Meath’s Pa Ryan keeps his eye on the prize despite pressure from Donegal’s Stephen McBride and Declan Coulter during Sunday’s NHL Div 2B clash at Pairc Tailteann.Photo: David Mullen/

'It was a shock to me going in with the Meath seniors'

Pa Ryan spoke to the Meath Chronicle after Meath's victory over Donegal in the NHL Div 2B on Sunday. He outlined how it was far from easy to adjust to playing with the Royal County.

Back in the days when he was a young fella, mad about hurling, Pa Ryan turned out for in the blue and gold of his native county, Tipperary. He played minor and u-21 and subsequently went on to play intermediate for the Premier County, although never at senior level.

The years passed and Pa followed his career in teaching. He accepted a job in Ashbourne, settled in Trim with is wife Laura who has a family connection with the area. Ryan started playing for the local club and helped them to a Jubilee Cup final victory over Ratoath last year.

Meath also came calling. He has been an integral part of Seoirse Bulfin's plans this season; a regular on the team and on Sunday he lined out at midfield alongside his trusted lieutenant Martin Healy, a fine young player who helped to ensure the Royals won plenty of possession around the central sector.

Ryan was one of the players who stepped forward to talk to the media after Sunday's game, to explain how his team went about the task of overcoming the team from the north west who proved to be doughty opponents.

At 31 Ryan, is at a time in his career when, for most, all hope of making it as a senior inter-county hurler has gone. Long gone, but life can move in strange and mysterious ways and now at an advanced stage of his career he has prospered as an inter-county player. Not that he plays like someone who is showing the slightest sign of slowing down. The opposite is the case in fact. He looks like a youngster at the foothills of a career.

"I'm originally from Clonakenny a small place near Roscrea and Templemore, they're a Premier Intermediate team, the second tier of hurling in Tipperary and they are pushing hard to win that. Clonakenny are going well even though they are a small club," he said as he explained his background.

He spoke too how coming up to Meath to play for Trim and the county has revitalised his career.

"I have really enjoyed it since I came up here, I feel like I have been refreshed. It's a new start, a different challenge, I'm really, really enjoying it. I had a great run with Trim last year, unfortunately we didn't win the Leinster (the IHC title) but we pushed very hard for it.

"I went straight from that into the Meath set up so I'm getting plenty of game time and just really enjoying the hurling.

"To be honest with you it was a shock to me going in with the Meath seniors, the standard set. I found it very tough at the start because there was a lot of training to get through but that's the standard set, the standard you have to be at for senior inter-county hurling which I never played before.

"Regardless of where you are, in Tipperary or Meath, inter-county hurling demands players get themselves to be at a high standard in fitness, skill, attitude. Up here in Meath I had to get up to the pace, I'm beginning to get there now but it has taken me a few games to get into the swing of it."

Somehow shocked at the demands placed on inter-county hurlers Ryan gave an insight into what is required to make it all workfor him.

"I'm 31, married with a child, working and you have to balance all that with the training side of things, the demands there are considerable, training four or five times a week with gym sessions included," he said.

"All that is a challenge so it's about finding a balance that suits you. My wife is fantastic, she has really supported me through it only for her I wouldn't be able to do it. She is originally from Enniscorthy but her mam grew up in Trim so there is a connection there and we've been living there for two years."

He talked about how the Meath management and players are working hard to push the standards in order to "get the maximum" out of this year and with three wins from three league games it looks like the approach is working - so far. "There's a lot involved, your diet, fitness, the work at the start of the year in terms of running and conditioning, then you have to try and get the hurling standards up. All the effort is showing I think, there was a lot of stop, start hurling today, so we are not there yet but we're pushing as hard as we can."

Now the challenge for Ryan and his colleagues is to keep the momentum going. On Sunday they played a lot of direct ball into the forwards. The strategy bore rich dividends. "It's about finding the right balance between giving a pass or giving it into the forwards and creating a chance. So far it's all working well," concluded Meath's adopted Tipp man.