CORK U20 football manager Keith Ricken is anticipating a positive reception in West Cork as his side take on Kerry in the opening round of the John Kerins Cup in Clonakilty next Wednesday (7pm).
With challenge matches not allowed at U20, the competition is one of a number of development league competitions at the grade, with Cork joined by Kerry, Galway, Dublin and Kildare, the games taking place over a 15-day period.
Though the Leaving Certificate means that Cork will be without a sizeable contingent of their squad, Ricken – the Cork IT GAA development officer – is nevertheless looking forward to the chance to get out on the field, especially a West Cork field.
‘When I started out as a county board coach in the 1980s and 90s, my first assignment was down in West Cork,’ he says.
‘I went to a lot of club and met good people, I liked the place and the approach to football. Since I took the U20 role, I’ve attended a lot of matches and I was at the Skibb-Haven U21 semi-final in Kilmacabea and the place was thronged.
‘That was the same day as Ireland played Gibraltar and there was more interest in the U21 match, it was the same for final, Skibb and Dohenys in Castlehaven, a great atmosphere, and I felt it would be good to bring the Cork team there.
‘I said it to [county board secretary] Kevin O’Donovan and he was in agreement. Clon is a lovely venue and all the West Cork lads have to come up to the city for training so it’s nice to go back down there.’
Cork begin their Munster championship campaign against Waterford or Clare on July 11th and, if Waterford were to beat the Banner, then that game would also be in Clon. Ricken is hopeful that such initiatives can become common in the coming years.
‘In time, I’d love to see more of it,’ he says, ‘because Cork football is bigger than just having the games in the city.
‘There are areas that have made great contributions to Cork football and it would be good to reward them. Banteer are undertaking a big development at the moment and that’s somewhere else you’d feel could be used by Cork.’