Downey ghosted into the danger area to redirect a long delivery to the net, but after being initially awarded and credited on the scoreboard, the goal was ruled out.
Galway manager Jeffrey Lynskey was adamant afterwards that it was the correct decision, though Ring wasn’t so sure and, in a two-point game, it was a major talking point.
The incident occurred in the 41st minute, shortly after Jack Canning had won a similar aerial duel at the other end of the pitch to score Galway’s second goal, putting them three points up.
“Look, all I’m hearing is that it wasn’t [illegal], that it should have been a goal,” said Ring. “Look, I don’t know. In real time you don’t have the luxury of seeing that. It was allowed at the time and then something happened to change that decision. That’s the way it is, that’s the nature of sport. I wonder if the one on the other side [Canning’s goal] was contested... but look, the benefit of the camera will tell all on that. We can’t begrudge Galway their victory.”
Ring acknowledged that, even if it was a wrong call, there’s little recourse for Cork now.
“First of all, I don’t know if it was [the wrong call] or not and secondly, I wouldn’t begrudge Galway their All-Ireland,” he said. “What happens on the field of play, happens on the field of play.”
The Munster-title winning manager said what’s really important is that the players who experienced the defeat use it as motivation further down the line.
“I said to them in our dressing-room that the worst thing you can do is forget today. You put the experience in your back pocket and bring it out when you’re back up here again and you ensure that this is never going to happen to you again, and that you’re not going to be defeated the next time.
“Make this experience invaluable. Look on it as a positive, not a negative, and use it the next time you’re here, because this experience cannot be bought.”
Yet, it was a sombre Cork dressing-room immediately after the defeat, with few of the players keen to look at the bigger picture just yet.
“They started out the campaign as young boys who were good hurlers and they ended up as a very formidable team of men who are very committed,” said Ring. “We couldn’t be prouder of them.
“You’d feel very sorry for the lads, they’ve put in a massive effort, huge commitment and it’s not the result we wanted, obviously. A few marginal decisions overall maybe, one way or the other, there’s slim margins between winning and losing. Maybe we had our chances and we didn’t take them. They took theirs, that’s the difference, at the end of the day.”
Cork couldn’t have asked for a better start, with a Brian Turnbull goal inside 10 seconds when he latched onto Downey’s breakdown from a long Conor O’Callaghan delivery.
“In fairness to Galway, even when they were struggling they were chipping away and chipping into our lead and they got good scores to keep themselves in the game,” said Ring. “I think that was a crucial part of the game, from their perspective.
“We maybe could have pushed on, too. I think we had five wides in the first-half, a couple of them were unforced errors.”