Keith Ricken keen to get involved with Cork underage development squads again

'We’re very pernickety at times and we don’t see the whole chunk of things being done and being done very well, year-in, year-out, day-in and day-out...'
Keith Ricken keen to get involved with Cork underage development squads again

Former Cork manager Keith Ricken during the McGrath Cup group A match against Clare. Picture: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

THEY may have thought their jousting days were consigned to history but John Cleary and Colm O’Rourke will lock horns again next season.

In the 1980s the Cork and Meath rivalry reached an intensity that bordered on bitter at times though relations improved considerably since.

Clashing in three All-Ireland finals-four if you include the 1988 replay-in four years brought the pair together as players and now they’ll renew rivalry as the respective managers of their counties.

Castlehaven’s Cleary will be rubberstamped as Keith Ricken’s successor at Tuesday’s county board meeting while O’Rourke, whose playing career spanned 20 years, takes over from Andy McEntee.

Meath's Colm O'Rourke and Teddy McCarthy of Cork battling in the 1987 All-Ireland final at Croke Park. Picture: INPHO/James Meehan
Meath's Colm O'Rourke and Teddy McCarthy of Cork battling in the 1987 All-Ireland final at Croke Park. Picture: INPHO/James Meehan

Cork travelled to Navan to play Meath in Division 2 of the league earlier in the year so the presumption is that Pairc Ui Chaoimh will house next year’s meeting.

Cleary is well versed in inter-county management, ranging from his successful stint with Cork U21s as selector first and then manager during a 10-year stint to coach with the seniors this season.

There’s also a change on the way in Down, who lost to both Cork and Meath this season and ended up being relegated to Division 3.

James McCartan has obviously had enough after his charges lost to Monaghan in Ulster and then to Cavan in the first round of the new Tailteann Cup.

Ricken, meanwhile, will still play some role in the development of Cork football despite stepping down from the manager’s position due to illness.

Only last weekend he went to look at some of the U14 teams in action in Mallow and took in the U15s as well.

“That’s something I’d like to get involved in again and help out in any way I can,” he said during the week. “I’m in touch with Kevin O’Donovan, Kevin O’Callaghan and Conor Counihan who know I can contribute and I will.

“I spoke to the U14s after their game and you get energised by that. I’m also very positive from what I’ve seen around the county, where there is a lot of hard work being put in.

“We’re very pernickety at times and we don’t see the whole chunk of things being done and being done very well, year-in, year-out, day-in and day-out,” he said.

UNDERAGE CONCERNS

Ricken is also part of the nationwide discussion about how underage is going to be structured from next season on, whether minor will be U18 or U17 or will U21 return instead of the current U20.

“I’m banging heads there, too, though it’s more like I’m banging my own head off the wall,” Ricken joked.

“Still, it’s a great opportunity to voice concerns that people have about underage structures and the future.

“Sometimes there’s a ‘them-and-us’ approach by some people, but I don’t buy that because ‘them’ up there are the same as ‘us’ down here.

“We’re all in the one boat in this. We may disagree, but there’s mutual respect there, too. It’s important that we do our best for young boys and girls and while there’s no agreement there yet, I’ve no doubt there will be.”

Ricken’s third-level involvement is well documented from his time with MTU Cork Campus, formerly CIT, and finding suitable dates for the popular Sigerson and Fitzgibbon Cups is another topic for discussion.

“That’s important, too, because I invested the last 20 odd years in that and I wouldn’t have done it if I didn’t believe it was important.

“Putting energy into the next generation is never a waste of time and it’s something I love.”

Ricken attended Croke Park for last Sunday’s All-Ireland final, where he watched proceedings from the Ard Comhairle section.

“It was lovely to be there and I will see a Corkman lift the Sam Maguire again whether it’s as a supporter or what, but it will happen. 

I’m not a daydreamer. We’re a couple of years away from yet, but we’re not as far away as people think either.

“We’ve a lot of work being done by a lot of good people. There’s always hope, but you must have evidence, too, and science to back you up which also gives depth to that hope.

“We are going in the right direction and I genuinely see success around the corner,” Ricken concluded.

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