Diarmuid Ryan relishing busy Munster Championship spell
By Cian O’Connell
It has been a rapid six years since Diarmuid Ryan watched his brother Conor help Clare reclaim the Liam MacCarthy Cup at Croke Park.
So much has happened in the intervening time and now Ryan is establishing himself as a hurler of immense promise for the Banner.
The Allianz Hurling League supplied glimpses of Ryan’s ability and the Cratloe clubman is relishing the opportunity to perform in the Munster Championship.
With an away win over Waterford pocketed, Clare host Tipperary in an eagerly anticipated encounter at Cusack Park on Sunday.
“After looking in from the stands for the last couple of years dreaming of being out there in packed out stadiums, it is great to get out there, to get a feel for it,” Ryan admits.
“Even for the All Ireland in 2013, I was only 13 years of age. I was only dreaming that I would be playing with them, but I didn't think that six years later I would be playing with the lads. It is brilliant to get a feel of what it is like playing with them.
“The likes of Tony Kelly he was only my age breaking on to the scene, to have him there gives you a bit of leadership. It was great to get out there with the lads, heroes you'd be looking up at since you were a young fella.”
Brother Conor was forced to retire at 26, but he is a significant role model and source of advise for Diarmuid, who has flared to prominence in 2019.
“Yeah, he will tell you himself he wasn't making panels until maybe the 21s in 2012 when they won the All Ireland,” Ryan states. “He powered on then, he was great, he would have a word in your ear constantly telling you that you don't need to impress anyone, just keep doing what you have been doing in the last few games in the League.
“Just go easy enough into the match. I didn't really talk to him the week of it, but the days before he was giving me little pointers, it was handy and nice to have.”
There is a sense of disappointment that the Ryans won’t get the opportunity to hurl for Clare alongside one another.
“Yeah, that was a thing for both of us,” Ryan acknowledges. “When he told us and as he said in the paper it was a dream for the two of us to play with each other.
“Again hopefully someday he will fulfil a managerial role over one of the teams that I'm on. We will probably get the same connection there hopefully.”
Clare’s healthy Cratloe contingent, though, have enabled Ryan to settle into the Clare environment with the minimum of fuss.
“You have Podge, Cathal McInerney, Conor McGrath, they have all won All Irelands with Clare at Under 21s and senior level,” Ryan adds.
“You didn't have to look too far past Conor to find another role model in your club. They are great to have, they keep you level headed and on game day they keep you very calm, cool, and collected. It was just nice to see so many lads on the Clare panel around you.
“When you have been playing with them at senior level for the past few years they can give you a few pointers. If you were going in by yourself, you don't know what you are going into, you are kind of going into a bit of darkness.
“It really opened up your mind to what Championship is like. They will make you a better player, they will give you better pointers that you need to prepare yourself leading into a big game.”
Donal Moloney and Gerry O’Connor are intent on affording emerging players chances to shine with Ryan accepting that the Clare panel is currently in a good place. “A lot of managers will emphasise the young talent coming through. We do have a lot of young lads coming through from 20s and 21s from the last couple of years.
“The older lads like John Conlon would say it nearly helps him to improve because he knows he is looking over his shoulder at the next fella coming along. It makes everyone better.”
A highly regarded dual player in his underage days, Ryan enjoyed his school stint in Ardscoil Rís in Limerick. “My love of hurling flourished then from first year on,” Ryan remarks. “We won the Harty Cup. The coaches in Cratloe are great and there is a great understanding when it comes to hurling and football so that helped us as well. It is good to have that bond.
“When I was in first year the likes of Cian Lynch would have been in sixth year. Seeing them for a year I'd have been looking up to them when they won the Harty Cup. The year Declan Hannon was there, I wasn't, but I was following Ardscoil for years because Conor went there.
“Even after I was still following their games, I was hoping I would be winning trophies with Ardscoil. Thank God it happened. We were fortunate enough to win a few trophies.
“All the lads have a personal connection to at least one of the lads on the panel, lads going to UL, LIT, or Mary I. There is going to be a rivalry, friendships will be put to one side that day. Limerick will be looking for our blood after last year, for any neutrals it should be an enchanting event really.”
Sunday should be too with Ryan ready, willing, and able to enjoy the upcoming challenge with three games in quick succession.
“We will concentrate on Tipp, but then the matches will be coming thick and fast,” Ryan says. “You nearly love that because you don't want too much of a break.
“You don't want to rest on your laurels, everyone wants to play week in, week out. So that is the thing about the Munster Championship, everyone has at least four games which is great. We will go hard for the next few weeks and we expect another huge battle from Tipp in Cusack Park.”