AFTER the ball trickled out of play in the 64th minute of the 2017 Women’s FAI Cup final, Christina Dring was summoned from the bench and was about to be introduced.
With Cork City leading 1-0, the 18-year-old was the first substitution as the club looked to hang onto the win and claim their first-ever piece of silverware.
“Coming onto the pitch I was a bit nervous,” she admits.
“I was a bit disappointed not to start because I felt I had been playing well.
“But at that point, I had only been with the squad for three or four months so I was a bit inexperienced to start the game.
“I was nervous but once I was on it all went away, I was just playing another game of football. But knowing that I was getting a chance to help the team to get the win was great.”
The tactical switch helped and over half an hour later, Dring and her teammates were lifting the FAI Cup aloft at the Aviva Stadium.
And over 24 hours later, they were parading the trophy - joined by the men’s double-winning side - in front of thousands of delighted City fans, but only after their normal routine was completed.
“Lifting the cup was just…. a great moment, one of the best days I’ve had with Cork City for sure,” enthuses Dring.
“I was in sixth year at the time so I was in school the day after the final, I’m pretty sure. I think I went in late but I wasn’t really thinking about school at that point.
“I was in such a celebratory mindset but then to go back into school I was grounded again. Everyone was working, I had to go back to doing homework and studying for tests.”
Although three years have passed since that triumph, with City recently qualifying for their second-ever FAI Cup final the memories have come flooding back for Dring, who is now a Civil Engineering student at UCC.
And although they still have one game remaining in the Women’s National League against Galway, the recent 3-0 defeat to Peamount United - their opponents in the final on December 12 - has brought the upcoming showpiece occasion firmly into view.
“Obviously, we were thinking that we're meeting them in a cup final in a few weeks but we had to get that out of our heads once the game kicked off,” says Dring.
“It was just another league game that we needed to get a result in and we were just unlucky not to get anything out of it. The cup final will be a new game and anything can happen.
“It’s great to be back in the final but it’s a pity it’s in Tallaght and not the Aviva, we wanted the young girls to experience the same thing we did in 2017.
“It’s disappointing but that doesn’t take away from the fact that we got to the final and it shows how much we have improved over the past few years. We are finally getting some rewards from that.
“But so far we are definitely having a good season. Last season some of those games against the likes of Limerick or DLR Waves we would’ve thrown away the lead and we wouldn’t have kept going until the end to get the three points.
“We had a couple of those games last season where we let in unnecessary goals and dropped points but this season we have been doing very well, we have come on a lot.”
Three years ago, Dring was brought on to do a role on the left-wing but in the 2020 final she is likely to feature further forward behind the striker.
She watched from the sidelines as Clare Shine notched that famous winner but now her dream is to score the decisive goal herself in just over two weeks’ time.
“Obviously, we want to win games as a team but I would like to be scoring more myself,” she insists.
“I just want to keep my place in the team going into the final but as a team we want to win our last game against Galway, finish as high as possible and then win the cup final.
“It doesn’t matter that we are playing against Peamount, who are playing in the Champions League and could win the league again, we know we are definitely in with a chance and we can definitely win the game.
“It would be great to score a winner in a cup final, I think everyone wants to do that.
“I haven’t been playing as a striker this season, I’ve been playing more as a number 10 so I’ll see what it’s like for the final but I would love to get in on the goals.”