Kilkenny star Lester Ryan on managing his dairy herd on big Championship Sundays
As a player, Kilkenny’s Lester Ryan has earned a reputation for leaving little to chance, and when it comes to arranging cover on big Championship Sundays he takes the same approach.
“For years my father and uncle would have had a system in place whereby one of them would travel up to Croke Park for the game and the other would stay at home to look after the farm.
"It worked well… though one of them had to make do with watching the game on the television each time,” he explains.
“I decided to continue teaching at St Kieran’s College in Kilkenny when I took over the farm as such and have a full-time farm manager in place.
"I always try to have two people working on the farm so in the event of needing cover there’s always someone there.”
The Ryans have a dairy herd of 83 cows. Lester acknowledges that it can sometimes be difficult for farmers in counties which regularly reach Croke Park to arrange cover – especially for those with larger herds.
“Of course, you have the farm relief services which many people would use but there’s an awful lot of pressure on them on busy weekends and there only so many milkers to go around.
"You do hear of lads who can’t get anyone to cover and so they can’t travel to games – but, to be fair, that’s a rarity.”
But every cloud has a silver lining as Lester explains: “I used to work with a lad who had zero interest in the GAA. He would make a fortune on busy GAA weekends milking for multiple farmers. For him the headache of finding cover provided a great opportunity to earn a bit on the side.”
As both a player for and supporter of a county which has become accustomed to big days out at Croke Park, Lester Ryan (pictured) tells the Farming Independent that arranging cover and thinking well ahead are a must for farmers in Kilkenny.
“You have lots of farmers who wouldn’t miss a Kilkenny game, throughout the League as well as Championship.
“I know many of them sit down at the start of the year, look through the fixture list and plan accordingly… months in advance.
“It’s a happy sacrifice for them to make. In years when we’ve been fortunate enough to have won All-Irelands, celebrations and early mornings go hand in hand too but that’s the lifestyle we choose and we wouldn’t have it any other way.”
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