Keith Ricken: I’m very proud of a Cork team who never, ever gave up

IT’S the minors who are the last Cork football team standing after mixed fortunes in a hectic 24-hour schedule at the weekend.

Their exciting 1-15 to 1-14 Munster semi-final win over champions Kerry at Páirc Uí Chaoimh on Friday night was followed by the disappointment of the U20s losing their All-Ireland semi-final to Offaly at O’Moore Park, Portlaoise on Saturday.

The Leinster champions deservedly won by 3-10 to 0-14 to deny Cork, who battled back from a wretched first-half display to come within two points approaching injury-time.

But, a third Offaly goal settled matters and, in truth, the winners could have scored six and their wides stretched to 13.

Jack Bryant of Offaly celebrates after scoring the killer late goal against Cork during the 2021 EirGrid GAA All-Ireland Football U20 Championship semi-final. Picture: Matt Browne/SportsfileJack Bryant of Offaly celebrates after scoring the killer late goal against Cork during the 2021 EirGrid GAA All-Ireland Football U20 Championship semi-final. Picture: Matt Browne/SportsfileThe other U20 semi-final is between Roscommon and Down, who defeated Monaghan by 3-15 to 1-14 after extra-time on Friday night.

Yet, manager Keith Ricken was full of praise for his charges and believes the future is encouraging for football in the county.

“I loved the way we kept fighting right to the end and the lads died with their socks on,” he said.

We are all very good, when things are going great, but you judge a person when things are not going great.

“I believe seven or eight of these fellows will be household names in a few years’ time. There is no doubt about that.

“I make that judgement now on what I’ve seen and what I saw was a team who never, ever gave up. I’m very proud of that.”

Ricken was still proud of his players’ second-half efforts.

“We stood up in the second half and tried to answer the problems we created ourselves in the first half,” he said.

“Yes, we left holes at the back which they exploited with a bit of pace and some very good players. I genuinely thought we left it all out there in the second half.

They may not have done it in the first half for whatever reason. I think the crowd may have been a factor and things get to fellows.

“Yet, I thought they settled down and if you’re looking at what the future of Cork football holds in terms of character, there was no crumbling.

“We fell nine points down at the start of the second half and were really under the cosh, but nobody went into hiding.

“There was nobody faking injuries either and we had to pull players off the field when making changes.

“I’m very happy with that side of things and I think from my role in the development of Cork football we’ve done that again.

“I believe we will get a lot of players from this group and the hurt and pain from this evening will be used to their advantage.”

Offaly now march on to the final against either Down or Roscommon.

“I wasn’t surprised by the way they played and I’ve been telling people that because Offaly were my tip to win Leinster.

“I’ve seen these guys play and they have a lot of pace and quite a lot of skilful players, who will punish you inside if they make a mistake.

“We started this campaign without six players who you would have thought would be starting but for injuries.

“So, for us to be still involved at the business end of the championship, I’m very happy with that.

“Of course, there were performances that were below par and the lads know that themselves, but I thought we worked very hard in the second half and I can’t ask for any more than that.”

Cork break Kerry’s eight-year stranglehold on Munster minor football championship

Munster MFC semi-final: Cork 1-15 Kerry 1-14

Kerry’s eight-year stranglehold on the Munster minor football championship is no more, Cork scoring a one-point win in this evening’s provincial semi-final to dump out the Kingdom and, in the process, book their place in the decider on Wednesday week.

Kerry, having trailed by five with 10 minutes remaining, came desperately close to forcing extra-time as James Costello’s charges narrowed the gap to the minimum coming down the stretch and were presented with a chance to equalise matters three minutes into second-half stoppages but Dylan Roche missed a close-range free to ensure Cork held on.

Cork will have been disappointed with how they let their opponents back into contention having led by 1-13 to 1-6 at the second water break. Mistakes were plentiful on either side as cheap turnovers and poor passes ruled the hour.

This result means Cork, for the first time since 2013, have beaten Kerry in minor and U20 championship fixtures in the same year.


Cork, despite playing into the teeth of a strong wind in the opening half, held a commanding 1-9 to 0-6 interval lead. And, in truth, their half-time advantage should have been greater as Michael O’Brien’s side tallied seven first-half wides, while also dropping short a further two efforts.

Cork’s two outstanding forwards of the first-half, Niall Kelly and Hugh O’Connor, were the first two boys in red on the board to send the hosts into an early lead.

There followed, however, Kerry’s most productive spell of the half, landing four without reply in a five-minute spell – Eoghan Hassett (0-2 frees), Jack Clifford, and Luke Crowley the providers – to go from two behind to two in front by the eighth minute.

The Kingdom would manage only two further white flags between there and the call for half-time, Cork’s overall superiority meaning the visitors were unable to create a meaningful flow of chances to capitalise on the elements.

A Hugh O’Connor free and Jack O’Neill point brought the hosts back on level terms, with Niall Kelly’s second of the evening shoving Cork in front – 0-5 to 0-4 – just before the first water break.

They continued to put distance between themselves and their opponents upon the resumption of play, a Michael McSweeney goal at the end of a 1-3 unanswered burst propelling the home side seven in front on 29 minutes.

Kerry halved the six-point interval deficit when securing a soft goal through Hassett at the beginning of the second half.

Cork, to their credit, issued an impressive response, with Jack O’Neill (0-2), Kelly, and O’Connor (free) opening up a gap of seven once more at the second water break.

Six Hassett points pulled Kerry right back into the mix but they were unable to find an equalising score. Their nine-in-a-row Munster bid is over.

Scorers for Cork: N Kelly (0-6, 0-1 free); H O’Connor (0-4, 0-3 frees); J O’Neill (0-3); M McSweeney (1-0); D O’Brien, J O’Driscoll (0-1 each).

Scorers for Kerry: E Hassett (1-9, 0-5 frees); L Crowley (0-2); R Monahan, J Clifford, D O’Callaghan (0-1 each).

Cork: M O’Connell (St Michael’s); D Twomey (Ballinascarthy), S O’Connell (Kilshannig), P O’Grady (Killavullen); S Copps (Mallow), C Twomey (Carbery Rangers), D O’Brien (Glanworth); M McSweeney (Knocknagree), R O’Shaughnessy (St Michael’s); J O’Neill (Castlehaven), N Kelly (Newcestown), C Gillespie (Aghabullogue); O Corcoran (St Mary’s), J O’Driscoll (Castlehaven), H O’Connor (Newmarket).

Subs: B Hayes (Nemo Rangers) for Gillespie, D Crowley (Urhan) for McSweeney (both 47); C Cusack (Nemo Rangers) for O’Grady (53, inj); N Daly (Ilen Rovers) for O’Neill (56); A Kelleher (St Colum’s) for Twomey (59).

Kerry: K Mackessy (Finuge); C Lynch (Glenflesk), R Diggin (Laune Rangers), E McCarthy (Churchill); R Colleran (Fossa), D O’Callaghan (Kilcummin), A Segal (Ballyduff); R Monahan (Ardfert), J Clifford (St Michael’s Foilmore); J Kelleher (Glenflesk), E Hassett (Laune Rangers), R Mahony (St Senan’s); C Dillon (Duagh), L Crowley (Glenflesk), D Roche (Glenflesk).

Subs: C Keating (Dr Crokes) for Kelleher (HT); D Conway (Finuge) for Mahoney (43); J Doyle (Na Gaeil) for Colleran, D O’Connor (Kerins O’Rahillys) for Dillons (both 46).

Referee: C Maguire (Clare).