‘It was a dream for the two of us to play with each other’ – flying the family flag with Clare

DIARMUID RYAN DIDN’T have to look far for a sporting role model in Clare when he was growing up.

He watched his brother Conor burst onto the scene with a Clare U21 side that swept all before them in 2012. That All-Ireland success was followed up by the ultimate honour twelve months later, a thrilling ride to senior glory against Cork.

Conor’s efforts were recognised with an All-Star award and he seemed destined to be a lynchpin for Clare hurling for years to come.

But in January 2018 he had to declare his intention to retire due to health problems.

Diarmuid’s emergence in Clare hurling circles was well-flagged with his exploits in the underage ranks. He was central to their minor team’s fortunes in 2017, had a peripheral role with the senior squad last year and then this season has made his mark.

Three weeks ago the teenager made his bow in the senior championship arena against Waterford yet there is a tinge of regret that all these strides are being made in a setup which no longer features his brother.

“That was a thing for both of us. 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.

“He will tell you himself he wasn’t making panels until maybe the U21s in 2012 when they won the All-Ireland. 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 (the Waterford game), but the days before he was giving me little pointers, it was handy and nice to have.”

Conor Ryan celebrates with the Liam MacCarthy Cup after Clare’s victory in 2013.

Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

His club Cratloe has been a hotbed for producing Clare senior talent that underage players can aspire to be like.

“You have Podge (Clare), Cathal McInerney, Conor McGrath, they have all won All Irelands with Clare at U21 and senior level. 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.

“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.

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“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.”

Like the bulk of players from his club, he has dabbled in Gaelic football with a spell with the Clare minors and a continued role with Cratloe. 

But school life in Ardscoil Rís swung him towards hurling.

“Grown up I loved playing both, but when you come into Ardscoil your skillset is all based on hurling. There is no football, I’d say they’d put a six inch nail down through a football if it came in there.

“My love of hurling flourished then from first year on. We won the Harty Cup (in 2018). I played in the Munster League (with Clare that year), I continued training, but took a step back because I was doing the Leaving and with Ardscoil we were hurling right up until April because we won the Harty Cup.

“I knew there would be plenty of years to try to get on to the Clare panel. With Ardscoil it was my last chance in there so I gave it a good kick.”

Diarmuid Ryan in action for Clare against Limerick in the league this spring.

Source: Lorraine O’Sullivan/INPHO

That involvement with Ardscoil has created a strong link for Ryan with Limerick hurling. There’ll be a short trip from home to the Gaelic Grounds on 9 June for a pivotal Munster tie but before that they welcome Tipperary to Ennis on Sunday.

It’s all part of the learning curve for Ryan after sampling the senior arena for the first time earlier this month in Walsh Park.

“In the first 10 minutes you’d be looking around you, but you see the fella beside you is feeling the same. So it goes okay, it is all about that blowout in the first 10 or 15 minutes. You get a real chance to see what it is like. 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. The matches will be coming thick and fast, we expect another huge battle from Tipp in Cusack Park.”

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