'Eamonn Ryan taught me how a coach can have a positive impact on a player's life outside of sport'

The late ladies football guru was a major influence on everyone he came in contact with
'Eamonn Ryan taught me how a coach can have a positive impact on a player's life outside of sport'

Cork manager Eamonn Ryan celebrates with selector Shane Ronayne after the final whistle in 2014. Picture: Brendan Moran/SPORTSFILE

A WEEK on from the sad passing of Eamonn Ryan and people are still paying tribute to a man who was simply a legend of GAA.

Somewhat ironically, he would be the first to shy away from being called something like that, but the outpouring of grief amongst the GAA community, and others, showed the high esteem that he was held in, not just in Cork, but all around the country.

Former Mayo star Cora Staunton would have been a player he broke the heart of on a number of occasions, but she was one of the first to pay tribute to him and also does so in her autobiography.

Currently in Australia, in pre-season training for the league out there, she took to social media to say: “A true sporting legend. Without doubt, one of the best coaches involved in the GAA. An enemy coach for so many years and was envious of what he and that wonderful Cork team produced for years.

“A pleasure getting to know him. Condolences to Pat, the family, and all involved with Cork LGFA, RIP Eamonn.”

The Lord Mayor of Cork, Joe Kavanagh, was loud in his praise of Eamonn when he said: “As lord mayor, I have had the pleasure of meeting Eamonn on quite a number of occasions over the years. His success as a coach is really unprecedented. 

"No manager in the history of any sport can boast 10 All-Ireland titles. In fairness to Eamonn, he really has laid a very solid foundation for the growth, success, and development of ladies’ football, not just in Cork, but right across the country.

“The growing, positive perception of women in sport has certainly taken its rightful place as an important and significant issue in the sporting arena in Ireland. Eamonn Ryan’s contribution has really been key to this.

“He taught young girls the love of sport and enabled so many girls to achieve at levels that they never thought were possible, achieving beyond all expectations. It takes someone really special to be able to do this. Many of the events I attended would have been to honour one or some of Eamonn’s successful individual team members or teams.

“One key factor that was always apparent to me was the affinity and mutual respect that was always apparent between Eamonn and his team members. This respect has to be earned and this was a key characteristic of the man that was Eamonn Ryan. 

"He has left an incredible legacy behind him that will be very difficult to surpass. He is gone, but will never be forgotten, and particularly in Cork GAA circles. May he rest in peace.”

Shane Ronayne has led Mourneabbey to six Cork and Munster titles in a row over the last seven years. They were looking to make it seven Munster titles and had they done that, they would have been on track to try and make it three club All-Ireland titles in a row.

He was recently appointed manager of the Waterford men’s side and is held in high esteem by many.

Shane spent a number of years working with Eamonn in the Cork set-up and puts a lot of his success down to what he learned in that time.

Reflecting on his passing, Shane said: “I spent two years working alongside Eamonn with the Cork senior ladies, in 2014 and 2015, years that were very successful, in terms of trophies won, two All-Irelands, two National Leagues, and a Munster crown.

“That’s the quantifiable aspect of my time with Eamonn. What’s more difficult to measure and describe is the huge part he played in both my development as a coach/manager and as a person. 

"Every day, thankfully, was certainly a learning day when you were with, or talking to, Eamonn.

“His ability to make the most complex skill so simple and coachable is second to none.

“All the training sessions were planned in great detail and everything that was done had real purpose and value.

“He was inherently driven to win and be successful, but that never caused him to compromise him being a gentleman. When he wasn’t happy about something, he was able to express his dissatisfaction in a manner that was non-confrontational, but yet so effective, and everyone responded like they needed to.

“The conversations on the phone or in-person could range from any topic, from school to soccer to tennis to history. He was the most intelligent and knowledgeable person I have ever met and I enjoyed all the chats immensely.

“He instilled so many aspects of coaching in me, such as the value of planning sessions and of embracing techniques from other sports. I suppose, most importantly, he taught me that, as a coach or manager, we can, hopefully, have a positive impact on the lives of our players.

“I can’t thank Eamonn enough. I’m forever grateful that I knew him and I know I learned from the best. He will always be a legend,” Shane said.

Speaking to many people over the last week, the biggest regret they all had was the fact they couldn’t attend his removal or funeral to pay their respects and all hoped that, somewhere down the road, a tribute event would be held in his honour.

Also paying their respects were Watergrasshill GAA, who, as well as doing so on social media, had signs around the village that said: The Master — at school, on the pitch, on the sideline.

A fitting addition to their online tribute to their greatest-ever player: “Watergrasshill GAA wish to extend our deepest sympathies to Eamonn’s wife, Pat, children, Jim, Deirdre, Michelle, Don, Des, and Jackie, brother, Jim, sisters, Kathleen and Mary, and the Ryan family on the sad passing of our esteemed vice-president and our greatest-ever player.

“In our national school (where his wife, Pat, also taught), he was the principal and known as The Master — a description fitting to the man, teacher, player, and coach in all parts of his life.”

Hopefully, somewhere within the GAA family in the future, teams will be playing for the Eamonn Ryan Cup, be it at school, club, or inter-county level, in what would be a fitting tribute to The Master.

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