Tuesday 17 September 2019

Ryan's stay-at-home 'gamble' pays off with Croke Park title

Limerick defender Niamh Ryan
Limerick defender Niamh Ryan

Daragh Small

The inside joke in Raheen every Sunday evening is: "We might see you Friday, Niamh."

Niamh Ryan's housemates know better than anyone else the sacrifices she has made to reach the top of the ladies football game, and this year she will combine camogie with that.

The Ballybricken native is a PE and Irish teacher at Laurel Hill Secondary School in Limerick City - and she has justified all of her difficult life choices in recent years.

The Limerick defender missed out on chance to tour South East Asia last year, when she decided instead to give it a go with the ladies footballers during her hiatus from the Limerick camogie set-up.

But that choice made climbing the steps on the Hogan Stand on September 16 even sweeter when the Shannonsiders won the TG4 All-Ireland Junior Final at Croke Park.

"I studied in UL, and a group of my friends from there were heading off to do the Thailand, Vietnam trip last summer for a couple of months," says the 24-year-old.

"I had it in my head that I was going to take a break from sport and go away and do that trip. The manager John Ryan asked me would I get involved with the Limerick footballers but I said I had the intention of travelling. But by March or April I was hooked. I knew there was a chance that we could be competitive in the junior championship. It was a gamble that I took. I said I would skip the travelling and I could always go again. It was definitely the right decision. It was a day to remember in Croke Park."

Ryan, who was a selector for UL camogie during their Ashbourne Cup triumph earlier this year, can adjust in the most difficult circumstances.

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Her housemates don't see her from one end of the week to the next, because from Monday to Friday she is either teaching, working out, training, coaching hockey and camogie, or recovering. And that's before the matches take place.

"It is very busy but I wouldn't have it any other way," says Ryan. "If you were to ask any of my friends they would certainly say I am constantly gone and I am never around."

Ryan in is the Limerick panel along with her sister, Ciara, but seeing a familiar face wearing the same colours or opposition is a regular occurrence. One of the sub-plots of starring in last year's outstanding 5-6 to 0-8 win over Louth in the TG4 All-Ireland Junior final was having a student of hers, on the pitch with her. "Miss, do you want water?" was the question posed by Róisín Moran, a Laurel Hill Leaving Cert.

"I would be marking students that I am teaching. In the lead up to the weekend they are saying: "Aw miss, who is going to win this weekend?" But it's nice," says Ryan.

For now, beating Fermanagh in the Lidl NFL Division 4 semi-finals this weekend will go a long way towards even more vindication for her sacrifices along the way. "Hopefully once we perform, we can get the result and get to the final."

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