Ryan predicts former Limerick team-mates will relish playing Kilkenny
By John Harrington
2018 All-Ireland winner, Colin Ryan, believes his former Limerick team-mates will be gunning for revenge when they play Kilkenny in the All-Ireland SHC Final.
The reigning M. Donnelly All-Ireland Poc Fada champion was a member of the Limerick panel that were beaten in the 2019 All-Ireland SHC semi-final by Kilkenny and knows it’s a loss that still stings.
That’s why he has no doubt they’ll be primed to produce a big performance when they face the Cats in Championship hurling for the first time since that day.
“I know the group of players and what they're about, they're just ruthless in everything they do,” said Ryan at the launch of the 2022 M. Donnelly GAA All-Ireland Poc Fada.
“They'll relish playing Kilkenny so I think they'll get the job done. Knowing those boys, I played with them for years, they're just dogged. You saw it against Galway, they just never go away. They're always there or there abouts. It'll be interesting, it should be a great final.
“They beat us in ’19. I think the boys probably would want that one back. I think they’d really relish that. And especially Kilkenny, they have so many All-Irelands, it would be a nice one to get over and get that one into the pocket.
“They’re the kingpins of hurling for years and Brian Cody at the helm. It would be a special one for the group of players that are there, definitely.”
That 2019 All-Ireland semi-final defeat isn’t the only loss to Kilkenny many of the current generation of Limerick hurlers have used to fuel their inner fire.
Ryan played alongside Sean Finn, Cian Lynch, Seamus Flanagan, Tom Morrissey, Barry Nash and Peter Casey in the 2014 All-Ireland Minor Hurling Final defeat to the Cats.
Limerick were very much the fancied team coming into the match, but were undone by a two second-half John Walsh goals that inspired Kilkenny to victory.
It was a tough loss to take at the time, but Ryan has no doubt it helped inspire many of the same players to win All-Ireland U-21 titles in 2015 and 2017 before going on to dominate the senior grade.
“We came in as, I won’t say red-hot favourites, but we were favourites,” says Ryan of that 2014 All-Ireland Minor Final defeat.
“We had some big names. We just never got going. We got caught for two goals and never really recovered. I think there was four points in it at the end.
“There was a bit of heartbreak there in '14 which drove us on to the 21s. The breakthrough was 2015.
“We played Clare in the Munster final in ‘15 and to get a win…that’s what drove it on. I don’t think Clare were beaten in a number of years down there so to get over the line there I think fellas really felt there’s something special here.”
Ryan was called into the Limerick senior hurling panel in 2017 by John Kiely along with a host of other graduates from the All-Ireland winning U-21 team.
That championship campaign ended early after defeat to Clare in Munster and then to Kilkenny in the All-Ireland SHC Qualifiers.
Back then, Ryan doesn’t mind admitting it would have been hard to believe that Kilkenny would go on win three of the next four All-Ireland titles.
“It’s crazy, like. It’s mad. We lost to Clare and we lost to Kilkenny, you’re saying, ‘Jesus, how are you going to pick yourself up?’ But in fairness to the group of players there, they’re unbelievable. In 2018, then like, we beat Tipp and just got on a roll.
“2018 was magical. The big one was down in Cork, Kyle Hayes got the point for the draw, I think that was another thing there for the players, that we could go far in this and thankfully we did.”
Clearly this generation of Limerick hurlers are extremely driven sportspeople, but it helps too that they’re marshalled by an outstanding manager in John Kiely.
How does he keep his players so consistently motivated? According to Ryan, the fear factor the no-nonsense Limerick manager has is definitely a help.
“He's very good,” says Ryan. “It's respect from a distance. He knows when to mingle and when not to. He's a principal in the Abbey CBS so has that sort of thing with the players.
“John would definitely put the fear into you. You'd be afraid to cross him. That's what you want, especially playing inter-county. You want that bit of fear.”
Pallasgreen clubman Ryan hasn’t been a member of the Limerick panel since 2019, but still hopes to force his way back into it at some stage in the future.
“Please God,” he says. “I'll keep going with the club anyway, Pallasgreen. That's the aim at the moment anyway. Keep plugging away, keep going, keep trying my best. That's all you can do.”