Keith Ricken sets out his vision for the making of Cork – Irish Examiner

POSITIVE RESPONSE: Keith Ricken has been bowled over by the collective eagerness of the Cork panel. Picture: Jim Coughlan
At last month’s launch of One Cork, the county’s new senior football manager passed a typically Keith Ricken comment.
In stating his desire for Cork football to develop its own identity, Ricken remarked: “I’d like to be in a position in a few years’ time that if you were watching Cork play in black and white, you’d recognise it was Cork.”
Catching up with the Cork boss the week before Christmas, we ask him what shape and form he would like Cork’s identity to take.
Ricken, in his reply, mentions character, confidence, diversity of style, and a great deal more, but rather than try and synopsize the man himself, the below paragraphs outline exactly what the new manager wants for his players and for them to achieve each time they step on the field.
“I would like that their character would come through in terms of the type of guy that they are; dedicated, committed, fit, organised, and having an understanding of what they are doing next,” the Cork manager began.
“I am not saying they are going to be winning matches left, right, and centre, we don’t know that and each game is different.
“But whether you play defensively some days and attacking other days, that they would have a sense of purpose of what they are about and that they would play with a sense of confidence and a sense of factual confidence in their own ability because they have ability.
“Is there a Cork way of playing football? There’s not. But our county is so big and in that we have a lot of different styles in different areas, be it short, kicking, long. I’d like the way we play football to be reflective of the county. I’d love to be able to play a larger, diverse game.
“I wouldn’t like it to be said, ‘oh here comes Cork and their handpassing game’. I’d like it to be diverse. You see some of the club championship games this year and they were played at a fierce pace.
“I’d like to see that in our approach too.
“I’d like that people would enjoy coming to see them, not just for the way they play football, but how they play football, in terms of the confidence, the style, and if they are going to do something, they’d execute it perfectly. That if they are doing a kick-pass, hand-pass, or making a tackle, that they are doing that at the optimum level and at the optimum pace.
“There is no science in that, there is no secret in that. That’s how we’d like to see things done; at pace, with purpose, and done right. And that we take responsibility for everything we do, individually and collectively.
“I would love to see that come in and that in a couple of years’ time people would say, that’s Cork. And can you put your finger on the one thing that makes them Cork, no. But you know by looking at them they are still Cork.”
Our first look at Ricken’s Cork will come next Thursday in Miltown-Malbay when they take on Clare in Group A of the McGrath Cup.
The manager said the pre-season competition will help him and his backroom team narrow down their panel for the 2022 season, which currently runs to the mid-60s when those on the injury list and those club-tied are factored into the equation.
Given the large volume of players knocking about the Cork camp at present, Ricken is reluctant to list any newcomers or returnees to the county set-up for fear of unintentionally omitting this name or that.
“When you are starting afresh you have to have a bigger base, and the county board has given us great support on that front. There are a lot of people involved in the set-up, we have a big team of selectors, and that allows you to spread the work and the amount of players you have. Any fella playing adult football in Cork that wants to put his hand up will be looked at.”
Of those who have already put their hand up and are part of the provisional panel, Ricken has been bowled over by their collective eagerness.
The negativity so often associated with Cork football in recent years he has not seen sight of.
“In terms of Cork football, there seemed to be a lot of people with negative thoughts, they were looked at in a negative light. I genuinely haven’t seen any of that. The enthusiasm and the input from players has been phenomenal so far, you’d be delighted with it. The lads are working away on trying to get fit, to get their football done, and their conditioning done. It is not a race to the end, it is very positive.
“I am looking forward to the matches kicking off, the challenge matches, the McGrath Cup matches, the league matches, and the championship matches. Isn’t the matches what we train for?”.

Ricken’s spring programme
McGrath Cup
January 6: Clare v Cork, Miltown Malbay, 7pm.
January 11: Cork v Waterford, Páirc Uí Rinn, 7pm.
January 15: McGrath Cup final.
Allianz League Division 2
January 30: Roscommon v Cork, Dr Hyde Park, 2pm.
February 5: Cork v Clare, Páirc Uí Chaoimh, 7pm.
February 20: Derry v Cork, Derry CoE, Owenbeg, 2pm.
February 26: Cork v Galway, Páirc Uí Chaoimh, 5pm.
March 13: Meath v Cork, Páirc Tailteann, 2pm.
March 20: Cork v Down, Páirc Uí Chaoimh, 1pm;
March 27: Offaly v Cork, Bord Na Móna O’Connor Park, 2pm.
April 2-3: Allianz Football League Division 2 final: 1st v 2nd, both promoted. 

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