BY JOHN MURPHY
BY DAY Jeremy Ryan is a greenkeeper at the famed Old Head of Kinsale Golf Club. But outside of work he is one of the best strikers of a sliotar in West Cork. The Ballinascarthy hurling wizard is a scoring sorcerer.
In October Bal won the Carbery junior A hurling championship crown by defeating St Mary’s in a thrilling final at Clonakilty. It’s Bal’s second divisional crown in three seasons. Ryan played a key role in their latest success, scoring ten points in the final as Bal won 0-22 to 0-14; eight of those points were from placed balls, including one magnificent sideline.
Top scorer and playmaker, he can both load and fire the gun. It rarely misses its target.
Not since the heady days of the mercurial Colman Murphy have Ballinascarthy been blessed in possessing such a marksman scoring of the calibre of Ryan.
He’s 28 years old now and is only getting better.
JOHN MURPHY: You are equally apt at both hurling and football, but which do you prefer?
JEREMY RYAN: Even though we are a dual club, to be perfectly honest hurling is my first love.
JOHN: How many West Cork Junior A hurling championship medals have you in your collection now and which one is the most cherished?
JEREMY: Two. The first was in 2019 when we beat Kilbree and the second one was last season (2021). I take them as they come but in 2019 I had a very good year personally so I would have to say that one is my most prized possession. That win was massive, given we had been to the final already and lost. If we had lost again then the motivation would have been hard to rekindle. It was a crucial victory for us, important to win the first one and we’ve kicked on.
JOHN: The current sliotar being used is very light. It results in many scores from 80 and 90 metres out. Some pundits and experts will argue it is too easy on the free-takers and should be changed. Your thoughts?
JEREMY: Some sliotars vary a bit, but I can see other people’s point of view. However, as a free-taker I have few complaints with the present one! I know some players have a preference for different ones, but in an overall context the vast majority are happy with the way it is presently.
JOHN: In the 2021 Carbery JAHC campaign, Ballinascarthy had some tough matches. Which one stands out for you?
JEREMY: Dohenys have always been difficult and skilful opponents – and our semi-final against them was no different. It went down to the wire and we luckily came out the right side (1-19 to 0-17). It was our most difficult match of the 2021 campaign, without a doubt.
JOHN: Is the best yet to come from Bal, given you have a very big panel to choose from presently and also have a very successful underage structure in place?
JEREMY: This is the first year we had such a big panel to choose from. We are joined with St Oliver Plunkett’s at underage level and the amalgamation seems to be working well. One bonus is that it gives the young players an opportunity to ply their trade at a higher level. This is invaluable and brings on players’ development in both codes.
JOHN: In 2022 will there be any additions to the current Bal junior hurling and football panels?
JEREMY: There should be at least three players coming into the panel next season who were unavailable in 2021. There was huge competition for places in the championship in both codes this past year and more coming on stream will certainly make the current panel aware that the intense effort they put in must be maintained, otherwise others will step up to the plate.
JOHN: Do title wins like Ballinascarthy enjoyed in 2021 create a greater interest at local level? Does it mean a lot locally and to supporters?
JEREMY: It definitely makes a big difference. When training this year, I noticed several young lads practicing on the astroturf. Of course there is a great degree of excitement and expectancy amongst the followers and around the village all because of the success on the field.
JOHN: Do you practice the art of free-taking a lot, given the incredible high degree of success you have in games?
JEREMY: Yes, I do get in quite an amount of ball practice. Before an important game I would go to the pitch to practice free-taking on my own. I believe the preparation pays off.
JOHN: What is your favourite position on the hurling team?
JEREMY: When I was young, I generally operated at midfield. Recently I have been playing at wing forward. It is something I prefer, as it gives me more freedom to roam.
JOHN: In 2013 Ballinascarthy made a major breakthrough winning the county U21B hurling championship by beating Watergrasshill in the final. It was a huge boost for hurling in the club, their first-ever county title at this level. Are there a number of that team still involved with this year’s junior A victorious side?
JEREMY: There are at least six or seven of that 2013 team on our current junior A hurling panel. They were an exceptionally talented bunch of players. The fact that almost half of the present team is made up of them shows that they persevered down the years since, kept up the effort and got their just rewards.
JOHN: Finally, what’s your ambition and hope for 2022?
JEREMY: We have to start again now shortly and begin preparation and training for 2022 as we hope to bring back-to-back junior A hurling titles to Ballinascarthy. It will be a difficult task. West Cork is a minefield where anything can happen with many good teams out there and few champions succeed in being victorious two years on the trot. My personal ambition is to pick up another coveted West Cork junior A hurling medal. I would consider anything after that as a real bonus.