ONE of the first calls new Cork football manager Keith Ricken made in compiling his back-room team was to recently retired defender James Loughrey.
The former Antrim player, who moved to Cork, duly accepted the role as selector, joining Micheal O Cronin, Barry Corkery, Ray Keane and Des Cullinane with John Cleary as coach.
“We have 23 people involved and most of them are doing it on a voluntary basis,” Ricken told the Echo.
The new assembly debuts in the McGrath Cup opener against Clare in Miltown Malbay on Thursday night at 7pm.
“I was very taken by James in his time with Cork, his leadership, his passion and you also need a link between to the present day which he has,” Ricken explained.
“We brought James in with the U20s last season to deal with defending and we found him to be very good on the art of defending and articulate, too.
“Not conceding big scores is one of the things we’re looking at and we’re not in denial about it.
“But, there are a plethora of reasons and it’s not any one reason, any one fault.” Eire Og’s Corkery is an interesting addition not only in terms of football but in his dealings with young people.
“He has his own practice in terms of addiction and counselling as well as working with the HSE in that field.
“If he didn’t have that Barry would still be in the role he’s doing because Barry is very insightful in what he does and knows his football.
“He is very good in aspects that we might take for granted and that’s important because every county manager is dealing with players who have come through a very difficult last couple of years due to Covid.
“And that might be as a once-normal thing like calling to someone’s house, sitting down having a chat or simply going out socialising and meeting people.
“Ok, you can do a lot of things on-line, but mixing with people is a huge part of the collective and that has been denied to them too often as it should.
“A lot of the first-years in MTU haven’t had ‘a first of’ like grads or a debs, freshers week or no general celebration.
“I met a second-year student recently who only met his class-mates for the first time a few weeks ago and he didn’t realise how tall or small some of them were.
“Everyone’s first reaction now is to be cautious and we become conditioned very quickly. Barry’s skill in this is excellent.
“I think everyone on board will have the same values, are very genuine and they all share a humility.”
Keane is best known for guiding St Finbarr’s to the 2019 county, but Ricken knows him for over 20 years.
“People might throw their eyes up at seeing his name as a selector, but I saw the work he did with the ‘Barr’s and Ray was also the first secretary of the CIT club.
“He was a first-year in 2000, when I started my job (GAA Officer) and I picked him out straight away.
“I remember asking ‘hands up here anyone who has helped run a B@B or a hotel and Ray put his hand up. I told him I’ve a job for you.
“I reckoned any fellow who could do that at 18 or 19 years of age he could do anything and Ray turned out to be a very talented footballer and a great leader of the club.
“He always maintained an interest after graduation and Ray has a great values system centred on people.
“Knowledge is important, too, but it’s not the be-all-and-end-all because it’s also about hard work and a willingness to learn, as well.
“Des works with young people on a daily basis and does a marvellous amount of work.
“He has a great head on his shoulders, but he is constantly learning and would ring up to say ‘I thought of this today’ or ‘I saw this today’.
“These are the kind of people I wanted on board,” Ricken concluded.