Monday 11 December 2017

Ryan ignores personal praise in pursuit of Sligo double

Neil Ahern

WHILE Dublin giants Bohemians and, particularly, Shamrock Rovers have been commanding the headlines in domestic football this season, over in the west, another Rovers revolution has been quietly gathering steam.

Paul Cook's Sligo have already lifted the first major trophy of the season, the EA Sports Cup; are on the verge of European qualification and tonight they face Bohemians in FAI Ford Cup semi-finals.

Richie Ryan is a man who knows all about lack of recognition. The former Sunderland man has been a revelation at the Showgrounds, with a some players and pundits earmarking him as the standout player of the season in the Airtricity League.

The 25-year-old dismisses the suggestion with modesty -- and a little well-placed cynicism. He knows it would take something special for a player based in the west to receive such an accolade.

"We're at the other side of the country over here, so I suppose we're under the radar a bit. But we go about our business every day that way and hopefully, at the end of the season, our reward will come," said Ryan, who made the trip from Tipperary to Dublin every week from the age of 12 to 16 to learn his football with Belvedere before joining Sunderland.

"I don't think about things like personal awards at all. Success for me has already come to some extent with the EA Sports Cup and now, hopefully, we can go and win an FAI Cup or get into Europe. If me or any of the lads get personal awards after that, so be it."

Ryan has had a tough time of it since his days at Sunderland, where he made his first-team debut against Arsenal as a 17-year-old before being struck down by a serious knee injury.

Having overcome several other injury problems, he believes he is having the season of his life, and he puts a lot of that down to Paul Cook.

"When I got injured last season, I think a lot of people doubted whether I was still fit enough for professional football, but Cookie stuck with me and gives me the freedom to play my football, so it's been fantastic," he said.

And now, the midfielder has a double in his sights, but more importantly, atonement for the disappointment of last year's FAI Cup final defeat to Sporting Fingal. "That one really sticks at the back of our minds," he admitted. "I think it does for any player, it's not a nice feeling."

Bohemians v Sligo Rovers,

Live, RTE2, 8.05

Irish Independent

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