Tom Ryan was ‘no social animal’ by his personal admission. The concept of forging private relationships along with his gamers held no attraction for him.

I don’t assume I ever phoned a participant once I was supervisor … or {that a} participant ever phoned me,’ he asserts, with Charles Hanley left to deal solely with communications. A lifelong Pioneer, he had no nice purpose to go to many pubs.

“You’re considered an oddball,” he suggests, the Irish tendency to think about non-drinkers as in some way suspicious one thing he’s aware of. The supervisor of a manufacturing unit on Thomas Avenue in Limerick metropolis, Ryan’s skilled life made calls for on his time that required a strict demarcation between it and his inter-county obligations.

Distant to the purpose of being detached about gamers’ private lives, he zealously harassed the significance of impartiality. For the time period that they could possibly be known as his gamers, there would must be some sort of a major bond there, nonetheless.

“I brought them out into the middle of the pitch in the Gaelic Grounds,” he remembers of an early encounter, “and I told them, ‘I can’t guarantee that we’ll win a match, but everyone sitting here tonight is of equal importance.’ I hated people having favourites.”

Mark Foley’s unexpected rise into the senior panel (and his potential to remain there) owed a lot to Ryan’s philosophy of equity. “After a week or two training,” Foley remembers, “Tom pulled me aside. ‘You’re in here because you’re good enough. Don’t think you’re here to make up the numbers’.”

Though his championship debut wouldn’t arrive till 1995, the Adare native was made to really feel part of issues from the very starting. “Even though he was trying to win an All-Ireland with Limerick at that stage,” Foley explains, “Tom was determined to help every player in what they could do to improve.”

Regardless of this dedication to nurture gamers, nevertheless, Ryan remained most snug at a take away.

“I wasn’t there to be loved. I didn’t give a damn what they thought of me.” A grasp motivator from his days with Ballybrown, he was as completely satisfied if his gamers hurled properly solely out of a need to spite him.

“Not one of my players ever invited me to their wedding,” he remarks, no ounce of remorse or disappointment in his voice. “I’d be under no illusions what they thought of me.”

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Married a number of years after Ryan had drafted him into the Limerick panel, Foley will not be satisfied it was an absence of fondness for his or her supervisor that resulted in gamers typically mirroring Ryan’s indifference again to him.

“All I can say is that if I thought Tom Ryan would’ve enjoyed one second of being at my wedding,” he says with fun, “I would have asked him. Yes, he was the boss, but there was a huge respect there. He wanted to do everything possible to win for Limerick. You have to respect that.”

In any case, on the root of every thing for Tom Ryan was Limerick. Maybe he didn’t need the job when his title was put ahead, however Ryan scarcely appears a person who will do what he doesn’t wish to do. The ‘F**k You’ he reserved for the county board would solely have carried him up to now.

No matter reluctance did exist disappeared. As soon as within the door, it was his high precedence to win an All-Eire. Or second, possibly! “You represent Limerick when you put on that jersey,” he states, the significance of that element, one thing he carried from his personal taking part in days. “I wanted us all to represent Limerick accordingly. I insisted on that first and foremost.”


“I was dealing with a group of Russians,” utters Ryan, the political engineering inside Limerick GAA an in a position match for the Soviet-era Kremlin. Throughout the 15 championship fixtures he oversaw as Limerick supervisor, Ryan’s staff received all however 5 of them.

In that 1994-97 tenure, solely Clare and Offaly, All-Eire winners in three of the 4 years, received extra video games. Twice Munster champions, solely a relative handful of Limerick hurlers from earlier a long time had loved such success.

Undoubtedly of lesser significance, the Nationwide League was nonetheless received in 1997, too. “Ultimately, the history books will record in black and white the names of those counties that won All-Irelands,” Ger Hegarty states matter-of-factly, relative success holding little sway when he displays on Limerick’s failure to attain their final purpose.

It’s an outlook Ryan understands, if not precisely one he shares. However, coming from a former participant of his and one straight concerned within the battle for achievement, Ryan can abdomen it.

No person needs to be on the dropping aspect, particularly while you had labored so laborious to return so near profitable. No, the gnarled facet of Ryan’s outlook on his years in cost owes extra to those that felt entitled to share within the grief of Limerick’s losses with out first providing one thing worthwhile to the trigger.

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As Ryan foresaw when taking up the position of Limerick supervisor in late 1993, eventually, he was sure to collide with the individuals whose motives he by no means correctly trusted anyway.

One in all Limerick hurling’s most profitable managers, Ryan has a number of issues left to say in regards to the county board.


Taking part in and training have all the time gone hand-in-hand for Ryan.”‘I used to be managing groups from about eight years of age,” he insists, laughing at how incredulous it sounds.

“You couldn’t make it up – I was always in a kind of managerial role … captain, trainer, selector … and player all at the same time.”

A formidable sufficient hurler to symbolize Limerick within the profitable 1973 All-Eire last, the identical powerful exterior that may characterise his managerial manner was already there within the participant.

“Ballybrown were playing Patrickswell, and Tom was a bit injured, so they threw him in at full-forward,” Liam Lenihan remembers listening to of the person he soldiered by way of the Nineteen Nineties with as a Limerick selector.

“Now, Tom’s mom occurred to be in hospital presently and the Patrickswell goalie got here out simply earlier than the match began.

“‘How’s your mother getting on Tom?’ Well, Tom just looked at him. ‘If you don’t stay inside in your goal, you’ll be within in the hospital and can ask her yourself’.”

It was not toughness alone that outlined him, nevertheless. If Ryan typically appeared content material to maintain the surface world at bay, it was solely as a result of he had lots on his thoughts. Not more than Paul Kinnerk or his like in the present day, teaching and administration occupied an unbelievable quantity of Ryan’s pondering time.

Though he has loved watching Limerick win All-Irelands in recent times, he’s fast to share his mistrust of the ‘showbiz’ surrounding the trendy recreation. “It’s not hurling at all,” he remarks of the fashion Kinnerk has Limerick taking part in.

And but, stylistic preferences apart, it’s inconceivable to look again on Ryan’s time in cost and never consider how shut he got here to doing what Limerick have solely just lately managed to attain.

The extraordinary work Kinnerk has executed to turn out to be an elite hurling coach has been vindicated in Limerick’s success. The identical strenuous effort put in by Ryan has been largely forgotten in defeat.

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“We had a supreme sports team, and we were classed as losers,” he states. “It is a sore point for me.” Though, by Ryan’s admission, the county job was not on his radar in late 1993, it was a job he had spent most of his life getting ready for, in a method or one other.

A fanatical sports activities fan, from a really younger age he had been captivated by groups and people that had excelled past the world of GAA. Born in 1944, he was lucky to be coming of age throughout a relative flurry of high-profile rugby matches in Eire.

“I based a lot of my own theories on the All Blacks,” he explains, the 19-year-old Ryan well-placed when New Zealand took on Munster in Thomond Park in 1963. “I checked out them and thought to myself, what have they received that makes them so particular?

“I studied them and located that their velocity, their aggression, and their dedication, put along with the talents that they’d … that grew to become the premise of my complete teaching and managerial idea.’

Originally of that very same 12 months, as England was overrun by excessive winter climate circumstances, one other inspirational determine of his, Matt Busby, was guiding Manchester United by way of a collection of exhibition matches in Eire to maintain his gamers lively.

Avidly researching what he may about teaching, the flexibility to enhance a participant’s efficiency degree has all the time fascinated him. Nearer to dwelling, Seán Boylan in Meath captured Ryan’s creativeness in later years.

“I love Boylan,” he admits, “Mick O’Dwyer too. He was a rogue, but you need a bit of that as well.” By means of the likes of Busby, Boylan, O’Dwyer, and certainly, Alex Ferguson additionally, Ryan recognized, of their longevity, a shared attribute to be prized.

Every had discovered a option to stability the calls for of managing down towards the gamers and up towards the decision-makers throughout years and years of their respective roles.

The success which in the end eluded Ryan might have helped him navigate dealings with the decision-makers higher, however he might properly argue that not one in all Busby, Boylan, O’Dwyer or Ferguson needed to take care of the Limerick County Board.

Little underneath one week after the 1996 All-Eire last defeat to Wexford, Ryan was summoned to a gathering on the Gaelic Grounds to debate his future as Limerick hurling supervisor. Or so it was written, anyway.


Former Limerick participant Mark Foley, who Tom Ryan promoted

“Nobody summoned Tom Ryan to any meeting,” he states definitively. “I’m one man you wouldn’t summon to a gathering. The Irish Unbiased had been fed this info, you see, so I rang the county secretary, Jimmy Hartigan.

“‘Tell me, what’s this I’m reading this morning about being summoned to a meeting? What’s that about?’ He replies, saying, ‘Well, haven’t we a meeting scheduled?’ I told him that we had, but I hadn’t been summoned to it.”

Following Limerick’s second All-Eire last defeat in three years, tensions had been fraught amongst county board members. Though it was routine for such a gathering between the officers and the administration staff to fulfill at season’s finish, the ‘summoning’ of Ryan to mentioned assembly indicated that relations had been now removed from cordial.

“They were trying to be clever, you see, but I knew who I was dealing with,” explains Ryan. “So, I mentioned to Hartigan, ‘With any meeting, the first thing we have to have is an agenda.’ I instructed him that I wished that agenda on my desk by 5pm or there could be no assembly.

“So, they panicked. About six of them got together very quickly and they put down their thoughts in writing. That was a mistake. They did it so hurriedly that they even printed the mistakes just so they could have it out.”

Unbeknownst to all concerned, the notorious ’20 Questions’ had been about to be requested.


Mike Fitzgerald, one of many three county board members who had sat with Ryan on the night time he had been appointed supervisor within the Woodlands Lodge three years earlier, defined to Henry Martin in additional exact element how this regrettable doc got here into being: “It was felt, fairly than having an advert hoc dialogue, that there needs to be a component of management to the assembly and ask the administration 5 or 6 questions. Among the officers had been lacking on the night time, and when it completed up, it was felt that they need to be consulted if they’d something so as to add.

“The list of questions finished up at 20 and some of them were sensitive. Some of them were a bit petty and should never have been put down in print. They should have been summarised into four of five questions. They were never meant to be an official document.”

The unintentional nature of those questions being put to paper is mirrored within the errors Ryan referenced being printed on the ultimate doc. Dated Monday 9, September, Martin’s Limitless Heartbreak offers a whole run-down of the questions that the Limerick County Board wished answered:

1. Why did we lose the match?

2. Have been Tom’s selectors aware of all plans related to the staff?

3. The precise position of Dave Mahedy?

4. Are the hurley carriers justified when gamers on the panel should go up on the stand?

5. Why was Mike Galligan not included within the first six after it was indicated he couldn’t play video games previous to the All-Eire and was instructed by Dave Mahedy that he could also be on from the beginning if Owen O’Neill was not match?

6. Have been the gamers given any instruction with regard to decorum and behavior for the ultimate? Dave Mahedy was current whereas it (the behaviour previous to the throw-in) was occurring.

7. Why was it (the behaviour previous to the throw-in) allowed to occur? What occurred on the Monday night time previous to the ultimate?

8. Gamers pestered for tickets – What was executed about it?

9. Lack of punctuality throughout the weekend.

10. Why did the staff come out so rapidly after half-time?

11. When Sandra (Marsh, Limerick GAA PRO) requested Tom re: Shaws jerseys was referred to Dave Mahedy who mentioned ‘We are getting f**k all from Shaws.’

12.Is there a necessity for the 2 ladies Cora and Sinéad?

13.Involvement of three selectors in Kilmurray Lodge: re Munster last and All-Eire last Monday?

14. Was there any pre-planning executed within the occasion of a staff dropping a participant on the day?

15. Do the selectors settle for any duty for us dropping the sport?

16. Do they assume that Dave Mahedy is the precise man to coach the staff?

17. Does Tom (Ryan) really feel that the most effective pursuits of Limerick Hurling are served by he persevering with on as Supervisor of the Senior Hurling Workforce? This bunch of gamers have reached and misplaced 2 All-Irelands. Wouldn’t it not be higher to make a contemporary begin underneath a brand new Supervisor?

18. Was there any instruction given to Joe Quaid to fluctuate the puck-out and make use of the additional man within the 2nd half?

19. Do ye assume the gamers had been handled correctly?

20. Have any monies been handed out to any member of the administration that has not since been given to the Supporters Membership?

Time has not softened Ryan’s outrage over this incident. “They were a disgrace,” he declares, incredulous nonetheless at how he and his backroom staff had been handled by the county board. “I walked in and the entire Politburo had been there, all 14 of them sitting round a desk.

“‘If you think that I’ll reply these questions, ye are making an enormous mistake. You’ll be able to shove them up your f*****g arse’.

“That was the language I used. I didn’t spare them.”


The brand new e-book on Limerick hurling

‘Limerick: A Biography in Nine Lives’ by Arthur James O’Dea is printed by Hero Books and is on the market in all good bookstores (and likewise on Amazon as an book €9.99, paperback €20 and hardback €25)

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