Wednesday 23 January 2019

Ring feels U-21s are in a good place

Cork's Under 21 manager Denis Ring
Cork's Under 21 manager Denis Ring

Cork's Under 21s will head into battle next weekend with the county's hurling public having their backs while the side's manager Denis Ring will stand, as always, by their side.

Ring is no stranger to this level of championship hurling after previously leading the Cork minors to Croke Park and now his Under 21 side to the Munster crown already this season.

Ring spoke to The Corkman this week and outlined what he hopes will happen this Saturday versus Wexford at Nowlan Park but firstly dealt with the issue of injuries.

"David Griffin really is the only one but we are really hopeful he will be okay. That is it really. Sunday will be a huge challenge for us to lift the lads up after last Sunday.

"For the lads involved it was physically and mentally challenging, but the lads have all had a fantastic season. Saturday will be all about getting the performance and maintaining it for the duration."

The manager believes that the back-room team have a genuine bond with the players and hopes that this will help his side on Saturday.

"One of the significant things we feel is that we know the players inside out. We get on really well and there is a lot of trust there which hopefully helps the lads perform to the maximum. When the lads are not even here we keep in contact and that all definitely helps."

Ring knows that the eyes of the county's hurling fans will be on his side this weekend, but he is adamant that Cork as a whole is on the right track to success.

"Cork are seriously competitive right now at all levels and that has happened really quickly. It wasn't that long ago we were suffering from mass depression. We have an awful lot to take from this season at all levels but we have come to a point when it is all about winning.

"We are at that stage at the Under 21s and now that is the case for the seniors too."

When it comes to next weekend's opposition Ring is full of admiration and believes that his side got a tough draw after winning the Munster crown.

"Usually the prize for winning the provincial final is to get the perceived lower team or the better draw, but Wexford beat the highly fancied and talented Dublin team and only lost out to a last minute goal in the Leinster Final to Galway.

"We may have a few senior players but so do Wexford. They have an equally serious threat with players like Conor Firman and Damien Reck likely to play.

"They are a serious team and are very versatile. They made eight changes from the side that beat Dublin for the Galway game - that shows a real strength in depth which is impressive at this level."

Ring also mentioned midfielder Rory O'Connor as a threat to his side's progression, but it appears now that the young star will be unavailable due to a serious knee injury.

The Cork manager is delighted to have back his senior stars after their disappointment against Limerick and was impressed by the men that came through the door.

"There is a great buzz around the squad. The boys came back in on Monday to a training session. We were all in at the Mardyke for a hydro session that was optional, but the boys turned up. That was difficult for them but shows a great maturity.

"Since the Waterford game the experienced boys have been training well. All the training sessions have been competitive. It is helping and improving the guys between 18 and 21 and that is the important thing.

"We hope that these players will move on to the senior squad as backup first and then as starters. That is the importance of this competition.

"I am a big fan of the Under 21 competition as it is pure hurling. The competition is fantastic. It is less cynical than the seniors or the minors as it is knock-out. I am a huge fan of the round robin series, it has been a huge success, but the fact that the Under 21 has more of a knock-out feel to it makes it more exciting."

Ring will lead his charges out this weekend looking to book their place in the All Ireland Final and, while this won't erase the pain of last weekend, it is a genuine opportunity to bring some cheer to a county on the way back.