning glories was steering the students to the 2009 Sigerson Cup on home turf and managing the hurlers to the county final a couple of years later, losing, ironically, to Carrigtwohill.

But, it was his elevation to Cork U20 manager in 2019 which took Ricken to another level, capturing Munster and All-Ireland titles in his first season and then retaining the provincial title in the next campaign.

He’ll see a clutch of familiar faces on his first meeting with the panel after McCarthy’s promotion of a lot of the 2019 winning team to the senior set-up.

Players like Sean Meehan, Brian Hartnett and Colm O’Callaghan are just three who know all about Ricken’s modus operandi as manager.

That familiarity extends to his selectors, too, with Mícheál Ó Cróinín and Barry Corkery moving up from U20.

Ray Keane, brother of former Kerry boss, Peter, is also on board, having guided St Finbarr’s to the 2018 county while Des Cullinane brings a wealth of experience from his spells with UCC, St Nick’s and Glen Rovers.

And Ricken’s appointment of recently retired defender James Loughrey as a selector is a shrewd decision in keeping with his management nous.

New Cork senior selector James Loughrey battles Micheál Burns of Kerry in 2019. Picture: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
New Cork senior selector James Loughrey battles Micheál Burns of Kerry in 2019. Picture: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Manager: Keith Ricken (St Vincent’s/MTU).

Selectors: Mícheál Ó Cróinín (Naomh Abán), Ray Keane (MTU/St Finbarr’s), James Loughrey (St Brigid’s/Mallow), Barry Corkery (Éire Óg), Des Cullinane (St Nick’s).

U20 FOOTBALL

New U20 manager Bobbie O’Dwyer will oversee the defence of the Munster title, part of an underage football double achieved by Cork this year.

The Beara native masterminded the county’s 2019 All-Ireland minor success and his promotion to the U20s is seen as part of the succession stakes favoured by county CEO/Sec, Kevin O’Donovan.

There’s a certain symmetry to O’Dwyer’s posting because he started out with this group at U14 who will complete their under-age football in 2022.

Cork captain Conor Corbett with selector James Masters with the minor cup in 2019. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Cork captain Conor Corbett with selector James Masters with the minor cup in 2019. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

From Urhan, the proud west Corkman attended secondary school at St Jarlath’s College in Tuam, Co Galway before moving to London at 21, working with AIB there for 10 years.

O’Dwyer cut his teeth in management with O’Donovan Rossa before teaming up with Macroom, Legion in Kerry, and his native club Urhan.

Prior to the 2019 All-Ireland final, he spoke about the connection between business and sport.

“It does help in that you’re used to bringing a team with you though I use the word manager loosely,” he said at the time.

On the people side, we are all trained, whether it be sales, the analytical side, marketing, whatever the skill set, but the biggest challenge you’re dealing with is handling people.

“So, I suppose it does transfer quite comfortably from business to sport,” O’Dwyer commented.

Regarded as highly organised with a keen football brain, his first season with the minors tested him and the rest big time.

After losing heavily at home to Kerry, Cork rebounded immediately to deny Clare in Ennis and the rest is history.

Attitude, commitment, humility and understanding team trumps the individual underpins his approach.

New Cork U20 selector Ollie 'Rue' O'Sullivan in action for Beara against Seandún in 2000. Picture: Maurice O'Mahony
New Cork U20 selector Ollie 'Rue' O'Sullivan in action for Beara against Seandún in 2000. Picture: Maurice O'Mahony

His selectors form a nice blend in the experience of Billy Morgan and James Masters, Ollie O’Sullivan and Kieran Cronin who’ve worked with O’Dwyer in the past.

Manager: Bobbie O’Dwyer (Urhan).

Selectors: James Masters (Nemo Rangers), Kieran Cronin (Legion, Killarney), Billy Morgan (Nemo Rangers), Ollie O’Sullivan (Garnish).

MINOR FOOTBALL

The minor footballers are different to the other two managements in that they’ve already sampled championship and are embarking on a second campaign in 2022.

Ballincollig’s Michael O’Brien, who led his club to an historic county senior football title in 2014, had the distinction of guiding the youngsters to the Munster title, playing and winning three games before Tyrone proved too strong in the All-Ireland semi-final.

The experience is sure to have benefited both O’Brien and his selectors, which includes 2010 All-Ireland senior winner Donncha O’Connor.

Cork minor selector Gary Sheehan grabs a ball for Na Piarsaigh against Nemo in 2003. Picture: Neil Danton
Cork minor selector Gary Sheehan grabs a ball for Na Piarsaigh against Nemo in 2003. Picture: Neil Danton

The nature of the task, however, is that it’s like starting from scratch all over again as the next batch of U17s come on stream, hoping to make their own mark in the Cork jersey.

“We had 34-35 players training for the year and they put in a mountain of effort,” O’Brien said at the season’s end.

“Their families and their clubs should be very proud of them all.”

Central to the role of minor management is providing players for the next level and it’s fair to say the class of 2020 will be talked about in the years to come.

Their march to Munster success began by scoring 5-28 against Waterford, when the names of Hugh O’Connor, Jamie O’Driscoll, Ross Corkery and Niall Kelly first came to prominence, amassing the grand tally of 3-23, all bar 0-7 from play, between them.

One of the most exciting games of the year was the 1-15 to 1-14 semi-final win over Kerry on a glorious summer’s evening at Pairc Ui Chaoimh, the goal coming from midfielder Michael McSweeney.

It ended Kerry’s eight-year as champions with Cork justifying their favourites’ tag in the final when accounting for Limerick by 1-17 to 0-13.

It was a sweet championship though the subsequent 0-23 to 1-6 loss to Tyrone took some of the gloss from the season, underlining the need to avoid looking at Kerry as the standard setters.

“One of the things we didn’t do against Tyrone was mind the ball well enough.

Cork minor manager Michael O'Brien guided the Rebels to a Munster crown this year. Picture: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Cork minor manager Michael O'Brien guided the Rebels to a Munster crown this year. Picture: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

“Every time we won it, we gave it back to them, but this can happen,” O’Brien said after the Tyrone game.

No doubt it’s one of the lessons which will be drilled into next year’s team.

Manager: Michael O’Brien (Ballincollig)

Selectors: Daniel Cronin (St Mary’s), Gary Sheehan (Carrigtwohill), Martin O’Brien (Clonakilty), Donncha O’Connor (Ballydesmond).

More in this section

Sponsored Content

Add Echolive.ie to your home screen - easy access to Cork news, views, sport and more