BY JOHNNY CAROLAN
HAVING worked with Keith Ricken since he was a teenager, former Cork captain Paul Kerrigan is well-placed to assess the new county senior football manager’s style and he believes that the St Vincent’s man will be a success.
Ricken’s appointment was confirmed last week. He will be joined by coach John Cleary (Castlehaven) while the selectors will be Micheál Ó Cróinín (Naomh Abán), Ray Keane (MTU/St Finbarr’s), James Loughrey (Mallow), Barry Corkery (Éire Óg) and Des Cullinane (St Nicholas).
Kerrigan, a part of the 2009 CIT Sigerson Cup-winning side under Ricken’s tutelage, believes that the new boss will approach things from a fresh viewpoint.
‘I think he’ll have his own unique way to get the most out of them,’ Kerrigan says.
‘I think he’ll challenge them. There’s a whole lot of young fellas that have come through but it’s a new ball game.
‘There has to be a realisation that we’re a good bit off the top teams and maybe a little bit off the rest of the Division 1 teams, so the challenge is there to push themselves and be the best they can be.’
Finding a replacement for Ronan McCarthy took perhaps a bit longer than expected but Kerrigan felt that Ricken – who led Cork to the 2019 All-Ireland U20 title – was the stand-out candidate once he was in the field.
‘To be honest, I felt that once his name was in the mix, he’d be the right man for it,’ he says.
‘I know previously his name had been touted but he really showed his credentials with the U20 All-Ireland in 2019 and the two Munsters.
‘The biggest thing I found is that he challenges you, personally and in front of the group, no matter what your status.
‘At the same time, he’d be good to give you praise too, if you deserved it.’
Kerrigan can trace his work with Ricken back more than two decades.
‘There used to be a Cork county team and a Seandún team,’ he says, ‘effectively the old development-squad system.
‘He was over that city team so I had him U13, U14, U15 and U16, and then in my second year minor he came in as a selector. Then I went to CIT and obviously and he worked and works there and he was the manager the year we won the Sigerson.
‘He was always a good man-manager, but he has got even better at that.
‘I always felt that he was a really good and thoughtful coach.’
Kerrigan witnessed Keith Ricken’s prowess first-hand when he played under the St Vincent’s man at CIT.
The Nemo Rangers legend was a key part of the team that won CIT’s first and only Sigerson title in 2009.
‘When we won it, it was my fourth year in college,’ Kerrigan says.
‘[Daniel] Goulding would have been in fifth year, Ray Carey was in his fourth, Colm [O’Neill] was in his third.
‘Prior to that, we were always very thrown together for championship, you mightn’t have had the Kerry fellas until the day of the game.
‘There were only small numbers training and it was hard to build it, then. We weren’t cohesive as a group and we maybe didn’t believe that we could win – or didn’t know how far we could go.
‘When Keith took over, there was a good group of us on the Cork senior panel but we still had to be there, we had to play the games for CIT and play well in them. I remember playing league games up the country and we had to be there and there were six o’clock trainings in the morning before college.
‘He pushed us hard because we were inter-county fellas – he felt that, if we weren’t doing it, how would the other fellas follow?
‘He challenged us and put belief into us in equal measure. We played the semi-final and I was only okay in the first half, I kicked a point. He gave the team-talk and he said, “And Paul, you’re going to tog out now and play for the second half.” It got a reaction and I played well in the second half. He was well able to do that.
‘I remember we played DCU, a star-studded team, in the quarter-finals. The week before, we were training at six o’clock on a frosty morning and I just got a feeling that we were going to rattle it. We knew we were going to be there or thereabouts because we had the work done and we had good self-belief and a strong team spirit.
‘He really instilled that into us and carried it on since. That Sigerson was one of my most enjoyable victories ever. The Cork team were away training in La Manga or Portugal and we were at home but we didn’t miss it as it was such a memorable victory.’