Ryan ready to sparkle as Limerick bid to end the great hunger

IT’S only two years since Ian Ryan first entered the national consciousness, streaking across the football sky like a comet.

His Limerick senior football debut was in the modest setting of Fermoy for the 2008 Munster first round clash against Tipperary, and he kicked over three frees in a mundane encounter. For the rest of the summer he sparkled, blitzing Cork for five points in the provincial semi-final and then striking an astonishing 3-7 in the qualifier destruction of Meath in July. Those were snapshots of his burgeoning talents and since then Ryan has provided further irrefutable evidence that he is an attacker of some stature.

But in keeping with the county where he hails from, all Ryan has harvested from senior football fields are tales of sorrow and woe. That 2008 Munster semi-final saw Cork mug them with two late goals, last year in Páirc Uí Chaoimh even more gut-wrenching as Limerick lost by a point a game they owned and their summer ended with defeat by a wafer-thin margin in Portlaoise against Meath.

“I’ve had a few games that went well for me. But the team is the big thing though and hurting so much after those games, you don’t remember those individual performances much.”

Ryan is part of a Limerick side tomorrow bidding to arrest a 114-year barren run in Munster when they face Kerry in the provincial decider. The last time the counties clashed at this level, Ryan was a 15-year-old, vociferously urging his county men on from the terraces in the Gaelic Grounds and Fitzgerald Stadium.

Back then, John Galvin and Stephen Lavin were his football heroes; now they are dressing room companions.

“I could have only dreamed of playing with the likes of Galvin and Lavin, It’s hard to imagine where I am now with them. There’s nine years of a difference between us, but they’re great to play with. It was very disappointing not to see that team win a provincial title. Not a lot was expected of them at the time and but they were playing a really great team.”

Ryan has not featured in such glamour occasions as All-Ireland finals but finally got to grace Croke Park in April. NFL Division 4 finals may be low-key occasions but it was one that the St Senan’s attacker relished.

“It was the first time I ever played there and I really enjoyed it. It was rumoured it would be on there I think it’s fantastic that they played the league finals there. It gives other weaker counties outside of Leinster the shot to play there. For the supporters of Limerick and Waterford, they really enjoyed themselves that day.”

That league final victory over Waterford crowned a spring where Limerick exhibited serious resilience. They were dogged with injuries, Ryan himself was sidelined with a hip problem, yet they overcame the odds stacked against them, most notably in grinding out a draw against Wicklow in Aughrim in March, when they travelled with a threadbare squad of 19 players.

Ryan is facing towards the summer with unbridled enthusiasm. He completed a three-year degree in Primary Teaching in Mary Immaculate College in May and was pleased with the exam results he received last week. The job hunt has begun in earnest. He departs with happy third-level football memories, the centrepiece being a 2008 Trench Cup medal. Mary Immaculate possessed a team of glittering talents with Ryan last weekend watching former teammates George Hannigan (Tipperary) and Gary Sice (Galway) excel on the inter-county stage, and Patrick Kelly (Cork) and Liam O Lionán poised to thrive in next weekend’s qualifier action. Tomorrow is Ryan’s turn to shine.

“I haven’t played against Kerry in senior level before so I’m looking forward to it. There’s a lot of people from Kerry living around my area in Foynes, so close to the border. There’ll be a good buzz and that’ll be enjoyable.”


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