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Lilies hope Ryan's nous can shatter Dubs' stranglehold


Dublin manager Pat Gilroy, right, shakes hands with Wexford manager Jason Ryan at the end of the game. Picture: David Maher/Sportsfile.

Dublin manager Pat Gilroy, right, shakes hands with Wexford manager Jason Ryan at the end of the game. Picture: David Maher/Sportsfile.

Dublin manager Pat Gilroy, right, shakes hands with Wexford manager Jason Ryan at the end of the game. Picture: David Maher/Sportsfile.

JASON Ryan puffed out his cheeks and told it like it was.

"I'm sick of losing to Dublin," he sighed as he slumped in his chair, head tilted back, staring at the ceiling of the media room under the Hogan Stand in Croke Park after the 2011 Leinster final, his third loss to the boys in blue in his four years as Wexford manager (a fourth in five would come a year later) and their second provincial final denial to the same opposition in that cycle.

Yet if Dublin became Ryan's bête noir in his highly progressive reign as Wexford boss, it is hugely noteworthy just how competitive the Slaneysiders were in three of their four meetings and it is in this context that the Waterford native's presence in the Kildare backroom team ahead of Sunday's Leinster semi-final takes on special interest.

"In 2008, we were well in the game at half-time and it was just one of those second halfs that you want to forget," says Wexford forward Redmond Barry of their eventual 3-23 to 0-9 annihilation in the Leinster final, Pillar Caffrey's last at the Sky Blue helm.

"The Dubs just went into overdrive and I suppose there was a little bit of inexperience with us and we really did capitulate. But bar that half of football we've been competitive with Dublin and I suppose that Kildare think maybe a lot of that was down to Jason."



Two years later, they took Pat Gilroy's team to extra-time and should have beaten them in the rain in Croke Park. Six points ahead and two men better off after Ger Brennan and Denis Bastick's second-half sendings off, Dublin scraped level and, fully restocked in extra-time, went on to win by seven.

A year later, a James McCarthy scorcher and an Anthony Masterson blunder let Dublin back in before winning by a goal (2-12 to 1-12) from a pretty bleak position. And just last season, Kevin Nolan punctured Wexford's resolve late on, clipping two exceptional points in a revival which capped a 2-11 to 1-10 win for Dublin.

Big question, then: did Kieran McGeeney seek Ryan out to join his backroom team this year specifically with Dublin's downfall in mind?

"I don't know which way Kieran's mind thinks but he is always thinking about football and trying to improve," says the recently retired Dermot Earley. "The little things that add up to the big things. If one of them is Jason and Jason has been able to get his Wexford team to match Dublin ... he has really brought an added dimension to Kildare's play this year."

It makes sense. McGeeney knew that if Kildare are to achieve one of their major goals (a Leinster title), the odds are stacked that they will have to take Dublin out at some point, namely this Sunday.



"Whatever coaching that he will do with Kildare, I'm sure it will have an impact on their structure," said Jim Gavin on the subject at his most recent press conference. "I'm sure that Jason Ryan will bring a lot to the table as well and that Kildare will be very fit, very prepared and ready for the new pressure that championship football brings."

Was Ryan recruited specifically with Dublin in mind, though?

"You'd need to ask Kieran McGeeney on that."

So we did. "Jason's been fantastic," said the Kildare manager before veering perhaps slightly off topic.

"As has (fellow selector) Damien Hendy, who gets left out unfairly because he wouldn't maybe have the profile of myself and Jason. The coaching they've brought to the team has been fantastic, the two of them work really well together.

"Jason himself is full of enthusiasm, I'd love to know where he gets all his energy from.

"He definitely loves the game, he's constantly thinking about it and constantly challenging it and that's why we brought him in.

"He's looking forward to the game against Dublin. They (Wexford) always did reasonably well against them but Dublin don't really worry too much about teams that do reasonably well against them," McGeeney concluded.

"They're only worried about teams who beat them and that's the challenge for the whole management team and players."