Eamonn Ryan's holistic approach wasn't about the player, he focused on the whole person

TG4's An Máistir documentary highlighted exactly why the late Watergrasshill native had such an impact at every level he coached
Eamonn Ryan's holistic approach wasn't about the player, he focused on the whole person

Eamonn Ryan was a great teacher of football and life.

Unsurprisingly, the recent TG4 An Máistir documentary on the life and times of the late Éamonn Ryan proved a massive success.

Aired over Christmas, the Nemeton-produced documentary included contributions from the 10-time All-Ireland LGFA winning manager’s family, friends, colleagues and players.

A decision to focus on Ryan’s entire life, including his influence as a teacher and father, helped underline the massive influence he had on so many people. Hence the apt title of a poignant and beautifully crafted documentary.

Éamonn’s son, Jim, and the late Cork LGFA manager’s family were delighted with the final cut and the positive feedback they have received since the documentary aired.

“We were thrilled with the way it turned out, the whole family were," Jim commented.

“From day one, when it was first mooted by [director and producer] Ronan O’Donoghue, we had a little chat and he was very anxious, as were we, that we get across Dad’s life more so than any small segment of it.

“Dad was nearly 80 years on the planet and he packed in a fair amount in that 80 years.

“It [the documentary] was fantastic and we are all thrilled with the outcome. The amount of calls, texts, and well wishes on the back of it, there are too many to mention.”

Éamonn’s lasting legacy to Cork GAA and Cork LGFA were thoroughly outlined in O’Donoghue’s production.

Footage of past pupils and their stories of how ‘the Master’ helped them on and off the pitch showed the true character of a down-to-earth and generous individual.

For the Ryan family, having a full documentary to look back on will, hopefully, bring some solace when they reminisce about their father.

“The documentary was poignant at times and a difficult endeavour for a lot of us, Mam especially,” Jim Ryan admitted.

“It was only last January that Dad passed away, so we began the process around September and October with Ronan and Nemeton.

“Everything was still quite raw, quite emotional. From that point of view, it was a tough thing to do. Looking back on it now and the way it turned out, it will be something we will all cherish.

“Caring was central to everything Dad did. Sometimes in life and in sport, people have to be ruthless.

“In certain aspects of his coaching career, I would imagine there were times Dad may well have had to be ruthless, but he did it with a sense of duty and a sense of care.

He was brought up like that by my grandparents, so there was always a culture of caring and ethos within the family group. Dad would have absorbed a lot of that.

“I think that seeped out as he went through his life. That sense of care and humility would have been his two non-negotiable elements.”

Eamonn Ryan celebrates with Angela Walsh Geraldine O'Flynn and Deirdre O'Reilly at Croke Park. Picture: Brendan Moran/SPORTSFILE
Eamonn Ryan celebrates with Angela Walsh Geraldine O'Flynn and Deirdre O'Reilly at Croke Park. Picture: Brendan Moran/SPORTSFILE

The affectionate manner in which former Cork LGFA All-Ireland winners Juliet Murphy, Geraldine O’Flynn, Rena Buckley, and Nollaig Cleary spoke about Éamonn highlighted his abilities as a coach and mentor.

“It was his holistic approach in that you cannot just deal with an athlete or a student, you have to deal with the whole person,” Jim said.

“It is incumbent on anyone involved in education, coaching or any area of leadership that we try to understand the person as much as the athlete, student whoever it may be.

“That was the way my Dad went about his business. That transferred into the way he coached, the way he taught, and the way he interacted with people.”

As much as a success as the An Máistir has become, Jim and his family are still mourning the loss of their father. Hopefully, the outpouring of affection and positive feedback will be a comfort in the coming years.

“The documentary has certainly been comforting,” Jim concluded.

“It doesn’t change the cold reality that my Dad has passed away. What it will do, for us as a family, and for my brothers and sisters and their children, is give us a sense of comfort.

“Likewise for my Mam, it has been very tough for her. Dad would never have achieved 10% of what he did without having my Mam there to keep him on the straight and narrow.”

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