Cork preparing for bright future
By Cian O’Connell
Denis Ring has no doubts. Ring expects several of the Cork Under 20 hurlers to graduate to perform at senior level shortly.
Last year Cork brought a team flecked with stars into the All Ireland Under 21 final, but were beaten by a passionate Tipperary outfit, who summoned a defiant display.
Valuable lessons were learned in that game, but Ring, a key figure in the rise of the Cork underage inter-county game once more, is adamant about the potential that exists Leeside.
“Absolutely,” Ring replies. “Even the current players we have, a number of them won Under 17 Munster and Under 17 All-Ireland which is massive. “This team two years ago won a Munster and got to an All-Ireland final and were within a score of winning.
“Last year a few of them involved won a Munster, within a puck of a ball of winning an All-Ireland. This year within a puck of a ball in injury time of a Munster final of possibly winning as well.”
That Cork are seriously competing on the provincial and national stage is critical for development according to Ring.
“I suppose you want to be winning, but the next best thing is putting yourself in a position to win,” Ring adds. “Tiger Woods in his early days when he won some Opens, was asked why he wasn't winning all of them, he said what you do is you put yourself in a position to win them and the more you put yourself in a position to win them, the more you're going to win.
“But he said you're going to lose a lot along the way but you need to keep putting yourself in a position. At the moment from our point of view we'd see that we are doing that, we are putting ourselves in a position. We've 15 games over the last few years and we've lost 3, won 12 of them and we haven't lost any by more than a goal.”
Ultimately it means that talented players are being constructed down south. “You'd like to think the players that are coming through that are getting close to what is the required standard, learning a lot from what's involved,” Ring admits.
“From a Cork perspective, I would say all this is positive. I think Kieran Kingston or whoever next year will reap the rewards of the work of the last few years because there are players coming through who have been seriously tested against the best opposition.”
Ring, though, acknowledges that it is vital for Cork to continue working hard in the juvenile ranks. “There was a period of five years in a row where Cork minor hurlers, not alone did they not win, but the team that beat them didn't win Munster championship each year,” Ring reflects.
“So that would have been how far down the pecking order. So we would feel that serious progress has been made through a combination of development squads, through a combination of these minor teams coming through and so on.
“That progress comes, Limerick made significant progress at minor level, not necessarily by winning, but coming through to make that initial breakthrough at Under 21 and then at senior. Once they won that Under 21 All-Ireland, it didn't stand on its own. There was teams either side of it where players were coming from. You're just creating a conveyor of belt of talent.
“You just try to ensure there's enough players coming through that there's a squad to pick from at senior level. That's our job ultimately.
“Along the way you want to pick up silverware. We're delighted to have won a few Munster titles along the way and that Under 17. We're disappointed not to have won the All-Ireland. For that reason we've no stone unturned in pursuit of this next Saturday.”
An interesting encounter looms at the LIT Gaelic Grounds.