Ryan's driven on by regrets
WHEN Ryan O'Dwyer puts on the helmet, he shows all the industry of a man that is heading down the mine.
He was the top-scorer for Dublin against the Dubs Stars in Tallaght on Sunday afternoon. Nine points, three from play.
Ryan's brother, Tom, hurls with Thomas Davis. He wrote an article about Ryan in Sunday's programme.
He recalled how Ryan made his senior championship debut for Cashel King Cormacs when he came on as a sub and scored a goal with his first touch -- an overhead pull. He was only 16.
He explained how Ryan thought long and hard about leaving Cashel to play with the Dubs and Kilmacud Crokes.
But when the family gave it their blessing, he made the call.
Tom writes: "It's clear that Ryan made the right decision. From day one, he has been so happy. He absolutely loves the lads, and the selectors. From what I hear, he's Anthony Daly's little pet. It's a good way of staying on the team, I suppose!
"I tried my best to get him to join us here at Thomas Davis, but he picked Kilmacud. He has been very impressed with the professionalism of Dublin hurling.
"He played a central role in Dublin's National League success and their championship run.
"I have no doubt that Ryan will now be thinking of scoring the winning point in the last minute of the All-Ireland final from the '65' out under the Cusack Stand, having broken about five tackles. And the opposition... Tipp, of course!"
It was Tipp who defeated Dublin in last season's All-Ireland semi-final. The loss still stings.
"If somebody had told us at this time last year that we'd win the National League, get to the Leinster final and we'd lose narrowly in the All-Ireland semi-final, we would have taken it. Definitely," says Ryan. "But when we lost to Tipp we were so bitterly disappointed. We wanted more.
"We wanted to win the All-Ireland. We are not going to say we were happy with what we had. And we believe we can achieve more.
"We made progress last season, but as far as I am concerned, 2011 is over now.
"We have to get our heads down and work even harder. We have to prove ourselves. We need to kick on.
"We need to train even harder than we did."
Ryan was thrilled to be back on stage on the Kiltipper Road. And, as ever, he made a critical contribution from the centre half-forward position.
He's as brave as they come. He'd put in the hand where hurls would fear to thread. He challenges for every crumb, and he has the ability to turn them into a batch loaf. Many say he's been one of the best things to happen to Dublin hurling in years.
And despite what his brother wrote, it wouldn't be advisable for any defender to call Ryan Dalo's "pet". Yet, as he again showed after the game on Sunday, he spent more time talking to the fans than Daniel O'Donnell!
"It was great to get back out," he remarked.
"Ok, it was a pity the conditions weren't a bit warmer, but once we got into it, we were flying.
"You can't beat playing matches. You can work away on your own or with a couple of lads in the winter, but it's just not the same.
"It's only when you get back out on the pitch that the hurling starts.
"And it's the same when the clocks go back. That's when the real hurling starts. I love that time of the year."
His second year with Kilmacud Crokes also offers promise. Ryan was surprised by the quality of Dublin club hurling.
"It was a lot stronger than I thought. I knew it was going to be a decent standard, but, to be honest, I didn't expect it to be quite so high."
He's hoping to see the county championship get a solid overhaul.
"Last year we played our first championship fixture in April and we didn't play our second championship match until October 10.
"The Dublin hurling championship had to be re-arranged and run-off, so it wasn't a true reflection of the standard in the county.
"Hopefully this year the championship will be re-structured so that we'll get to play games between the Dublin inter-county fixtures.
"And maybe this time next year, Kilmacud Crokes, as county champions, will have a few more Dubs Stars," smiles the Rock of Cashel, who'll dig deeper than most in his quest to find All-Ireland gold.