Diarmuid Ryan: Brother’s illness taught me not to take anything for granted

He’s at the beginning of what he hopes will be a long inter-county career with Clare, but Diarmuid Ryan has come to realise there are more important things in life than hurling.

Diarmuid Ryan: Brother’s illness taught me not to take anything for granted

He’s at the beginning of what he hopes will be a long inter-county career with Clare, but Diarmuid Ryan has come to realise there are more important things in life than hurling.

The younger brother of 2013 All-Ireland winner Conor — who was forced to give the game up completely due to an issue with his pituitary gland — made his Championship debut against Waterford in Clare’s opening Munster tie.

Ryan hopes to line out again this Sunday when Clare host in-form Tipperary in Ennis, though he will do his best to keep it all in perspective, keeping his brother in mind.

“It came out of nowhere,” said Diarmuid of the condition that forced former All Star Conor to hang up his hurley completely in 2017.

“One day he was playing at the top level of hurling, the next day he had to retire. It shows you can’t take anything for granted and you really have to enjoy your hurling while you can.

“There’s more important things. Even outside of hurling, you still have your job, you have your family, you have everything else.

"It’s an amateur sport and it can control your life, but it’s a hobby. A nice hobby to have, but at the end of the day it’s [still a hobby].

“I know to some people it is everything, but you have to look at it as well that there are other things outside of sport.”

Big brother Conor, now 27, excelled in the half-back line for Clare when they won their breakthrough All-Ireland six years ago.

But a routine blood test in 2016 led to the diagnosis of a problem that affected his adrenaline levels, stripping him of strength and energy and leading to his early retirement.

“It’s not the way it should be, he was robbed of at least another, hopefully, 10 years of experience,” said Diarmuid.

“You never know. He’s kind of a never-say-never person and he has that attitude as well that hopefully there’s still a light at the end of the tunnel for him.

“Hopefully he’ll be able to play, but for now he’s sitting on the sidelines and he’s happy enough to be encouraging the lads that are out there.

He goes to the games, which is hard. He spends a lot of time in other lads’ company as well, just to know how they’re getting on, he hasn’t gone away from the panel completely.

“He still keeps in contact with most of the lads. It’s good to have him around as well, to keep him there. But I know he’d love to be playing.

"He does a bit with the young lads in Cratloe, U10s, U11s, but for any older teams he’s going to sit back for another while because it’s still a bit raw.

"Even though it’s been a year, it’s still a bit raw to go back.

“But I have no doubt in the near future he’ll play a massive role in the club, if not the county.”

Diarmuid admitted it’s a regret that he never got to play senior for his club or for Clare alongside his brother who was Man of the Match in the 2013 drawn final with Cork.

But he said Conor was a big help when he was making his own debut recently for Clare against Waterford at Walsh Park, when he lined out in among the half-forwards.

“It was great to have his experience there, he has won All-Irelands with Clare, at U21 and senior level, so he’d know what it’s like making your Championship debut,” said Ryan.

Conor Ryan in action against Kilkenny in 2015
Conor Ryan in action against Kilkenny in 2015

“I was feeding off him and feeding off his pointers and it kind of relaxed me the week of the game.”

The Cratloe club man said his ambition is to win a senior All-Ireland and match his brother’s heroics.

“Most of those lads in with Clare now were still there (in 2013) and were only young lads when they won the All-Ireland,” he said.

“I’m just dreaming that it’ll happen for me. If it doesn’t happen this year, hopefully in the next couple of years, but hopefully I’ll be able to achieve what they achieved before I retire.”

As for his debut, Ryan described it as a ‘dream come through’ with Clare winning by a point, teeing them up nicely for another shot at Munster success.

“We’re just thinking of the next match, we don’t look too far ahead, we definitely won’t be looking past Tipperary,” he said.

“It’s all focused on them.”

Diarmuid Ryan was speaking at the launch of the 2019 Bord Gais Energy All-Ireland U20 hurling championship. Bord Gais Energy is entering its 11th year as title sponsor.

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