Christy Ring – Memories of a hurling Genius

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‘A song for Christy Ring’ by Bryan McMahon

“In the village of Cloyne when the weather was fine

A Little boy was born,

All the people were away, some making the hay

And some were cutting the corn.

But his Mammy was happy

And so was his Pappy

and they both turned to the stork,

And said “raise that boy up in red,

‘cause he’s going to hurl with Cork:

In hurling circles, the name Christy Ring is synonymous with Cork.

However, mention ‘Chris in Cork and memories of the neat historic village of Cloyne are invoked. Cloyne, with its round tower and ancient Cathedral, nestles in the heart of the fertile valley which runs from Cork Harbour to Ballycotton Bay.

Hurling permeated the atmosphere and tradition of the village and growing up there meant living in the shadow of Cloyne’s most famous son.

Christy began his hurling career as a goalkeeper, but his obvious skills meant a quick shift to the forward line. All his early hurling with Cloyne was at Minor and junior level and a brilliant display for Cork in the 1938 All Ireland Final left no doubts, especially in the minds of the people of his native village, that he would soon graduate to senior level.

About this time Christy got a job with the ‘Shell Oil Company’ in Cork and this necessitated living there during the working week. Overtures were made by the ‘Glen’ and shortly afterwards Christy transferred from Cloyne, to wear the navy and green stripes for the ‘Pool’.

‘Inspiration’

His star was on the ascent and his brilliance illuminated the hurling scene like nothing before or since. His achievements are legendary and many a visit we made during our boyhood years to Christy’s home to view the dazzling array of medals, cups and photographs. These were an inspiration to us as we played our game in the hurling pitch behind his house.

We longed for Saturday afternoons, as every child knew that rarely did Christy miss a visit to his sister Mary Agnes. Donning the boots he always kept in his car, Christy joined in our matches always encouraging and praising.

The arrival of the ‘big’ lads meant the departure of Christy to their ‘puck around’ as it was known locally. This involved six forwards against six backs with one pucking in the ball from centre-field. The field rang with the clash of the ash and the shouts of glee as goals were scored. Later on, as a young man, I had the privilege of playing at full back on Christy. He liked nothing more than the dropping ball into the square as rarely did he miss a connection. To have any chance of clearing the ball one had to be shoulder to shoulder with him, as he was extremely fast over twenty yards.

‘Secret Weapons’

Being 5’ 7″ tall coupled with his very strong build, it meant that he couldn’t be shouldered off the ball. I still marvel at the size and strength of his wrists and often in conversation he would say that these were his ‘secret weapons’. These ‘puck arounds’ were taken as seriously as All-Ireland finals and Christy played with his usual drive and determination.

He played hard and fair and neither gave nor asked for any quarter.

His untimely death in 1979 sent shock waves throughout the G.A.A. world. Many fine tributes have been paid him but the attendance of 10,000 people representing many clubs and counties at his funeral cannot be finer.

His grave is but one hundred yards from his home and the hurling field where he practised his outstanding skills and, for generations to come his genius will invoke memories so eloquently recorded by Bryan Mc Mahon:

“How oft l’ve watched him from the hill,

move here and move there in grace,

“In Cork, Killarney, Thurles town

or by the Shannon Race.

Now Cork is be’t, the hay is saved

the thousands wildly sing,

They speak too soon, my sweet garsún,

for here comes Christy Ring”

Gerry Ahern is a retired national teacher and Secretary of the Project Society, Webmaster of Athenry Parish Heritage and a good friend of Christy Ring

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About this record

Written by Gerry Ahern

Published here 15 Aug 2023 and originally published Winter 2002

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