“It was just to say, soak it up, look at where you are and what you have achieved,” said the manager later. “Today was very disappointing for everybody but there is a lot of achievement to take from this year.
“The reality of it is that they have achieved an awful lot but they are still going home extremely disappointed as are all the other people going home to Wexford. As with any game, it is all a case of ifs, buts and maybes.”
Equalling, not to mention surpassing, their achievements this year will be a stern test but the ingredients are there to nourish a sense of optimism. Ryan, after all, is merely a babe in management terms. He is hopeful too that his more senior players will return to the fold next season and there are promising pickings to be had from the U21 side that reached the Leinster final and their minor counterparts who reached the provincial semis.
Ryan’s parting hope was that the experience garnered from this campaign will leave them hungry for more. The rest of the country should hope so too, because they have greatly enriched a sometimes pedestrian championship.
Nothing became them as much as the manner in which they departed. Eight points down and with their lightning rod, Matty Forde, hobbling along on the sideline on crutches, the second-half should have been academic. Instead, it was electric.
“They went down fighting,” said Ryan. “If you only play for one half you are not going to win a game of that significance. We didn’t play to a good enough standard in the first half, whether it was team selection, tactics, effort or the fact that the opposition were very good.
“There were a lot of factors that contributed to it but certainly, the intensity that we played in the first half was like the intensity we played at in the second half against Dublin. If you give the opposition time on the ball they will cause havoc.”
The first quarter saddled them with a wound that was to prove mortal and the pity of it is that it was self-inflicted, thanks to the tactic of playing Brian Malone as a free man in front of their back three.
By the time the change was made to a more orthodox man-to-man setting the damage had been done. Tyrone were ahead by six points, the same margin that would separate them come the finish.
“That was changed after 15 minutes, so that is only 15 minutes of a 70-minute game.
“Matty getting injured so early on meant we weren’t able to isolate him and get the ball into him fast enough … there were a lot of factors that contributed to it as opposed to just one thing.”