FORMER Cork footballer Paul Kerrigan has given his backing to new Cork manager Keith Ricken and expects the 51-year-old to really challenge his players.
Although a lot of supporters will expect Cork to gain promotion from Division 2 in their League campaign next season, the Nemo Rangers player believes that a top-three finish would be an achievement for the Rebels.
“I know from speaking to Keith he knows a lot of lads that have come through,” Kerrigan says. “He’s very big on character, so I think he will put it up to them in terms of where they need to get. I think firstly, physicality is an area he will want to improve.
“There is probably expectation on them to get out of Division 2, but looking at the division, it’s very competitive when you consider teams like Meath, Galway, Roscommon, Down and Derry are in it.
“I think Cork will do well if they got top three or top four in Keith’s first year, that would be a good achievement. I think promotion might be a little bit out of reach if he is going to go with youth, which I think he might.”
After 13 years playing for Cork, Kerrigan announced his retirement from the Rebels in 2020. The forward admits that although Cork did endure a difficult campaign this year, he did miss the playing side of inter county football.
However, retirement has allowed Kerrigan more time to study the sport and he enjoyed the chance of doing punditry work this year.
“I miss the playing side of it,” he says. “I know it wasn’t a great year for Cork but being involved at the high standard is something that I miss.
“I know a lot of players who have retired and say they don’t miss it at all and then others who miss it big time, but I just miss that high level.
“As well with inter-county, at least you know when games are going to be played and you can really prepare for it, whereas with the club, games are often changed.
“I don’t have any regrets about my decision. I knew my time was up. The demands were very high, for example, the levels of fitness required.
It’s definitely a young man’s game now. I’d love to go back but as a 25-year-old as opposed to a 35-year-old.
“When you are training and you’re 33, 34, you can’t do half the stuff you could when you were five or six years younger and that’s the frustrating part. I knew my time was up but I do miss it.
“Of course, there are some things that I haven’t missed as much. I do enjoy training but I don’t miss the volume of training. The amount of training sessions, and the toughest of sessions in preparation for games.
“I think as well, the older you get, you get a little bit impatient with analysis and the prehab before training.
“I know it’s something that has to be done but as I got older; I just wanted to go out and play. You feel after 13,14 years you are seeing the same stuff all the time.
“I do miss it, but the volume of everything that goes with it for so little games in the year is something I don’t miss. I mean, between league and Championship, if you were very lucky you would only play 10 games.
“I did enjoy going to games this year. I watched more games this year than I ever did. I managed to dip my toe into punditry which I really enjoyed.
“I don’t think I ever watched so many games even when I was playing. Now, I am watching games in more depth and watching out for certain aspects in a game.
“Every game that was on telly; I was recording and watching back. Hopefully next year, I can do a bit more work on games.
“Although I have enjoyed punditry, it is no comparison to playing, but doing that small bit of work; I’ve really enjoyed it and I didn’t think I would have enjoyed it as much at the start.
“It’s been good watching games and seeing players from other counties that I wouldn’t have had the chance to in the past. When I was involved with Cork, you were only focused on your next opponent and studying them.”
With Nemo, it was an indifferent year for Kerrigan. After winning the 2020 Senior County Championship a week before the 2021 Championship began, Kerrigan admits that a lack of freshness might have led to Nemo not advancing from the group stage of the competition.
“We had only six days to prepare for our first group game after the county final,” he says. “I thought we could have at least been given seven.
I thought we looked a bit leggy. I’ve been around a long time and we have a lot of guys in their late to mid-'20s who have numerous Munster and All-Ireland campaigns, so they have a lot of miles on the clock.
“We put a lot into the Castlehaven game, and I just thought we lacked a bit of freshness, not fitness.
“I think we need a few younger lads to step up and not wait for older lads to get out of their positions but force them out by form and the way they are playing.”