Pat Ring’s Foxrock-Cabinteely are one step away from topping a remarkable journey.
WHEN FOXROCK-CABINTEELY formed as a club in 2005, they didn’t have enough players to field an adult team.
Here they are, 13 years later, after climbing all the way up the ranks from Junior E. The four in-a-row Dublin and Leinster champions are preparing for a second All-Ireland senior club final.
They were there in 2016, but Pat Ring’s charges will hope that they can finally lift the Dolores Tyrrell Memorial Cup as they face Mourneabbey in Saturday’s decider.
All those years ago, this was surely unimaginable. Their first year in existence, although they had underage teams, they had to merge with neighbouring club Naomh Olaf to compete at adult level.
Ring recalls going to watch Ballyboden, the then-kingpins of Dublin ladies football, in action at the time and seeing them as the benchmark. Back-to-back All-Ireland champions in 2004 and 2005, he wanted his Fox-Cab side to aim that high and taste that success.
A young man by the name of Shane Ronayne was teaching in Skerries at the time and he got involved with coaching the team and they went from there.
“A year later we had enough to field our own senior team and the rest is history,” Cork native Ring smiles as he dubs the area a “GAA blackspot”.
Interestingly, the very same Shane Ronayne is in his sixth year as manager of Mourneabbey, after steering them to five Cork and Munster titles in-a-row but after four All-Ireland final losses in five years, that Holy Grail is elusive.
And while Fox-Cab have had hurt and heartbreak of their own, their journey to the top has been most remarkable, helped by the fact that they’re one of the few female-only clubs across the country.
“We’re a little bit different. That’s a huge plus,” Ring continues, explaining that many girls in college and working in Dublin quickly come on board to join a strong contingent of inter-county stars.
“We have our own pitches in Cabinteely and we now field 22 teams. Aged five to eight is our nursery and we have 150 girls in that every Saturday morning. We start non-competitive football at eight and have about 45 players for every year of birth up after that.
“Our first competitive games were in 2005 and then we started building close partnerships with our three local girls primary schools – St Patrick’s in Foxrock, St Brigid’s in Cabinteely and Johnstown in Killiney – they’re all within our catchment area.
“It’s a partnership that works really well and works both ways. That’s been our secret,” he adds, explaining that he coaches in the schools once a week and recruitment starts from there.
Those efforts are most definitely reaping their rewards now, with those young girls brought in from the schools years ago now some of the best footballers in the country.
Six of Mick Bohan’s All-Ireland winners feature including six-time All-Star Sinéad Goldrick while they’re boosted by many rising stars on the underage scene, some cross-overs from hockey and Ireland soccer international Roisin McGovern.
She was sprung off the bench to hit the winning goal in a last-gasp effort in the All-Ireland semi-final as they beat Donaghmoyne, their victors in the 2016 decider.
Ring’s daughter and team captain Amy has been another shining light through the year, one in which he says their Dublin quarter-final against St Sylvester’s was actually their toughest game.
“Very proud,” he smiles, when he’s asked about his daughter and her incredible scoring exploits through their campaign. “She’s had a great year. She’s had a difficult couple of years”
Ring has had a difficult few years dealing with tendonitis in her knees. She had one operated on and manages the other, but had to call time on her inter-county career in 2016.
“I remember she was heartbroken, devastated, but it was the right thing for her,” her father continues.
“In years to come she will probably have a bit of arthritis. After every training session and game she has to take pain-killers and have three days rest, ice-packs, the whole lot. You couldn’t play county with that situation
“If I had my time again as a parent I’d have said ‘no’ to people ringing up asking, ‘Can Amy play tonight’ when she was 13. Then they’d ring the next night.
“It all came to a head when she was 18, playing for Dublin seniors, club seniors and in UCD. It was a no-win situation. If we had our time over again I think we’d all do it differently.”
Another thing he stresses he’ll do differently is their attack at the All-Ireland final. What have they learned since that 2016 defeat?
“Not to freeze and keep calm,” he responds instantly. “I think it was nerves on the line and on the pitch. You get that from experience and sometimes you have to lose one or two before you win one or two. We’re probably a lot calmer in ourselves in the build-up.
“We’re doing it slightly differently. The players have had a long season and we’re giving them a bit more rest and recovery time. Sometimes less is more and that’s our approach this time.
He’s well aware that a dip will come at some stage, but the main thing is that they enjoy the good times now and live in the moment. All attention is on the battle at hand in Parnell Park on Saturday, and getting their hands on the silver before Mourneabbey.
They want to erase the heartbreak of the 2016 final defeat and of course, last year’s semi-final loss to Mourneabbey after extra-time. To do that though, they must show up. And come out on top when it comes to the finer margins.
“We were very hurt two years ago in the All-Ireland final but we knew we didn’t play well,” he concludes.
“And the difference last year was Mourneabbey got four goals and we got none. We scored 15 points and they got 4-5. We got more scores but they got the right scores!
Inches. And surely that’s all that will be between them again on Saturday.
Subscribe to our new podcast, Heineken Rugby Weekly on The42, here: