August 30, 1991
The Ryans take their place on the Tipperary team
If it's a Ryan it must be HURLING
What's in a name you may well ask? Of course a rose by any other name will always smell as sweet but somehow we have a fascination with names and their associations almost as if the very word embodied something of the character. Witness the parental dilemma of choosing appropriate title for newly arrived junior - and the annoyance of relatives when this or that ancestor is ignored.
This name watching business can produce an entertaining pastime. "How many players with 'fishy' names have won All Ireland senior medals?", came the provocative question recently as a group supped their favourite beverage in their equally favourite hostelry. The memories went into immediate overdrive.
Being a Tipperary venue the name Roche, as in Mick of '64, '65 and '71 triumphs, immediately rolled forth. And Sammon, as in Liam of Galway's footballers, wasn't far behind. There was Codd of Wexford's fifties vintage and Ahearne of the Cork clan was quickly recalled.
Gradually the tank exhausted though and we were down to fish parts. Would Finn do, as in Jimmy of the exquisite fifties half back play for Tipperary. And how about Gill of the Dublin stock? Speaking of the Dubs could we include Barney Rock, as of Rock fish?
But the objections really raised when some geezer recalled the name Roe from the Louth footballers of '57. For some it had to be explained that Roe was also the word for a mass of eggs In a female fish. When someone else interjected that it was also the word for a small deer the whole thing was out of hand and it was as well to concentrate on Kilkenny and less suggestive names like Heffernan, Morrissey, Walsh, Henderson et cetera.
But some names have immediate associations with certain places. Mention Rackard and anyone who has ever seen a hurley will immediately think of Wexford. Spillane and you're into Kerry. Fennelly and it has to be Kilkenny. Ryan and Tipperary immediately bobs up.
It always amuses Tipp folk when they meet someone away from home and on revealing where they are from are immediately met with something like, 'ah yes I knew a guy from Tipperary, you might know him, his name is Ryan'. You might as well ask an Irishman if he knows someone called Paddy. Ryans in Tipperary are like flies in the tropics, which is why most of them are identified by nicknames of various colour and origin.
All of which leads on neatly to the Ryan input to the present Tipp ambitions. Most, though not all, Tipp winners of the past had a Ryan or two on board. When the county last met, and beat, Kilkenny in '71 there was midfielder, P.J. of the Ryan clan from Carrick-on-Suir; 'little Dinny' of the second half goal was at wing forward and buriy Roger was at full in the attack.
Among the present crew though the Ryan representation is up to four, which makes it the most repeated surname on the team sheet. Both Aidan and Declan were around two years ago also but this time are joined by corner back, Michael. Only the three Bonnars come close to matching the Ryan presence and sure that's an import from Donegal the Ryans are native.
Brothers, Bobby and Aidan, come from the Borrisoleigh nursery, of fine pedigree as all Tipp folk are aware. Father, Timmy, knew how to swing a stick and did so elegantly for Borrisoleigh in the fifties as well as featuring on the Tipp three-in-a-row of '49 - '51. Mum, nee Stakelum, of the Holycross line, brought famed hurling genes to the alliance as well. Sure the boys couldn't escape. They're cousins of Conor Stakelum from the same Tipp panel.
Bobby is the older statesman, the father figure, who embraced the kid brother, Aidan, after the drawn Munster final in Cork. It was like a fatherly 'well done' to junior who had come on a sub and added a crucial dimension to Tipp's saving rally.
After almost ten years with the Tipp seniors there are few more popular than Bobby. Style and personality make him a natural crowd pleaser. The hurling hands aren't the most classic - it's the heart that's the greatest asset. His dashing, vimful, tearaway method can stir the adrenaline in the back seats of the stand - team mates can't avoid being lifted.
But the personality also endears. On the field he takes the knocks, doesn't mouth or whinge, just gets on with the business; off the field he's chatty, friendly, unaffected and gracious. He was a popular Loughmore choice for captain in '89 after their own Pat McGrath disappointingly failed to make the side. And Bobby performed the many duties of speech, interview and school visit with the naturalness of a socialite. The gregariousness was obvious.
One of those School visits was to the alma mater, Templemore C.B.S. with whom he won a famous Harty Cup in 1978. Aidan too attended Templemore in less successful years, as did their late brother, Tim, who died suddenly in early '89 making the year a particularly emotional one for
the entire family. Another brother, Pat nicknamed 'Flowery' had also passed through the Templemore corridors and played a starring role in Tipperary's 1976 All Ireland minor win.
Bobby came up through the ranks the orthodox way, didn't win a minor being on losing sides in '78 and '79, but collected two U-21s In '80 and '81 both from centre forward. In fact Bobby over his career has alternated quite a lot between defence and attack: the natural instinct seems best suited to wing back but he's such a versatile and dynamic player that he can adapt to most slots.
His senior stint began in '82 at full forward but a year later he was back to wing back where he stayed for '85, the year Aidan first played senior coming in to a Munster final defeat by Cork at Pairc Ui Chaoimh. Aidan had been a sub on the successful '82 All Ireland minor side and won an U21 in '85.
Aidan's career has been uneven, being part of the emergence in '87 but fading somewhat from the scene after the '88 final where he shipped some abuse. He came in a sub in the '89 success, missed out last year but exploded back onto the stage critically this year impacting fantastically when brought in against Cork in the draw and even more spectacularly in the replay - his clinching goal into the Killinan end epitomised the style and will surely remain a career highlight.
Bobby had spent an unsuccessful spell in attack in '87 but since then has been back In defence where his utility has been epitomised in '89 and again this year slotting into centre when none other could be found.
The blond haired, pale skinned Aidan has become noted for the roving tactic having the endless stamina to sustain such activity. Mind you it hasn't always worked as against Galway in '88 for instance but this year he has added more maturity to the tactic. Tipp must indeed be grateful for such a timely return to excellence by the blond bombshell.
The case of Declan Ryan is another story of positional movement from midfield to defence to attack. In late July, 1986 Tipperary played Cork in a minor hurling replay at Kilmallock which Cork won by a goal. Declan, playing centre back, was the victim of a foul stroke which nearly ended his career. While lying on the ground he was struck in the face by a wild pull and received multiple stitches.
If that day was something of a nadir for Declan thankfully he didn't retire disillusioned but kept hurling and was rewarded with a super 1989 season. In '88 he was on the Tipp senior side - remember his goal against Cork in the final at Limerick. He played full forward that year against Limerick but was out wing for the final with Cork where he stayed to the All-Ireland defeat by Galway.
But '89 was to be his season. It wasn't just that he won a Senior medal, now playing centre forward. There was also the U21 where he captained Tipp to that remarkable win over Offaly in the Portlaoise final that many missed because of the record crowds. And late in the year Declan helped his club, Clonoulty/Rossmore, to a historic county title, their only other win being in 1888.
Since then Declan was back centre back but now this year once more he finds himself at number eleven. It hasn't been a great year so far for Declan - such shifting from defence to attack obviously hasn't helped. The style is left sided, right hand under. A distinctive feature if the ability to dribble one-handed off powerful wrists past fast swinging opponents. The physique is tall and tough, well able and willing to rattle into opponents. If there's a weakness it's the tendency to appear lethargic.
It's entirely appropriate that I leave the fourth Ryan, until last because Michael is '91 vintage. Like all the others he came up through the ranks of course being an U21 this year and losing at the third attempt to Limerick. The Upperchurch man was midfield on the minors who lost heavily to Cork in '88 but then reverted to full back where he played on the U21 win over Offaly In '89. Mind you on this year's U21 side he gravitated between full forward, full back and centre back.
The fates have this year opened the door for him at senior level but he's had to flair to grasp all good fortune available. In the first round of the championship against Limerick John Kennedy collected yet another serious injury and when Babs looked to the bench it was Michael Ryan he called aboard. Ryan did the job capably.
Came the Munster final in Cork and Colm Bonnar was available so Ryan again sat on the bench. One more injury intervened, Conor O'Donovan limped off, Sheehy went in full and Ryan came on at number four. It was to be the making of the 'Church man. His role was central In salvaging a Tipp draw: remember his swashbuckling emergence for defence, and the lengthy clearance which Fox skipped onto and rifled past Cunningham for a vital goal In the rally.
For the Galway semi-final there was no question: Ryan was automatic at left corner. And on a day when the defence excelled Ryan stood hip to hip with the best. He's certain to be there for the final. The style is strong forceful, coming aggressively to the ball and with strength in the charge. Then give possession the leather clad missile is usually posted towards Leahy or Cleary. He's new to this level, maybe the best is yet to follow.
So over a quarter of the Tipp side carry the Ryan birthright to this final. There in good company as the pages of history well attest. So what's in a name hurling if you happen to be Ryan from Tipperary.
Taken from Hogan Stand
30th August 1991
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