herald

Tuesday 17 September 2019

Ryan is best of the best

Ulster 14 Leinster 13

NEW STANDARD: Leinster second row James Ryan. Photo: Sportsfile
NEW STANDARD: Leinster second row James Ryan. Photo: Sportsfile

The Leinster Awards Ball took place last night in the sombre aftermath of a frustrating one-point loss to Ulster in the PRO14 League at the Kingspan.

It came as no surprise to hear James Ryan announced as the recipient of the Player of the Year at the ceremony, hosted at the Inter-Continental Hotel in Ballsbridge.

The 22-year-old second row has been outstanding for club and country, never letting the mediocrity of the Six Nations campaign interfere with what he had to do.

The influence of Ryan is increasing, even growing into the role of calling the lineout when Devin Toner was not available for the Champions Cup quarter-final.

The second last time Ryan was seen in a blue shirt, he had just racked up a ridiculous 27 tackles and 21 carries against Ulster.

He followed this up with a team-leading 17 carries and second best 16 tackles against Toulouse.

James Tracy took up the review: "I remember being asked a question not so long ago about consistency and someone pointed towards how consistent James Ryan is.

"That's the barometer," said the hooker.

"I think he's an exceptional athlete, an exceptional rugby player and he is setting new standards.

"For anyone to get over 20 tackles or carries in a game is an exceptional game and he's blown it out of the water with both.

"You don't see anyone else doing it. I'm not sure you can rein him in," he added. "With someone like that, you just have got to let them keep doing their thing.

"He backs it up week-on-week. I'm just happy he's on our team."

It is the standard others can aspire to and close friend Max Deegan confirmed the impression of his improvement this season by winning the Young Player of the Year.

The natural number eight has shown versatility by starting in all three positions across the back row for 22 caps this season, 12 of them from the start.

Seán O'Brien, Jack McGrath, Noel Reid, Mick Kearney and Nick McCarthy were all on hand to receive the applause from a grateful audience for services rendered.

Meanwhile, the on-loan Ian Nagle and Tom Daly were unable to attend as they remained with their current provinces, Ulster and Connacht, respectively ahead of the PRO14 play-offs.

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