They don’t make them like Larry Ryan anymore – tributes to Godfather of Kilmacud Crokes

Kilmacud Crokes legend Larry Ryan pictured with his wife Carmel

Niall Scully

It was out in Castlewarden at the Friends of Dublin Hurling Annual Golf Classic that word came through Larry Ryan had died.

Larry – the Godfather of Kilmacud Crokes.

In Nowlan Park, as the Angelus tolled on Saturday evening, there was a minutes’ silence to honour the great man.

He loved the ancient craft. It was in his blood. It was in the Tipperary water.

He grew up beside Tom Semple Stadium, his field of dreams. He would have relished last Sunday in Thurles.

He played in the Street Leagues. He once said he wasn’t much of a hurler himself. Others would disagree. And the mere mention of the art would light up that big welcoming, happy, laughing face.

Work brought him to Dublin. He’d recall reporting for duty to the Dún Laoghaire Post Office on Marine Road at 5.30am, “where the icy wind would chill the bones”.

He carried his love of hurling to the city. To the southside. To the scent of the sea, and to Kilmacud.

He joined in 1961. He gave the club the best years of his life. And they gave him his. Player, mentor, administrator. And doing whatever job needed doing.

He also gave so much of himself to Dublin GAA. The Minor Hurling Board, the Junior Hurling Board, Management committee, county selector, and much more besides.

He excelled at quizzes. There wasn’t much he didn’t know. His knowledge was so deep.

Just last year he was talking about the former Taoiseach Jack Lynch and the time he played three matches in the one day.

He didn’t have to look up a book to know all about it. It was in that marvellous computer that he had in his head.

He’d explain how Jack played for his club, Civil Service, against Eoghan Ruadh at Islandbridge on the Sunday morning, before racing off to Croke Park to play for Munster in the Railway Cup semi-finals – in both codes.

Larry adored the written word. He wrote some fine, thoughtful articles. Which sparked debate.

He passed on his love of writing to his son, Emmet. Emmet’s piece for the Sunday Business Post on Mattress Mick scooped a big award.

Larry enjoyed going to the games. Meeting friends. Carmel, always by his side. And when he couldn’t go anymore, he’d look forward to them on the television. The day would be planned around the throw-in time.

His interest grew deeper with the years. He’d read every page of the Tipperary Star. He had it on order in John Hyland’s Corner Shop. His good neighbour, John Lynch, would deliver it to him each week.

They’d often meet down the road in McCormack’s for a night-cap. The banter bouncing as high as a Brendan Cummins’ puck-out.

In McCormack’s, there’s a picture of Mick Holden on the wall. Crokes had their big All-Ireland winning days too.

The first was 1995. It was such a huge occasion. In the build-up, Larry was interviewed for the Irish Independent by Vincent Hogan. It was a collector’s item.

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Tommy Lyons was managing Crokes back then. They beat Derry’s Bellaghy on one of the foulest St Patrick’s Days of all.

There was a snow blizzard. The high winds saw the advertising hoardings in Croke Park being lifted off their moorings. On the final whistle, Larry was one of the first onto the pitch to congratulate the team.

The Andy Merrigan Cup has travelled out the N11 a couple of times since. There have been memorable football and hurling days in Parnell Park.

As well as achievements to savour in ladies’ football and camogie. Larry cherished and applauded them all.

He recalled Crokes winning the Dublin Junior Hurling Championship in 1992.

“That meant a lot. For so long, my ambition, as a player and mentor, was to win it, so when we eventually achieved it, it was special,” he said.

Larry chuckled as he recalled the celebrations. “Myself and the captain, Danny Ryan, danced around the hall with the Cup, and not a drop was spilt.”

He appreciated all the days. Sunshine and rain. “I enjoyed every minute,” he would say.

He marvelled at how much the club had grown. And he knew, more than most, the sweat it took to make it possible.

It wasn’t always like this. The club rose from the humblest of beginnings. “Somebody told me once that Gaelic games would never catch on in this area,” he’d say.

He was adored at Crokes. By all the generations. His portrait hangs in the Boardroom at Stillorgan.

He accepted one of the hardest roles of all. Taking care of the distribution of All-Ireland tickets. And earning the name, The Ticketmaster.

It was not an easy task. Looking after everyone in such a big club. Especially when the Dubs were on stage. It was easier to get a ticket for the Super Bowl.

In the build-up to the All-Ireland, the phone would be hopping off its hinges. And then the Thursday night would come.

A huge crowd would gather at Crokes. Hoping for good news. Larry would arrive into the big Glenalbyn function room. Carrying a black briefcase. Like the Finance Minister about to deliver the budget.

He’d get a huge cheer. His little, knowing smile would tell that all was well. He didn’t want to disappoint anyone. That was his nature. Always giving.

He was so happy to see Dublin hurling progress. And he was thrilled when the Liam MacCarthy Cup would be going back to spend the winter at Hayes’ Hotel.

Life doesn’t make people like Larry Ryan anymore. Such an engaging, warm personality. Sparkling with mischief and good humour. Brightening the day with a wink of an eye.

His life was framed by the games, and people that made them. He was the King of Crokes. The club will forever walk on his shoulders.

And the club's beloved Tipperary Star will always shine down over Páirc de Búrca.

On This Day In History - 22nd May