Dean Ryan has been one of Clare’s star turns in 2015 — the Éire Óg man is hoping that the learning curve of last year’s near misses against Kerry and Kildare can be turned into a famous first ever win championship over the Rebels on Cork soil. Joe Ó Muircheartaigh reports.
Ryan Line driving for some success
IMPROVEMENT has been the byword by Colm Collins’ management of the Clare footballers over the past two years.
Looking for improvement in terms of the collective team performance; looking for individual improvement too, with Collins always parsing it down to the game’s fundamentals.
Basics like keeping possession of the football; making the right choices with the football; tackle counts; not coughing up cheap turnovers; taking your scores.
Sometimes they’re like elusive elixirs, but not always when the team graph is on the rise and when individuals are responding to the challenges that are thrown down to them every night in training and on match days.
Where the latter is concerned, Éire Óg man Dean Ryan is someone who has really stepped up this year — 2015 has been his second season of his second coming as an inter-county player.“It’s just the drive for it,” says Ryan.
“The enjoyment of it. You’re going to training and you’re enjoying it, so you’re putting in the effort and working harder all the time. It’s the want to win and the belief behind it all, whereas before you wouldn’t put in such an effort because you didn’t think you were going to get the rewards out of it. Now it’s as clear as day that the rewards are there if the hard work is put in. That’s what I’m looking at.”
The most immediate reward is Sunday’s cut off Cork, in what will be Ryan’s first outing against the Rebels at senior championship level, as the games between the two sides in 2011, ’12 and ’13 coincided with his inter-county hiatus.
The injured, loss of form and summer in America years.
“It’s going to be a massive test,” he admits, “but I’m looking forward to it. Last year we had Kerry and we had Kildare, but they were at home. This is an away game against very tough opposition, but we saw the draw at the start of the year and we were aiming for this game.
“Looking back to the Kerry and Kildare games, a lot of people would have said that we put in good displays and stuff, but there’s no need for moral victories and things like that anymore. A lot of people would have said that we put in a great display against Kerry, but the dressing room was a complete different story. We were just devastated after losing it.
“We’re going to win games. We’re not interested in that anymore. We’re going into games to win them. That’s what you have to do. The mindset of Clare footballers has completely changed over the last couple of years — especially last year and that game over Kerry. We genuinely believed that we were going in to win the game.”
And so it will be the same when this Sunday comes — when Clare will be looking to draw on past experiences — the Kerry, but above all the Kildare game when a six-point lead was let slip in an excruciating final 25 minutes.
“Every game is a learning curve and that’s what we’re taking from those games,” says Ryan, “because you learn from every defeat and move forward then. It’s all about experience. “You’re not going to wake up one morning and suddenly start beating the top teams in the country. You’re going to have to learn from the top teams, take a leaf out of their book when playing against them and just keep learning.
“We played Dublin in a challenge game a few weeks ago and that was a massive learning curve as well. It’s brilliant to get those games — in years gone by you would never have seen a challenge game against the likes of Dublin.”
Now to put that knowledge to the test. And what greater test than trying to buck a trend of 85 years as Clare are still searching for their first win over Cork on away soil since their first clash in the old Athletic Grounds in 1930.
“We’re aiming for this,” says Ryan. “I don’t think we’ve put in a full display of 70 minutes, this year or last year. We’ve shown our capabilities time and time again, but not for the 70 minutes. Beating top opposition is what we need to do. If we produce a full 70-minute performance we will be in a Munster final.
“The aim at the start of the year was to go one step further than last year and always be improving. We’re looking forward to a massive battle. We know what Cork are going to bring to the table. We know exactly what we have to bring to it. The work has been done. That lads have put in a savage effort. It’s just coming down to the full 70 minutes now and if we can get through that we will be in a Munster final.”