herald

Monday 10 December 2018

Clucko is still setting the Sky Blue agenda

Former team-mate Ryan insists 'keeper is key to Dubs dominance

MAIN MAN: Captain Stephen Cluxton leads his side out ahead of the Leinster SFC tie between Wicklow and Dublin at O’Moore Park in Portlaoise, Co Laois. Pic: Sportsfile
MAIN MAN: Captain Stephen Cluxton leads his side out ahead of the Leinster SFC tie between Wicklow and Dublin at O’Moore Park in Portlaoise, Co Laois. Pic: Sportsfile

Shane Ryan played many and varied roles during his long career in Sky Blue, with both the footballers and hurlers.

One thing he wasn't - in his breakthrough year as a Dublin dual star in 1999 and for several more to come - was a soaring contender in a land of midfield giants.

Then again, Stephen Cluxton hadn't arrived on the scene back then.

By the time Paul Caffrey departed as Dublin football manager in 2008, Ryan had long-established himself as a lung-busting link man who could survive and thrive in the midfield engine-room.

He even ended '08 as an All Star midfielder; curiously he would lose his place the very next season under Pat Gilroy, hastening his 2010 return to the embrace of the Dublin hurlers.

RYAN LINE: Former Dubs footballer Shane Ryan has joined the AIG Dublin Masters Football Team. Pic: Sportsfile
RYAN LINE: Former Dubs footballer Shane Ryan has joined the AIG Dublin Masters Football Team. Pic: Sportsfile

A full decade on from his last season as a Dublin football regular, Ryan has now taken some gentle steps back into the big ball fold by enlisting with the Dublin Masters. But his old partner in restart telepathy has never left the building.

Record

Tomorrow, Cluxton will extend his record for most SFC appearances by donning the Dublin goalkeeper's jersey - against Longford in Croke Park - for the 93rd time in championship combat.

No one expects anything other than a routine victory for the All-Ireland holders. No one expects anything other than a trademark display of uber-efficiency from their perennial No 1.

Cluxton's place in the pantheon of greats - as shot-stopper supreme, kick-out king, agenda-setting playmaker and profound influence on the sport itself - was secured many years ago. And yet, even though he'll turn 37 in September, most observers expect him to carry on for quite a while yet.

His ability to locate a free blue jersey within seconds of the ball veering over his end-line has long set him apart. But back in another decade when most kickouts travelled a longer trajectory, he was still a master.

Ryan appreciates, better than anyone, the precision engineering behind that trusty left boot.

His Wikipedia page (not always the most reliable barometer) lists the Naomh Mearnóg man at 6ft tall but it's safe to surmise he was notably smaller than your average county midfielder. And yet Cluxton, with his radar deliveries to the wings, there to be met by Ryan's perfectly-timed runs, helped make him the midfielder he became.

"I was playing corner-back for the first few years and if you look at midfielders around the country, John McDermott for Meath and (Niall) Buckley in Kildare, they were massive men. Even Dublin midfielders like Brian Stynes and Paul Bealin - there was not a hope someone like me would have a chance competing unless I ran," he recalls.

However, Cluxton made it all possible.

"To win All-Irelands and especially to win as much as Dublin have won in the last number of years, you need every part functioning really well. He sets the pace and he sets a tone," Ryan outlines.

Breather

"Teams could be after making an attack and, five seconds later, the ball is being kicked out. Not only is it being kicked out, but it's kicked out directly to one of the Dublin players who is now going at 100 miles an hour down the pitch. So teams don't get a breather, basically.

"The comfort you get as a player knowing that once the ball is kicked, whether it's a point or wide, you'll have possession again in five or ten seconds ... it's massively important. He's got a radar foot and he can pick out wherever he wants.

"You could see a few years ago when Kerry sucker-punched Dublin with a goal or two just before half-time. When Clucko makes a rare mistake, it's plain for all to see because it hardly ever happens. It's like, 'What's going on here?'."

Boylesports bet

The Herald's GAA boffins have closed the gap thanks to last weekend's winning bet on Paul Ryan to score the first goal and Dublin hurlers to beat Offaly.

BOYLESPORTS BET: €25 SF handicap treble on wins for Meath (+4), Armagh (-2) and Carlow (+2) @ 5/1; €25 SH handicap treble on wins for Dublin (+8), Kilkenny (-3) and Waterford (+4) @ 4/1. CARRY-OVER PROFIT: €280.50

HERALD HOT TIP: €20 SF treble on wins for Wexford (-4), Derry and London @ 9/1; €10 on Meath and Tyrone to draw @ 15/2; €10 on Paul Kingston (Laois) to score 1st goal @ 10/1; €10 SF double on wins for Westmeath and Carlow @ 10/1. PROFIT: €203.55

Promoted articles

Entertainment News