Ricken has spread the net far and wide for players in the McGrath Cup

The pre-season competition reaches a conclusion on Saturday, when Cork travel to play Kerry in Killarney
Ricken has spread the net far and wide for players in the McGrath Cup

Cork manager Keith Ricken speaks to his players during the half-time break against Waterford. INPHO/Ken Sutton

THE only drawback of St Finbarr’s thrilling march to an All-Ireland club semi-final is that their Cork contingent aren’t available to new manager Keith Ricken.

The likes of captain Ian Maguire, defender Sam Ryan and star forward Steven Sherlock have missed both McGrath Cup games against Clare and Waterford and will sit out the final against Kerry in Killarney on Saturday at 2pm.

And it’s the same situation the weekend after next, when Cork begin their division 2 league campaign away to Roscommon on the Sunday because the ’Barr’s are set for a showdown with the favourites Kilcoo the day before.

There may be others that the county management want to cast an eye on in a red jersey as well, but we’ll have to wait and see on that score.

For the moment Ricken and company have the onerous task of selecting a team to face a strong Kerry outfit in a competition in which Cork have already used some 37 players.

Twenty-four had the pleasure of Milltown Malbay on a typical wild afternoon on the west coast of Clare at the start of the month and six more lined-up for the next game against Waterford at Pairc Ui Rinn.

As is customary, Cork emptied the bench that evening, too, introducing seven players, ranging from the experienced Kevin Flahive (Douglas) to youngsters such as Jack Cahalane (Castlehaven), Colin Walsh (Kanturk) and Fintan Finner (Castletownbere).

Yet, the main thrust of the discussion tonight, when Cork pick their team will be finding a balance between those players involved in third-level colleges games and those who could do with the benefit of a blow-out in exalted company.

There are chunks of players who featured for MTU Cork and UCC in their Sigerson Cup games on Tuesday and last night respectively and others like Sean Powter (Douglas), who’s involved with UL.

Ricken will also take on board that MTU Cork will be playing again next week on the run-in to the Roscommon game and possibly UCC as well depending on last night’s result, and he will not want to overload players so early in the season.

Apart from the 2-9 to 0-10 win over Clare and the 1-18 to 1-9 success against Waterford, Ricken is delighted with the response of the players.

“It’s important to look at all the matches in the various grades, junior up to premier senior and see if there’s anyone there who could put their hand up,” he said recently.

“It’s what we’ve done and we’ve got a great response. We’re looking for a man.

“You might be able to make a footballer out of a man, but you don’t always make a man out of a footballer.

“I don’t mean a man in a misogynistic kind of way, but a guy who is willing to take responsibility, work hard, take the good with the bad and wanting to learn to improve.

“He must be able to go to the edge of his comfort zone and see what it’s like there.

“That’s what we’re looking for and we know it’s not for everybody.

“We want guys to become the person that they need to become to go and play at this level.

“And that goes for all us, myself, coach John Cleary and all the lads involved.

“Can we be the person that we need to be for the people who we need to be it for?

“I don’t want fellows to feel in awe of being involved with Cork.

“If they believe they should be here then they should act like they belong.

“That’s the mantra for our team and we know it will take time.” 

Meanwhile, Munster’s post-primary schools have signed a sponsorship deal with the Technological University of the Shannnon (TUS) until 2025.

There are some 30 competitions in football and hurling involving 130 schools and they will now be rebranded to be known, for example, as the TUS Corn Ui Mhuiri (SFC), which is down to the last four and includes two Cork sides, Hamilton High School, Bandon, and Skibbereen CS.

TUS will work in partnership with Munster PPS to provide further support to the post primary competitions both on and off the pitch.

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