THERE’S great anticipation on the northside of Cork City in St Vincent’s GAA club as one of their own, Keith Ricken, takes over as the Cork senior football manager.
Ricken has enjoyed success in recent years with the Cork U20s side, including a superb comeback to see off Dublin in the 2019 All-Ireland final.
Now he will be hoping to oversee the start of an exciting rebuild for the Rebel footballers.
One man who knows Ricken well is St Vincent’s club man and 2010 All-Ireland medal winner Paddy O’Shea.
“It is huge and it is a massive boost,” the former Cork keeper explained. “To be honest, that buzz has kind of been building over the last three years since he won the U20 All-Ireland as manager and had Blake Murphy as part of that team as well.
“That was huge for the club and there was a great atmosphere built around that. That has developed into Keith getting the senior job, which he deserves. We were all wondering if he would put his name in the hat for it.
“But from a personal point of view, I thought once his name went in, he was the ideal man to get it. When it was announced he had got the job, it was a big lift for St Vincent’s and the area.”
Throughout his playing days with Vincent’s, O’Shea saw first-hand what Ricken is capable of as a coach. Ricken was at the Vincent’s helm in 2006 and 2012 when the club won the Premier Intermediate Football title.
O’Shea was in goal for those championship successes and he knows what kind of an operator Ricken is, and what the Cork senior football team can expect over the coming months and years.
“When we won the minor county in 1998, Keith was a young man then himself; he wasn’t even 30, so that was a good starting block for him really.
“His coaching was outstanding and he knew all of us since we were very young. He would have been a father figure to a lot of us really.
“Keith is an inspiring figure. When it comes to coaching; his training sessions are immense because it is not a case of turning up, doing your hour and a half session, and going home.
He challenges you and he challenges you mentally as well during every session. So when the pressure comes on in big games then, you are able to handle it because of the way he tests you week in and week out in training.”
In recent times as Cork U20 manager, Ricken received plenty of praise during his post-match interviews on stations such as TG4, where his personal approach and outlook on player development was clearly evident.
O’Shea adds: “Keith’s big thing, even today, is his personal approach to coaching that he instills. That is the route that he goes down.
He recognises and is very aware that there is a person behind a player and takes that into account when he is coaching. It is not just about football, he is coaching on life really as well.
“Thinking back myself and watching the way he is now, I am aware now that he took a personal approach back then with all of us at St Vincent’s.
“He is very good at developing young people. It is not just in a sports sense, but in a lifestyle and mental sense.
“It started back then with ourselves. He developed that and he got much better as the years went on.
“I have always said this, in that successful period we had with St Vincent’s when I would have been with the Cork squad at the time, Keith as a coach was second to none and his training sessions were immense.
“That is why, for a long time now, he has been in high demand for club and inter-county teams because they recognize how good he is as well.”