THE savage work-rate of the Cork U20 footballers during their All-Ireland final victory success over Dublin was epitomised by Paul Ring.
A tough-tackling, no-nonsense corner-back, he was excellent throughout the campaign. Despite a slow start to the decider, Ring was crucial in a defence that curbed the Dub threat thereafter.
He showed tremendous desire to help win the ball back around the 50-minute mark, in a move which ended seconds later with Cork earning a score from a free.
The recent successes of the Cork U20 and Minor All-Ireland teams indicate a pathway to what could be a promising period of football in the county.
Aghabullogue native Ring is certainly one to watch, and was selected among the top 20 players from the EirGrid U20 Football Championship.
Ring’s displays in the red of Cork played a significant role in him being chosen as the Auld Triangle/Muskerry GAA Sports Star for July.
“We always thought from the start that we were just as good, if not better than any other teams in the country,” was the response of Ring when asked by The Echo about the belief of Cork U20 group and the high targets they set at the start of the year.
“We were unlucky with minors and stuff, a lot of fellas there losing to Kerry in Munster and normally Kerry going on to win the All-Ireland then. We always felt like we were up there with the best teams in the country, we just didn’t get a chance to show it.
“Once we beat Kerry then inside in Páirc Uí Rinn, we had massive belief that we could go on and win it.”
That U20 Munster final success over the Kingdom was done in quite emphatic fashion, as Cork made a massive statement of intent.
The character of Ring and this Cork U20 was quite sensational. They came from seven points down to defeat Tyrone in the All Ireland semi-final. Then in the final, the Rebels regrouped well from a disjointed start, which saw them trail by nine points at one stage, to motor impressively on to victory against Dublin.
“It was a massive win, just for Cork football in general,” Ring recalls a few months on, looking back on the All- Ireland success and final over Dublin.
“Everyone was kind of saying that Cork football was down the drain.
“So it was nice to win something and get a bit of a lift for Cork football and get it going again.
“The way we came back to win the final from nine points down was lovely as well.
“We just had a few great games on the way to the final also and we got a bit of a following.
“It was just nice to win it then for everyone who came out and supported us.”
Keith Ricken has rightly earned plenty of plaudits for the work he has done as the manager of this Cork U20 group.
From talking to Ring for a few minutes only about his boss with the Rebel U20 footballers, it is clear how highly he and the rest of the players regard him.
“It is incredible what the management team bring to the table.
“The amount of work that they went through. They only took over in February and I’d say there was close to 100 fellas seen inside between trial games and everything.
“He went the length and breadth of the county looking for fellas. To be fair to him, he got a good team together and there is a few fellas some might not have heard of before, they ended up being very good.
“His man-management and leaving us with responsibility to manage our own time and training — what we put in, we got out, and that is what it was all about.”
When the Cork senior football team suffered relegation to Division 3 of the National Football League in the early months of 2019, things did not look great for football on Leeside.
But now the picture for the future looks a somewhat more optimistic one.
Not only have the senior outfit shown green shoots of recovery, but there have been fantastic headlines generated by the underage inter-county teams.
The All-Ireland triumphs at U20 and minor level indicate that there is a brighter future for football in Cork.
Paul Ring will hope that he will be somebody that will play a part in the Cork footballing journey over the years to come.