FORMER Cork U20 hurling manager Denis Ring is well-positioned to comment on the 2020 hurling championships, which are to begin in the coming days.
But the Fermoy senior manager says that the county board may have missed a trick this year.
Ring, a principal at one of the larger schools in Munster, Blackwater Community College, in Lismore, is at the coalface of the challenges of both education and sport and says that the 2020 campaigns should have a category all of their own.
“This year, I think that they should call every cup the Covid Cup, because I think that this season, considering the way that players and clubs have been restricted in their preparations, could throw up a few big surprises in all levels,” Ring said.
“I think teams will go in search of momentum and something like their best form, but it will be tough to do that in such a short space of time. I just thought that, for the year that was in it, an open, knockout draw could have been very novel and would have added to the excitement of it.
“Perhaps that’s just the sentimentalist in me, but seeing the likes of the Glen getting Blackrock in the first round of a knockout competition.
“I remember back when you would hear of a big team getting knocked out in the first round — it was sensational news around the county and it did add a lot of colour and drama to the thing,” Ring said.
“When smaller sides saw a big side going out early, it lifted the expectations around the county, as players from all sides felt their chances of winning had improved. Saying all that, I am a big fan of the round-robin, too, and, again, must say I am thrilled that we are getting a championship at all this year after it looked bleak for long enough.”
Ring is back at the helm of Fermoy, again this season, and after battling with the inter-county boys for a couple of years, is happy to be focused on just one team for now.
“I am delighted to be back preparing with the lads. We have all been locked down for long enough,” Ring said. “We do have two people that have had to exclude themselves, due to personal family circumstances, and I fully accept that.
“One of the lads has a wife expecting their first child, while another has older family members living at home. These are very understandable situations and nothing can be done about those.
“It isn’t like a guy is thinking about going travelling for the summer. Perhaps you could try to talk him out of that or try to organise things to suit, but in this case, if someone tells you they need to step aside, then you have to accept that.” So, 2020 could be the opportunity for some of the younger players to make their mark.
“With us being a dual club and having players like Tomás Clancy out through injury, there will be opportunities for some,” Ring said. “We have all seen, in the past, it is in these kind of scenarios where big careers begin. Fellows being thrown in at the deep end, that might not normally get thrown in, take their chance — and from a Fermoy perspective, that is a fantastic challenge for us and a fantastic opportunity for them.”
Ring is pleased to be back on the line with Fermoy and he will miss the buzz around the inter-county scene, but he knows that making it to the finishing line is far from a sure thing this season.
“From a personal point of view, I hope that everything fares OK for the championship and we get to see the inter-county action, but that is a long way off yet and a lot could happen between now and then,” Ring said.
“I will obviously miss the Cork set-up, when it starts, but this summer, like many people, I was at the garden and the house. I have been told the garden has never been better. I wish Donal Óg, Kieran, and Sean all the best with the county teams this year, and, who knows, maybe it will be their year.
“The future remains bright for Cork hurling and I hope we played a part in that over the last two years,” Ring said.
“I would like to think that, ultimately, we put some players on that conveyor belt that will deliver a senior All-Ireland for Cork and I really do believe that they will.”