Saturday 16 December 2017

Ryan: we must raise banner

Clare forward desperate to fulfil promise shown by U21 All-Ireland winners to secure shot at lifting McCarthy Cup

DETERMINED: Clare's Colin Ryan after a press event ahead of their All-Ireland SHC semi-final against Limerick tomorrow at Croke Park.
DETERMINED: Clare's Colin Ryan after a press event ahead of their All-Ireland SHC semi-final against Limerick tomorrow at Croke Park.

FOR all those naysayers – and there were/are many in Clare – who believed Davy Fitzgerald's methods to be too intricate, too regulated but really, just a little too smart for his own good, Colin Ryan makes a pretty valid point.

"Listen," says the Clare attacker, "they said Jim McGuinness was wrong until he went and won an All-Ireland. It changes very much when you win and we are going out to win and that is exactly what we want to do.

"People can say what they like," he adds, "Davy goes out and sets us up in a way that we can try and win. At the end of the day we all believe in that."

And to those who believe the guile of youth is fitted for a straitjacket before every match Clare play, Ryan has an even more practical example to the contrary.

"You can't tie down those young lads," he says, a 'veteran' of the 2009 All-Ireland Under-21 winning team and thus in the elder half of this incredibly young Clare dressing-room, "you can't tell them to hurl in a specific way. I am sure he did not tell Paudge Collins to hand-pass the ball behind his back.



"The lads go out and hurl with freedom. Fair enough, there are systems in place but at the end of the day when you have the ball and you are trying to score, and you have to make decisions yourself on the field, he gives us the opportunity to do that."

And nobody has flourished more in this Clare setup than Ryan, who remains the only realistic contender to catch and overtake Eoin Larkin as this season's championship top scorer.

He sits ten points adrift of Larkin's haul of 50 points (Pat Horgan is 17 off that figure), and given how easily Clare have been creating scoring opportunities, a win tomorrow against Limerick and another match would put Ryan in a strong position.

It has been a steady, rather than meteoric, rise to national acclaim for Ryan.

The perception of the makeup of the Clare squad as those who have won Under 21 All-Irelands and those who haven't is wrong, he says.

That first wave, the 2009 pack, Ryan's team, endured a couple of tough years before Fitzgerald's arrival and the dawn of the second band of Banner brothers currently buttressing the senior side.

So much so that, after such heavy championship exits in 2010 and '11, Clare people began to fear that their then, one and only All-Ireland-winning Under-21 team would simply fade away.

"Some lads it happens for quicker than others and some teams it happens for quicker than others," Ryan explains. "It is very hard to put your finger on what was wrong, you can say leadership, you can say work-rate, you can say whatever you want and you can blame a load of things as to why it did not happen, but at the end of the day when it does happen, you have to take the opportunity and really go with it.



"It might not come around too often. We are lucky to be in a situation where we are in an All-Ireland semi-final, we are in with a 50/50 chance and we are happy to be there.

"We got on a sort of rollercoaster. It was something new and something different. But we gained confidence from winning games. I don't think we got too caught up in it."

Something which can't be said for most of his county-folk. There is nothing so encouraging as the fresh flushes of youth and in a county with mid-90s memories so vivid yet onw which hadn't won so much as a Munster Championship match for six years, the reaction was never going to be measured.

"The Clare fans get very excited," Ryan acknowledges, "and in fairness they are great hurling supporters who have been without success for so long, and then when it does come along I suppose they get excited, they expect things to happen.

"But it doesn't necessarily happen that way. The players ... I don't necessarily think it was pressure or anything like that, you need that experience, you need to suffer the losses to get to where you want to go eventually. We are over the couple of years now where it didn't work out for us.

"You play hurling to win an All-Ireland, it's as simple as that. Munster titles and all that are great but at the end of the day if you win an All-Ireland," he concludes, "that is going to be what is remembered."

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