Nicholas Christopher Michael ring is a balding, 33-year-old Irishman with a broad back, strong legs and hands that could choke a bear. He is also the greatest practicing exponent of the ancient Irish game of hurling and, according to some, the greatest ever.
New York City's Irish Echo wrote, "If to do one thing supremely well is the hallmark of genius, then Christy Ring of Cork is one of the great geniuses of our time."
What Ring does so well is play a game that at first glance looks like field hockey, but which resembles field hockey about as much as a Mercedes-Benz resembles a Baker Electric. Hurling is more like lacrosse played with ax handles or ice hockey with the puck continually in mid-air. It incorporates chip shots off the turf and fungo fly balls, but chip shots and fungos hit left-handed, right-handed or cross-handed on the dead run or in a crowd of fellow bat swingers. It is a game of bruising body contact, constant running and perfect eye-and-hand coordination.
Christy Ring is by far the best of an exceptional group of fine athletes because he possesses to an extraordinary degree the physical attributes of a great athlete, plus a competitive urge that, after 16 years of championship play, makes him leap in the air in glee when his team scores.
Last week Ring's team, County Cork, and the Gaelic football champions, County Mayo, were in New York to play teams of Irish-American all-stars. The New York footballers scored a stirring 10-9 win over Mayo, but the American hurlers never had a chance. Cork won 29-19, as Ring demonstrated his genius to the full satisfaction of 30,000 Irish-Americans in the Polo Grounds, which, praise be, nestles under Coogan's Bluff. He scored eight points, set up other scores and was clearly the best man on the field. After it was over, a middle-aged Irishman said softly, "By God, he's a great man is that Christy Ring."