Graham Callanan v Fergal Ryan: Vote for Cork's best city hurlers

In the Battle of the Bridge, the Echo is asking you to pick your favourite players since 1972 north and south of the River Lee
Graham Callanan v Fergal Ryan: Vote for Cork's best city hurlers

Have your say in The Battle of the Bridge.

WITH your help, we’re looking to pick the best hurler from either side of St Patrick's Bridge from the last 50 years of action.

The Echo has pitched some of Cork’s finest hurling stars from the northside and southside of Cork city together for a series of fun head-to-head battles. Your votes will decide who goes through and you can see the full list of 16 northside and 16 southside players here.

Today's match-up is Graham Callanan v Fergal Ryan.


WHEN Glen Rovers were comprehensively beaten by Sarsfields in the 2014 county final 25 years after defeating their East Cork rivals in the final of 1989, there might have been a fear that the lengthy famine since that victory would continue.

It was a fairly shattering defeat by any standards but the Glen quickly got it out of their system, regrouped and a short 12 months later turned that loss into a glorious victory against the side who had run them ragged. The victory was greeted with wild scenes of pure joy and when inspirational captain, Graham Callanan took possession of the old trophy, grown men and women cried.

Some of the greats of Cork hurling have captained the Glen on county final winning days and it was only right and fitting that one of their greatest servants, Callanan should have had that great honour.

A year later the Glen were back defending their title very successfully and Callanan was at the helm again of a side wonderfully managed by Ritchie Kelleher. Without doubt, Callanan was a Glen great, a player who always led by example from his wing-back position. 

He was ultra-consistent in the famed Glen jersey, rising up through the ranks en route to a glittering career in the Glen field and beyond.

He played at all levels, winning a county U21 title in 2001, represented Cork at minor, U21 and senior. He made his senior debut in 2004, playing in all of Cork’s league games and was an unused sub in the All-Ireland victory of that year.

He had great positional sense, read the game with near perfection and was always an influential presence in a dressing room when things might not be going as well as would have been liked. Down through the years, the Glen have always had this ability to produce great club players, players who subsequently wore the red jersey with success without gaining the accolades of others and Graham Callanan was certainly one of them.

Glen Rovers' Graham Callanan and Erins Own's Robbie O'Flynn go for the ball. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Glen Rovers' Graham Callanan and Erins Own's Robbie O'Flynn go for the ball. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

It took an awful lot to come back from that county final loss of 2014, lesser people wouldn’t have but the old and great spirit of the Glen came to the forefront once more. Callanan played a major role in all of that and there is an enduring image of him carrying the trophy across the Christy Ring bridge in 2015 when the club rightfully took its place again at the top table of Cork hurling.

A top man on and off the field.

FERGAL RYAN (Blackrock):

DURING the 2000 All-Ireland Senior Hurling Championship, Wayne Sherlock said in an interview with a Sunday newspaper that, as a wing-back, there was nobody he wanted more to be playing in the corner than Fergal Ryan.

From such a high-quality practitioner of defensive play, it was quite the compliment. And, given that the pair were in the opposite positions when Blackrock won the county SHC in 1999 – their first title since 1986 – it showed the level of versatility that each displayed.

When Jimmy Barry-Murphy’s Cork side ended a nine-year wait (it seemed long at the time…) for the All-Ireland in 1999, Ryan was a stalwart in the number 2 jersey as Cork conceded just one goal across four games. At 27 years of age, he was one of the veterans of the team, having made his debut in the successful 1992-93 national league campaign and then enduring some tough years as Cork went through a four-year period without beating anyone other than Kerry in the championship.

Ryan, a Munster medallist and minor and U21 level, made his debut in the infamous defeat to Clare in 1995 but, while more disappointments followed, the tide began to turn with the appointment of Barry-Murphy. When Cork won the 1998 league title, beating Waterford in the final, Ryan was in the right corner with clubmate John Browne and Diarmuid O’Sullivan alongside him – the trio would also be the full-back line for the All-Ireland the following year, albeit with the other pair switching positions.

Cork trainer Teddy Owens during a team talk with players including Captain Fergal Ryan ahead of playing Limerick in 2000. 
Cork trainer Teddy Owens during a team talk with players including Captain Fergal Ryan ahead of playing Limerick in 2000. 

Having lost the 1998 county final to Imokilly, Blackrock bounced back to make the decider again in 1999, blowing away UCC to end another drought and earn Ryan the Cork captaincy for 2000. He got to lift the Munster Cup as the county achieved back-to-back provincial wins for the first time since the five-in-a-row from 1982-86, though unfortunately an All-Ireland defeat to Offaly ended hopes of retaining the Liam MacCarthy Cup.

Though Ryan wouldn’t win any more silverware with Cork, he was instrumental as Blackrock made it three county titles in four years with wins in 2001 and 2002. 

At the time, few could have imagined that they would be waiting 18 years for the next visit of the Seán Óg Murphy Cup, but, when they did make it back to the top of the tree in Leeside, it was with Ryan as the manager.

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