The brilliant 'tea and toast' story that Keith Ricken inspired the Cork under-20s with
Cork were losing the 2019 All-Ireland under-20 final by nine points, with just 11 minutes played, when their centre back Sean Meehan ran into the team's goalkeeper Josh O'Keeffe.
'Tea and toast' he said to him, 'next ball.' O'Keeffe had been at fault for the goal that gave Dublin their 1-6 to 0-0 lead but strange as it sounds, as he watched on from the sideline, Cork manager Keith Ricken had never been prouder in his coaching life. Given the bad start, the uphill battle and the poxy goal, you'd think he'd be up-in-arms but instead he was smiling. What had just happened dawned on him you see, and the back-story is something beautiful.
It was a couple of years earlier when, lying in a hospital bed after a colonoscopy, Ricken was absolutely famished. He was already eyeing up the two slices of toast perched beside him when, out of nowhere, in came his daughters to eat the toast and in came his son to drink the tea.
Along with his wife, they were all in the room when, a couple of minutes later, the doctor gave Ricken the bad news that he could have cancer. All around him, his wife and kids were stunned into silence and that was when the doctor asked Ricken if he had any questions.
“Is there any chance,” he asked the doctor “that I could get more tea and toast.”
As he told the story during his rip-roaring speech at the National Games Development Conference 2020, Ricken recalled how, after they returned home from the hospital, his wife asked him why he'd asked the doctor for tea and toast when he could have been asking about something more important like his health.
"Because it was the most important thing to me at that particular time," he said to her.
"I remember sharing this story to the lads and I said to them," continued Ricken, "that no matter what happens, if the whole world goes belly-up, you can only do the next thing. So, it's the next kick-out, the next ball."
That's why it's one of his greatest ever memories.
"It's not that we came back to win the match. It's because those fellas at 18, 19, 20 years of age, believed in something greater than themselves. They believed in something we were fighting for together for five months. You're not important, it's not about you, the next ball is what's important. It was the one time I said to myself 'I can't believe they listened to me."
Keith Ricken is the new Cork senior football manager
You only need to watch this interview to know what a brilliant appointment it ispic.twitter.com/19Rhsc591Z
— GAA JOE (@GAA__JOE) October 13, 2021
Having gotten the all-clear a while later, the same manager was a breath of fresh air throughout his tenure as Cork under-2o manager and now, on the day he was named as the next senior football manager, it's easy to see why the whole county is getting excited.
"The County Executive will be proposing Keith Ricken (St. Vincent’s) as incoming Senior Football manager on a two year term at our next County Committee meeting. Selectors will be as follows: Micheál Ó Cróinín (Naomh Abán), Ray Keane (MTU / St. Finbarr’s), James Loughrey (St. Brigid’s / Mallow), Barry Corkery (Éire Óg) and Des Cullinane (St. Nicholas). Coach to be announced in the near future."
Watch his full speech at the Games Development Conference here and you'll be getting excited yourself.