Eamonn Ryan's lasting impact on Béal Átha’n Ghaorthaidh football

John O'Shea talks to Liam Shorten about the late, great football coach Eamonn Ryan
Eamonn Ryan's lasting impact on Béal Átha’n Ghaorthaidh football

Béal Átha’n Ghaorthaidh coach Eamonn Ryan celebrates after defeating Castletownbere in 2006. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

EAMONN Ryan left a lasting legacy everywhere he coached during his lifetime.

He was best known for guiding Cork to 10 ladies football All-Irelands in 11 seasons until he stepped away in 2015, raising the bar for the sport in Rebel county and nationally.

A proud native of Watergrasshill, who contributed heavily to county titles in Na Piarsaigh as well, Ryan resided in the Gaeltacht parish of Ballingeary, the homeplace of his wife Pat.

Talk to the players that played under him and they speak about the culture and environment he created in that Cork setup. The exact same could be said for other teams he was involved with.

Among them was Béal Átha’n Ghaorthaidh, as Liam Shorten explained.

“You were always trying to impress him,” Shorten said. “It was just his character really, everybody loved him. He didn’t have a bad word to say about anybody.

He never gave out to us. He would tell us if we were doing something wrong, but he’d always tell us something good then and we would go away and do it.

“He was just a nice man, the Cork ladies will tell you that and anyone who has ever met him will tell you that. Everybody loved him.

“That is why everybody wanted to play for him and impress him.

“That is where the success came from.

“He would go down to the shop in Ballingeary for the milk and the paper on a Saturday and the underage training would be on.

“He might go in and talk to a couple of the young fellas and he’d end up taking the U7s, they’d all be hanging off every word.

“He just had a magic about him, that he could deal with them one minute and then later on in the afternoon he’d come down and coach the intermediate team.

“We’d all be hanging off his every word then as well.”

Eamonn Ryan doubled up as Cork and Béal Átha’n Ghaorthaidh coach in 2006. Picture: Brendan Moran/SPORTSFILE
Eamonn Ryan doubled up as Cork and Béal Átha’n Ghaorthaidh coach in 2006. Picture: Brendan Moran/SPORTSFILE

Shorten continued: “We had three good fellas gone in for the management at the start of 2005 and they were top class.

“They brought Eamonn in. He started part-time, but sure the first night he was down he wanted to be there the next night.

“Cork trained on Wednesdays and Sundays, so we kind of based our week around Eamonn. Whenever Eamonn was around we were free because we all wanted him to be on the field coaching us.

“He brought a bit of professionalism, he was a huge name and a huge character. That was only those three years.

“He was involved with us again in 2017 towards the latter years of his life. Eamonn was supposed to be part-time again or as an advisor but ended up doing most of the coaching that year.

“He came in again with his son Don in 2019, Damien Long was the manager. Eamonn did the coaching again and it was top class.

I’d been working with him in 2005, so still 14 years later you were trying to impress him and you were still hanging on every single word.”

Ryan was on the sideline as a selector when Béal Átha’n Ghaorthaidh secured IFC silverware in 2006, defeating Castletownbere in the thrilling decider.

His excellent coaching ability was again visible as another win was added to a CV heaving with honours from a glittering career.

It was clear that Ryan was fully invested in Béal Átha’n Ghaorthaidh and that success meant a lot to him.

“There is a great photo of two of my best friends with Eamonn embracing the two lads after the match and you’d swear he was a Ballingeary man through and through.

“But Eamonn was very loyal to us.

“A lot of other football clubs in the area would have approached him after his success with us.

“He never wavered because he never would have wanted to coach against us.

“Eamonn has coached every single young fella in Ballingeary from the age of nine or 10 all the way up, everyone has had him. Be it sessions with our Junior Cs Junior Bs or minors, he was always on hand to come down to give a hand. He was top class.”

That was the late, great Ryan summed up in one phrase. Top class.

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