THERE was a nice symmetry in that Mick Ring played a prominent role in the running of Foras.
Ring is now Cork City’s kitman, but was chair of Foras from 2012 to 2014. Three decades previously, his father, Denis, was a founder member of City, having been approached by chairman, Jim Hennebry, and vice-chair, Chris Herlihy, both of whom sadly passed away recently.
League soccer in Cork has never been easy to manage, as the last couple of years have shown Foras, to the extent that a takeover by Grovemoor Ltd was approved by members of the supporters’ trust in October.
Similar turmoil led to the creation of Foras at the end of 2007, as a safeguard.
When City getting a licence for the 2010 season began to look less and less likely, Foras ramped things up and Ring, a garda based in Anglesea St, recalls a series of members’ meetings at which applying for a licence was discussed.
“There were a lot of meetings in Pres [Presentation Brothers College] at the time,” he says.
“My brother went to Pres and I’d say I was in there more than he was! I had got involved in 2008: I signed up in the club shop, which was in Daunt Square at the time.
“It was a case of getting involved when things were going bad. I had time and a bit of energy and I was passionate about it, so I felt I could contribute something.”
A place on the board of management soon followed and then, in early 2012, Ring was elected chairman, succeeding Jonathan O’Brien.
Some fans would probably think that being chair of their club would be cushy, but the reality is far-removed.
What was the biggest eye-opener of being inside the decision-making process?
“Probably just the financial side of it,” Ring says, “all of the hidden costs.
“I remember, at one stage, in 2012, when things were tight, there was a yellow card and Timmy Murphy [who was chief executive at the time] and myself turned to each other and said, ‘That’s another €25.’
“Things like that — with League of Ireland football, you’re never comfortable and you’re always fire-fighting.
“Even at the best of times, going back to a few years ago, there was never a huge surplus of money, if you wanted to do something. It was always a case of minding the finances,” Ring says.
“You think a match is just a case of opening the gates and letting 11 fellas out onto the pitch, but that’s probably the smallest part of it.”
While Foras is run by volunteers, the workload is as much as a ‘real’ job and Ring found that a substantial amount of his time was taken up with club administration.
“It’s probably a bit easier now,” Ring says.
“With things like WhatsApp, they can probably communicate a bit more freely with one another, whereas, when I was on the board, we nearly ended up having a meeting every week, which was time-consuming, obviously.
“There was a lot of correspondence by email, which is just slower than things would be now. There was a lot of time in it and it wasn’t just the board meetings, but the phonecalls, too. I remember coming home from my honeymoon, in 2011, having travelled all night. I had to spend a half-hour on the phone and I could barely talk,” Ring says.
Ring almost ‘signed’ for City at the very beginning of Foras’s ownership. With a first division licence granted and Tommy Dunne appointed as manager, it was a case of all hands on deck for the fan-owned entity’s opening league game, away to Derry City in March 2010.
Signing players was tricky and the possibility of Ring being added to the roster was even floated.
“They were obviously struggling for numbers and I think it was suggested that they might see if there were any supporters who looked like they could play football to sit on the bench,” Ring says.
“I would have played a lot of football with Seán and he rang and asked if I was registered with anyone. I told him I wasn’t, as I had stopped playing for Blarney by that stage.
“He asked if I’d be available and I told him I would. Then I got off the phone and I was thinking how bizarre it was! It never came about, in the end; they got 13 players togged out, so, unfortunately, I wasn’t required.”
Instead, he was able to focus on running the club and he has some very fond memories.
“The biggest success in my time on the board was probably the underage structure,” Ring says.
“Stuart Ashton and Paul Bowdren won doubles and retained them and some very good players came out of those squads, like John Kavanagh and Garry Buckley and more.
“That was the probably the high. I was still on the board in 2014, when we nearly won the league. I had stepped back from the chair, and that was incredible.
“John Caulfield’s first season: Six thousand people at home games and the Cross absolutely rocking.
“I remember hammering Shamrock Rovers, who had been in the Europa League a couple of years before that, and here we were, beating them 3-0 at home and 2-0 up there. It was a big turnaround from 2012, when Ronan Finn ran the show and they absolutely destroyed us at the Cross,” Ring says.
“The 2014 season was a real high, going from mid-table and nearly being relegated in 2013 to being a half-hour away from winning the league. There were some very good times.”
And, of course, there were some tough times, coming to a head over the past couple of years. Ultimately, though, Foras could be said to have earned good karma, having taken over the club when nobody else would and keeping the show afloat, it was only right that they would be entitled to a white knight when the need arose.
“Foras was never set up to run a football club,” Ring says, “but it happened that they needed to do that.
“They did that quite successfully. The period from 2014-2017 was the most successful in the club’s history — we won the double and got to Europe several seasons in a row, won the President’s Cup I don’t know how many times.
“City went toe-to-toe with a Dundalk side that was one of the best teams the league has ever seen. I’ve often discussed this with people and I firmly believe that one of the main reasons that Dundalk team was as good as they were was because City pushed them.
“If we weren’t there, they wouldn’t have needed to be that good, though Dundalk fans would never admit it!
“OK, the last two years under Foras have been hugely disappointing and there were bad decisions made, on and off the pitch. That happens: You make a decision based on the facts in front of you.
“But, overall, it was a very positive time. If you’d said to me in 2010 that City would win the double by 2017, I’d have said, ‘No way.’ Was it successful overall? Absolutely, absolutely.”
2008-09 Kevin Lynch
2009-11 John O’Sullivan
2011-12 Jonathan O’Brien
2012-14 Mick Ring
2014-19 Pat Lyons
2019- Declan Carey