Billy Morgan leads the tributes to 'tower of strength' Christy Ryan

Tony Maher, Tadhg Murphy and John Cremin also hail the St Finbarr's dual giant who played at the top level for Cork as well
Billy Morgan leads the tributes to 'tower of strength' Christy Ryan

Barrs forward Christy Ryan clashes with Glen men Teddy O'Brien and Martin O'Doherty in the 1977 county final.  

THE sad passing of Christy Ryan left a huge void in the St Finbarr’s club that will be near impossible to fill.

Down through the ages, the Barrs have produced many wonderful dual players who gained success at home and at national level and Ryan was certainly one of them. He won every honour with his beloved Barrs and was a dual player with Cork.

One person who could not speak highly enough of him was former Barrs great, club chairman and club secretary Tony Maher. He described Ryan as a club great with a legacy that will endure.

“Firstly, I want to say that the club has lost a truly marvellous former player and person. I had the honour of playing with him for a short while, he was beginning his career and I was coming to the end of mine.

“I suppose it all started in 1976 when the Barrs won the county minor hurling and football titles. He was on those teams and a lot of those players went on to become the cornerstone of very successful senior teams.

Barrs won the county in 1985. Back: Mick Slocum, Christy Ryan, Jimmy Barry Murphy, John Kerins, Kevin Scanlan, Declan O'Mahony, Brendan Searls, Damian Philpott, Tony Leahy. Front: Paddy Hayes, John Cremin, Gene Desmond (c), Dave Barry, John Meyler, Mick Carey.
Barrs won the county in 1985. Back: Mick Slocum, Christy Ryan, Jimmy Barry Murphy, John Kerins, Kevin Scanlan, Declan O'Mahony, Brendan Searls, Damian Philpott, Tony Leahy. Front: Paddy Hayes, John Cremin, Gene Desmond (c), Dave Barry, John Meyler, Mick Carey.

“Christy was very versatile and very strong, he had a great left hand who had great ability in taking the ball out of the air, he had all the skills.

“He really could play anywhere in the forward line and he was very good at coming in from the left half-forward position and banging in a goal."

Maher remembers the many great days that he had in the blue jersey but one stands out for him.

Look, he played so many great games for us but I think the 1977 county final against the Glen was one of his finest hours. 

"There was a crowd of 35,000 that day to watch the old rivals and he played a big part in that win.

“He played both codes too with Cork and did so successfully and his contribution to the club and county was vast.

“He was involved with us too after his playing days were over, on selection committees and as a selector, he never lost contact and he will be missed greatly by all of us in Togher and far beyond.

“He was very well-liked, he had all the attributes and the club has certainly lost one of its great servants." 

Upper Connolly Road, Ballyphehane Street League 1969. Back: Ger Mullins, Declan Murphy, Tony Drummond, Jim Walsh, Christy Ryan, Kieran Murphy, Fred Stone. Front: Liam Cronin, Thomas Sheehan, Tony Sheehan, Ger Keane, Eddie Forde, Joe O'Reilly.
Upper Connolly Road, Ballyphehane Street League 1969. Back: Ger Mullins, Declan Murphy, Tony Drummond, Jim Walsh, Christy Ryan, Kieran Murphy, Fred Stone. Front: Liam Cronin, Thomas Sheehan, Tony Sheehan, Ger Keane, Eddie Forde, Joe O'Reilly.

Former Cork All-Ireland winning player and manager Billy Morgan remembers Christy too and has great memories of their time together.

“He was somebody I had a fierce time for as a player and person. He started out as a forward but went back to centre-back where he enjoyed great success. 

“We won the national league in 1980, defeating Kerry in the final and Christy was a great captain of that team. He was a fine dual player, very strong physically and he was great to deal with.

“There was always a great rivalry between ourselves in Nemo and the Barrs but off the field, there was great respect and a great friendship too between the players and Christy was one of them."

Morgan spoke too of his great courage in battling illness over the past few years.

“Yes, he battled his illness with a huge amount of bravery and never gave in to it, he accepted the situation and got on with it. He’s a huge loss to his family first and foremost and, of course, to the Barrs club and the GAA in general in Cork."

One player who played with and against Christy on the field was Tadhg Murphy from Sarsfields, the scorer of that dramatic, last-gasp goal in 1983 when Cork stunned Kerry. 

“Yes, it’s desperately sad. I would describe Christy as a gentle giant, a tower of strength on the field and a very generous person off it.

“He was a great Cork captain when I played with him, a great motivator, a very popular person in the dressing room and a fine character. Yes, he was captain that day in '83 when I was fortunate enough to get the goal against Kerry.

Kerry's Jack O'Shea takes on Christy Ryan of Cork. Picture: INPHO/Billy Stickland
Kerry's Jack O'Shea takes on Christy Ryan of Cork. Picture: INPHO/Billy Stickland

“That was a great day and Christy was a great leader for us.

We had great times playing with and against each other and I will say this, he was a great Cork player and a dyed in the wool Barrs man. 

"We will all miss him." 

Current Barrs president John Cremin told the Echo that he was in every sense of the word, a club legend.

"It’s not a word to use lightly but he was. He played in 20 senior county finals for us, winning 11. He has six Munster Club medals, four All-Ireland club medals and so much more.

"He was a person of the highest integrity, so honest, a warrior really. He gave us service that will never be equalled and I must say it was my privilege to have been able to call him my friend."

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