Keith Ricken on the long term project with the Cork senior footballers

Keith Ricken says he’s well aware of the long journey facing the Cork footballers as they look to get back to the top.

The Rebels begin their Allianz National Football League division 2 campaign away to Roscommon on Sunday afternoon, going into the game on the back of last week’s defeat to Kerry in the McGrath Cup.

Ricken held a press briefing yesterday, speaking to reporters for over an hour, and it was clear to see how much passion he has for the job at hand, while not being daunted at the size of it and the rebuilding that has to be done.

“I came into this with my eyes open. I knew what the task was ahead of me, when I started on the 8th of December which was the first time we could get our hands on lads, when I saw what was there and what was around, I knew that we had an awful lot of work to do physically and conditioning wise.

“We have a lot of footballers, but they’re on a different trajectory than some of the more established counties, for whatever reason over the last couple of years. I know the Cork County Board have done a lot of work in trying to put structures in place, but that’s going to take time.

“I’ve come in to do the job that I’ve been asked to do, which is to restructure, reorganise Cork football, reestablish a good character among the players, and a good place for Cork football to be in and that’s as much as I can do at the moment.

“Division 2 is very difficult. There’s a view that we’re going to go in, play Division 2 and go up. No. That’s not my concern, it wasn’t my concern on Sunday with the McGrath Cup. My concern is can we develop a squad of players that will sustain the future of Cork football over the next few years. 

“That’s not going to happen overnight. Good timber takes its time to grow. We have to be patient. 

“While I’m focussing on every match and every training session on the here and now to get the best of them in the here and now, I’m acutely aware that there’s a longer term project coming through.

“There’s an underage system that is now starting to produce some very very good footballers, I have to be patient with them. They’re not going to go from under 19 or under 20 or under 17 straight into the senior set up. There’s a lot of work to be done. There’s a lot of work for guys who, for whatever reason, haven’t conditioned in the way an inter county footballer should be conditioned, and we have a lot of work there, it’s as simple as that.

“I’m taking every day, every game, every time we come down together it’s a new adventure and a new project, and we’re going to see what’s there.

“I don’t have any long term aims of how long it will take us to get to division one. If it presented this year and we took a few victories, great. But it’s the long term project – it has to be the long term project. Whether we’re winning or losing it has to be long term.”

Ricken revealed he had to give the role a considerable amount of thought before he agreed to come in.

“Anything that’s worth committing to you have to give it thought.

“It’s always an ambition of everybody maybe to coach Cork. It wasn’t an ambition of mine, I truthfully mean that. It was hardly an ambition of mine to be coaching the Cork under 20s at the time! It presented itself, they were looking for somebody and I said maybe I could help here.

“It was probably the same for this, I felt maybe I could help this. What I felt was needed, was I could help the situation by getting very good people in, getting organised and getting up and running.

“I asked a large number of people to get involved, and everybody said yes and I was delighted. That was the first part of it. It’s going to take time after that, and that’s fine.

“In relation to wanting to do the job, and needing to do the job and then committing to the job – they’re all different things. A lot of people say ‘oh this is a dream job’ – I never had any ambitions, I’m not an ambitious person that way. I enjoy doing what I do, I love giving over my time to the lads and try to make better people out of them, I love that side of it. I love Cork football and I’m always committed to Cork football. But if I thought the best place for me in Cork football was down with the under 15 team and helping that out, I would have gone there if I felt I was needed.

“I felt my skillset was needed here – if I didn’t I wouldn’t be here.

“I’m living in a three bed semi detached house, still a big mortgage hanging over my head, two kids and a lot of other stuff on in my life. This is not a job as people talk about, there’s no money in it. There’s no anything in it. It’s 50-60 hours a week on top of your own job. I’m very look to have good support from my colleagues, and good support from home, obviously. I’ll give my 100% for as long as it takes, until I feel my bit is done here or I can’t bring it on any further.”

Asked if he was surprised that he’s in a position where he’s now Cork senior football boss, Ricken said it was just a matter of being in the right place at the right time, and he’s going to give everything he can to get the Rebels back to where they should be.

“I’m surprised I’m alive at 52 years of age to be truthful with you. I had a couple of near death experiences and my life has gone 100 different ways and I’ve done a load of different things. There’s nothing that doesn’t surprise me. I’m surprised every morning and I’m grateful every morning that when I get up when I turn on the tap on water comes out of it. There are people across the world who don’t have that luxury. Nothing surprised me, I take nothing for granted. When I commit to something, I commit to something.

“When you’re walking along the round and if you found a 50 euro note on the ground you pick it up and say “Jaysus my luck is in today”, you didn’t think about it, you picked it up and you put it in your pocket and you spend that wisely.

“Sometimes things present themselves as they happen, sometimes they’re long term projects. My long term projects are at home, they’re for my family. My long term projects are for the students I work with. This project presented itself, this project felt like a good idea to get involved with and now I’m in it I’m in it 100%.

“Will I regret doing it? Every feckin day you’ll regret doing it, when you haven’t time to do what you want to do. Do I love doing it? Absolutely every day.

“It doesn’t sustain me in terms of who I am and what I’m about. But it does fulfil me.”

Ricken also took time to wish St Finbarr’s the very best of luck in their AIB All Ireland Senior Club football championship Semi final with Kilcoo of Down on Saturday.

“It would be fantastic to see them go all the way. They’vebeen fantastic, they won in Munster and they were great.

“A rising tide lifts all boats. We wish them the very very best, we wish the management the very best and the players. They’ve given a great enthusiasm to Cork football, and that’s fantastic.

“Club football is fantastic, it’s a great competition. It’s lovely to see a traditional club like the Barrs getting back to a bit of success, and I wish them the very best of luck.”

Hear more from Keith Ricken on the Big Red Bench this Saturday evening from 6pm


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