Barry Ryan will be bidding for his own slice of football history this Sunday when keeping goals in for Clare in the Oscar Traynor final. Joe Ó Muircheartaigh explains.
LIKE father like son.
The late and great Noelie Ryan is one of the giants of Clare soccer — he who blazed a trail for the county in the first decade or so after the game was reorganised in the county once more after a lapse of many years.
That new start for Clare soccer came in the 1962-63, but when it came to the game in the Banner County making waves on the national scene it was the young and hugely gifted Noelie Ryan that helped lead the charge.
He did this when being the key member of the Clare Youths side that won Inter-League Youths title in the 1970-71 season.
“From the very top of the ladder,” is how Joe Shannon, a founder member of the Hermitage club describes him. Ryan certainly was in that six-match campaign — hitting six goals in Clare’s march to national glory.
His first came in the abandoned quarter-final tie against Cork AUL that finished at 1-1 before a brace in the re-fixture, with the other two goals coming from captain Michael Kenny helping Clare to 4-2 victory. Ryan got Clare’s two goals in the 2-1 semi-final win over Waterford before grabbing Clare’s second in the 2-0 final win over Dublin AUL at Ennis Showgrounds.
By this stage Ryan had already attracted the interest of clubs outside the county. There was much talk of a move to Everton, but while that never came to pass Ryan did play League of Ireland with Cork Celtic for three seasons when Jimmy Barry Murphy was among his team-mates before returning to the county resuming his hurling career, playing in the 1981 Munster final, while also lining out for St Michael’s and Clare at Oscar Traynor level.
The closest Noelie got to national success with Clare at senior level was when being part of the squad that reached the semi-final stage in 1981 — losing at the semi-final stage to Mayo, while 35 years on comes his son Barry’s big chance.
Ryan had a stellar League of Ireland career — playing for a total of 18 years and making 435 appearances during spells with UCD, Shamrock Rovers, Dublin City, St Patrick’s Athletic, Galway United and Limerick City.
Now comes his shot of emulating his father by winning a national title in a Clare jersey, having resumed his soccer career in Clare this season having retired from the League of Ireland game in 2014.
Ryan, of course, has played in a national final before — being goalkeeper on the Cloughleigh Celtic side that played in the final of Irish Youths Cup in 1996 when they were beaten by crack Dublin side Home Farm.
“Barry has been a huge addition to the Clare squad this year,” says manager Donie Garrihy. “The experience he brings to the side is huge for us, but apart from that I would have no hesitation in saying that Barry is the best player playing at this level in Ireland. He is so confident. And like captain Paddy Purcell he is a rock, he a real leader for us.
Ryan didn’t play in the group stages of the competition before Christmas, preferring instead to concentrate on club fare with Tulla United, but joined the squad in the knockout stages and played against both Limerick and Donegal.
Now for the big one.