Christy Ring at 100: Friendship with Jack Lynch led to glory day in Blackpool

Christy Ring at 100: Friendship with Jack Lynch led to glory day in Blackpool

Christy Ring in action against Blackrock in the 1956 Cork County SHC final. 

CHRISTY RING arrived in Blackpool in 1941 and joined Glen Rovers Hurling Club.

This was 25 years after the club’s foundation. By now the Glen were well established as a hurling stronghold. They had very successful minor and juvenile sections and had won seven Cork senior hurling championship titles in succession.

The 20-year-old Cloyne man was welcomed to the club with open arms and immediately felt like one of their own. Many years later it was said it was not the success of the club at that time or the promise of a job that attracted him, but the sheer quality of a friendship he built up with Jack Lynch who was a Cork hurling colleague.

The young east Cork man was not overawed by his new surrounds and immediately blended in. From the first day he put on the famed green, black and yellow, he took pride in the jersey and fully comprehended the spirit of the Glen.

The club won their first senior title in 1934 led by Joe Lee who captained the team to five titles followed by Jack Lynch who led the club to victory in 1939 and 1940.

For the 1941 championship the Glen elected Connie Buckley to captain the side. They trained hard in a small field up in Kilbarry. Ring turned up for every session and played at midfield in all games. Once again they qualified for the county final.

Their opponents were Ballincollig. Over 12,000 attended the game which was played at the old Cork Athletic Grounds.

It was a day Ring later said he would never forget. The Glen defeated Ballincollig by 4-7 to 2-2. Ring scored one point. It was two days after his 21st birthday and he said, “the Glen had given him the present of his life.”

Christy Ring, second row, fourth from right, with the 1941 Glen Rovers eight-In a-row county winning team.
Christy Ring, second row, fourth from right, with the 1941 Glen Rovers eight-In a-row county winning team.

Being part of the historic eight in a row team and winning his first Cork County Senior hurling championship medal.

Ring went on to become a national hurling legend, winning 18 RailwayCup medals, eight All-Ireland medals, nine Munster Championship medals, four National League titles. The only memento to allude him was an Oireachtas medal.

These successes have been well documented elsewhere. However, the focus of this article concentrates solely on his hurling years with the Glen where he won 14 senior hurling medals over a 26-year period.

In 1942 the Glen were going for their ninth title but were defeated by Ballincollig in the semi-final in Blarney. St Finbarr's went on to win the title and retained it the following year.

In 1944 the Glen were kingpins again, led by Din Joe Buckley.

The Glen defeated the champions St Finbarr‘s amidst scenes of wild jubilation on a score of 5-3 to 3-3. Ring played at centre-forward and secured his second county title to end a magnificent year when he also won his fourth All-Ireland medal in a row.

During that year, away from the playing fields and behind closed doors, Ring was a regular visitor to the Boxing Club in Spring Lane. Here he did a lot of workouts and physical training with the Glen Hurling trainer Mick O’Brien.

Ring was an athlete with vision and a man ahead of his time. He knew the benefit of upper body strength and he worked hard on this under O’Brien’s guidance.

Originally, Mick O’Brien was a boxing trainer with the Glen Boxing club. Prior to the 1934 county final he was approached by club officials to train the team as he enjoyed a great reputation at that time. He went on to train the Glen with remarkable success and under his guidance they won 13 senior county titles in 17 years.

Ring knew the benefit of the trainer’s experience and knowledge and took full advantage of it through their many private sessions.

Ring’s success with the Glen continued in the 1940s with county final victories over Carrigdhoun in 1945, Blackrock in 1948, and Imokilly in 1949.

Ring was never put off in an inter-county match, but he was sent off twice while playing for the Glen. One of those occasions was the 1948 County final against Blackrock. The game was evenly balanced midway through the second half, and following a melee, Ring was sent to the line.

This triggered a remarkable response from Jack Lynch who thundered into the game and on his greatest day ever in a Glen jersey, Lynch power-hosed the Blackpool side to a famous 5- 7 to 3-2 victory.

In the fifties the Ringer won a further five Cork senior hurling championship titles. The Glen recorded final victories over the Barrs in 1950, Sarsfield’s 53, Blackrock in ‘54, the Barrs in ‘58 and Blackrock in 1959. The year 1954 was Ring‘s most successful year. He captained Cork to All-Ireland success and won his eighth All-Ireland medal. He captained Glen Rovers to county final success and won his eighth-county medal. He also won a senior football medal with St Nick’s that year.

In 1960 the Glen completed another three-in-a-row with a hard-earned two-point victory over UCC. In 1961 the Rockies took the titles back to the fishing village, but the following year the Glen were back up on the victor’s roster. Once again, their final opponents were UCC and the final ended in a draw. 

The replay attracted an attendance in excess of 25,000 people. This was a very close final with no quarter asked or given.

But in a moment of magic from the maestro, the Glen rang out victorious.

In the last minute, at two points down, the Glen mounted one last attack.

Glen forward Bill Carroll was pulled down on the edge of the square. The Glen were awarded a last gasp 21-yard free. Up stepped Ring and ran at the ball, shovelled it five yards forward and with all the strength his body could muster billowed the college net giving the Glen their 19th title and Ring his 12th county medal.

In 1963 the new Sean Óg Murphy Cup was introduced by the county board. UCC were the first winners. That year, at the Glen Rovers AGM, Christy Ring spoke a few words saying it was his wish to bring the new cup to Blackpool. Ring was then elected captain. 

Christy Ring in the thick of the action during the 1964 final with rivals St Finbarr’s.
Christy Ring in the thick of the action during the 1964 final with rivals St Finbarr’s.

In the 1964 championship the Glen defeated all before them and qualified to meet the Barrs in the final. The game took place on the eve of Ring’s 44th birthday;a crowd of over 25,000 packed into the old athletic grounds.

This was another titanic struggle between the arch-rivals. The Glen paraded a new goalkeeper Finbarr O’Neill who brought off some spectacular saves. Ring chased every ball in pursuit of victory and was top scorer with 1-4. 

Once again, the Glen had toppled their southside opponents on a score of 3-12 to 2-7. Following another stunning victory, Ring realised his dream and brought the Sean Óg Murphy cup to Blackpool for the first time.

On his arrival back to the north side, amidst a carnival atmosphere, Ring immediately thought of Micky O'Brien the old club hurling trainer.

Once again Ring displayed his fine quality of loyalty and friendship and immediately brought the cup up to Spring Lane, to the home of Mickey who was then in poor health. Ring never forgot the sessions he had behind closed doors in the old boxing club.

Having won the 1964 county title, the Glen qualified for the first Munster Club Championship final where they met Mount Sion. This game was played in Cashel and abandoned with 10 minutes to go. It was later re-fixed for Easter Sunday 1966. This was the Glen's Golden Jubilee year.

An amazing collection of medals.
An amazing collection of medals.

The game was evenly contested for most of the match up to the last 10 minutes when the Glen pulled away to record a famous victory of 3-7 to 1-7. At 46 years of age, Ring was once again the hero and top scorer with 1-6. Once again, the Glen wrote another chapter in their illustrious history.

In 1967 Ring played in the quarter-final championship victory over UCC.

This proved to be his last game in the famed shirt. Three days prior to the semi-final Ring notified the selectors by letter that he had retired.

Johnny Clifford, another Cork and Glen legend, immediately travelled to the home of Ring in Ballintemple to inquire why he had retired. Ring opened the door and explained, saying... “Johnny the ball is over there 20 yards away. My head is with the ball, but (pointing to the ground where he stood) my legs are still here”.

Ring went on to enjoy many great days with Cork and the Glen as a selector. Twelve years after his last game, He collapsed and died on March 2, 1979 at 58 years of age. Great hurlers will come and go but the magic of Ring will live forever.

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