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Two Cork legends, Jimmy Barry-Murphy and Christy Ring.
Two Cork legends, Jimmy Barry-Murphy and Christy Ring.

JBM hails influence of ‘iconic’ Christy Ring

By Cian Murphy

You mention the picture of the two of them together and Jimmy Barry Murphy smiles. “I would say I have signed my autograph on more copies of that picture than I have on anything else,” he says. 

It’s a scene from the build up to the 1978 Munster final with Cork in training at Páirc Uí Chaoimh and the iconic Christy Ring, by then a county selector, in conversation with a young an inspirational Jimmy Barry Murphy. 

Cork are at the time on the last leg of what will be an impressive hat trick of All-Ireland and Munster titles – with Ring a part of the backroom team and working his influence. 

“Neither of us knew that picture was being taken,” JBM told gaa.ie 

“That wasn’t something that he would often do, take a player aside for a chat like that. I remember it well – it was before the Munster final and he was talking to me about the match and looking for me to get more involved in the game and not to be on the periphery of it. 

“As players we probably didn’t fully appreciate just how significant it was to have Christy Ring involved with us as a selector. 

“But we had huge respect for him of course and he was a huge influence on the team and he had a great insight into the game and seeing him on the sideline was special. 

“He was generally a very quiet man and reserved. He’d usually speak before games or at half time. Although I do remember seeing him get really animated on the sideline in the ‘78 final against Kilkenny, that day he was really up and down the line.” 

JBM was the dual star teen prodigy who won a football medal with Cork in 1973 and went on to win five hurling medals with the Rebels in 1976, ’77, ’78, ’84 and ’86. But while he himself as a special status on Leeside he is uncomfortable being included alongside Ring in a list of Cork legends. 

“I wouldn’t put myself in his company at all,” insists JBM. 

“Christy Ring won eight All-Ireland medals and is just iconic not just in Cork but beyond really because of what he did and what he won. 

“He was tough and although I only saw him in club matches later in his career, he was still even then a physically powerful man. 

“I remember him being a ruthless attacker. He played in an era where opposition defenders were not shy and you’d the likes of Hell’s Kitchen and that to deal with and the defenders then were extremely tough and he would have taken ferocious punishment but still always managed to have a huge influence on a game. That says a lot. 

“He had a huge influence on Cork and he is still talked about.” 

As the young Cork team of 2020 prepare to take on Waterford in a crunch Munster senior hurling championship battle – it is fitting that they do so against the backdrop of the celebration this weekend to mark the centenary of the birth of the Cork hurling legend. 

Three-time All-Ireland winning captain and eight-time All-Ireland senior medal winning hurler, Christy Ring’s golden status in the annals of the GAA was assured long ago. 

But even now, in a different era and in a very different time, his fearless feats command enormous respect and adulation.

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