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The Mighty Declan Ryan

Come gather round now as I tell you this yarn
Of a man with great shoulders as wide as a barn
A legend to live with the heroes of yore
The pride of his club, Clonoulty-Rossmore

Our saga begins as Babs' team is flyin'
The first year we noticed big Declan Ryan
Fiery red hair and wrists oh so strong
We hoped our All Ireland wouldn't take long

His very first final, against the men from the West
Young Declan was certainly giving it his best
He played like a man so proud of his roots
He tormented McInerney with the girley white boots

It was Tipperary's first final since '71
At half time we thought that the hard work was done
Four points behind and now the wind at our backs
We felt the Tribesmen could be stopped in their tracks

The Hill was alive, a sea of Blue and Gold
We started to dream of glories of old
With four wonderful points surely Dec' won the day
Until Noel Lane pushed Donovan out of the way

Hogan was beaten and the net it did dance
Would the clock allow us at least one more chance
But four points behind was a bridge just too far
And then Nicky's penalty flew over the bar

Disappointment was something we had learned how to live
But this time we were able to easily forgive
Despite our defeat you could hear people cheer
"I don't give a fuck, we'll beat them next year"

The very next spring and we looked back on track
As we tried to put league titles back to back
We were not too downhearted although we were defeated
Because with only half a team, we had really competed

We came through our province, the cup it was filled
Although against Waterford we could have been killed
Next up was Galway, the day had arrived
For Tipperary's heroes to brush them aside

As the day it approached things were up in the air
And all because of the "Keady Affair"
They threatened to withdraw but that wouldn't be right
I think they were trying to give the officials a fright

Our team played like tigers, gave it one hell of a rattle
The game will be recalled as an almighty battle
With two men sent off the Tribesmen were shamed
And for Sylvie's wild swing, poor Nicky was blamed

We got to the final by the skin of our teeth
We were really surprised by who we would meet
For it was not a team with a mighty tradition
But the boys down from Antrim on a hurling expedition

At last we knew that our moment was near
And approaching half time it really became clear
When Declan hit the net from way out the pitch
Poor Patterson looked like he was stuck in a ditch

So two years on the team and an All Ireland in his pocket
Declan was sure his medals tally would rocket
It looked like the team had all challengers on the ropes
But things wouldn't turn out quite like he hoped

From parish to parish, the cup it was brought
No one gave next year the slightest of thought
And while the whole County was wildly celebrating
Down in the south, the Rebels were waiting

The following year the champions were felled
"Donkeys don't win Derbies" Keating had yelled
We were going for our first ever Munster four in a row
But the rebels from Cork didn't want to know

1991 and the team reached it's peak
Although the full back line had started to leak
A late point from Fox kept our heads above water
When it looked like we had been lambs to the slaughter

In the replay in Semple we came from nine down
A sparkling finish made a smile from a frown
The Corkmen were beaten, unfairly they felt
Just because Declan gave Cashman a belt

Two games to go and the title was ours
Declan and Leahy were blossoming like flowers
A goal against Galway, the prize it drew near
The men from Kilkenny for us held no fear

Fox played like a super hero, but without the cape
The only full forward not held together with tape
A four point victory, it was a fair reflection
Although Skippy's goal was a lucky deflection

So as the 90's progressed, Declan's reputation grew
The All Ireland medals in his pocket now numbered two
For Tipp's great supporters, the new decade held no fears
Little did they know they would have to wait ten years

We fell again to Cork, they didn't spare the timber
A more inept display was hard to remember
The team looked as if its bolt had been shot
But that's not surprising after six years on the trot

But lo and behold, '93 was a reprieve
With a display against the Banner that was hard to believe
To win the Munster final by double scores is rare
To make it even sweeter, we were laughing at Clare



In the semi against Galway, our forwards they smothered
To make matters worse we were running into each other
Changes were made and we questioned the boss
And early in the game Declan Ryan was a loss

A silly soft goal with Ken Hogan at fault
There are those who would say he couldn't stop a beach ball
The supporters were hushed, they all knew the score
That Babs' team would play in Croker no more

The following year Clare got their revenge
Though most of our best were sitting on the bench
So Babs' reign was over, so sad but at least
We had God on our side 'cos his replacement was a priest

For the next two years, we huffed and we puffed
But to beat a resurgent Limerick it was never enough
A replay defeat and we sought a new trainer
The County Board wisely turned to Len Gaynor

Expectation was high as the team gave their best
The Limerick ghost was finally put to rest
Declan was flying, his best season for years
And to cap it all off, an All Star from his peers

But just as we thought we'd reach the gates of heaven
And we wondered at the skills of our great number eleven
Our very worst fears were soon realised
As the Banner made history by beating us twice

Len gave it one more shot by the banks of the Lee
But for everyone there it was plain to see
The premier team they were put to the sword
By a team we could always beat - Waterford

So once more the search for a leader began
The choice was obvious, Nicky was the man
A team mate of Declan's, the whole county prayed
That a return to glory would no longer be delayed

They said the mid '90's was hurling's Golden Age
But this kind of talk made traditionalists rage
"Golden Age", they said - "that's the talk of fools"
"Sure for Clare to win All Irelands, they must have changed the Rules"

So Nicky's new team, gave the championship a lash
And drew with the Banner in an almighty clash
The stadium it shook, like London in the blitz
And the Banner survived, thanks to Davy Fitz

Declan was replaced, then Nicky broke his heart
By telling him before the replay - "you're not going to start"
But the Banner were ready, they really were flyin'
Who did Nicky call on for help, that's right - Declan Ryan

Too little too late, he blasted to the net
But from early it was clear, this team wasn't ready yet
So back to Tipperary, our problems were clear
We'd have to toughen up for millennium year

The new century came with Declan still there
He thought to himself "I'll get on the team somewhere"
Full forward was where he wanted, but what about Shelly
He thought "Sure how can he play with the size of his belly"

Championship came and he was back in his throne
A better centre forward, surely there was none
Once more by the Lee we set out our stall
And the men from the Decies were the first ones to fall

The Claremen were ready, it was Loughnane's last year
To be trounced by them again, that was our fear
But our fears were unfounded, it turned out quite easy
Thanks to the mastery of the great Johhny Leahy

Declan played well, he's not finished yet
And he blasted a penalty, bouncing it to the net
But as the game faded, and sure this would rankle
Poor old Declan went over on his ankle

Munster final day was like the days of old
The blood and the bandages versus the blue and the gold
So near yet so far, the supporters were sighin'
"It would have been different if we had Declan Ryan"

Surely that day for Declan was set
For we had two penalties he would have put in the net
One for a foul on Eugene O'Neill of course
And one when the goalie rode Shelly like a horse

Then Nicky went to Croker with his young hungry team
But the Munster loss had dampened their esteem
Try as they might they could not raise their game
And at the end of the day there was no-one to blame

2001 and the odyssey began
Away for a holiday to work on the tan
Two weeks away and so much to learn
The flames of desire they started to burn

Training was tough, with lap after lap
Declan thought to himself "I'm sick of this crap
The strain and the pressure, I don't really need
But then again the County Board always pays for a feed"

So he said he would do it, he'd go through the mill
Though many people said he was over the hill
Nicky was adamant he had a part to play
To help calm the young lads come championship day

He held down his spot at number fourteen
Rarely has a better team player been seen
The anthem was played, the youngsters had doubts
But Declan kept them close, his chest sticking out

Corbett and Kelly, they were nothing but boys
You'd half expect to see them playing with their toys
But with Declan beside them like an old mother hen
Before our very eyes we saw them become men

We just scraped past Clare with a point at the death
Then a win over Limerick and we really were set
Declan created havoc and scored a good goal
Corbett pinched another, jaysus he looks like a foal

Then on to Croker in the spillings of rain
You could see the conditions did not suit our game
Wexford looked beaten, but rallied at the end
We were just happy to come back again

The replay arrived and again it was wet
And poor Declan gave probably his worst display yet
The ref made mistakes and we rarely have seen
A team with fourteen play a team with thirteen

So onto the final, the build up was tense
Declan was nervous, he thought he could sense
That his display against Wexford would see him left out
But in Nicky's mind there was never a doubt

The omens were good, the preparation was done
We always seem to win it when the year ends in one
The scramble for tickets was like never before
It was as if they all wanted to see big Declan once more

On the big day he didn't let us down
Winning ball after ball and throwing it around
The Galway defenders, he put to the test
Setting up great scores for O'Leary and the rest

The day it was ours and we celebrated long
But Declan was sorry for the one thing he did wrong
If Galway had won, what would trouble him most
Was the second half rasper that flew past the post

But let's not quibble about what might have been
He really is one of the best that we've seen
To watch him play has been such a treat
And with medals in three decades he has joined the elite

So now our great hero has retired from the county
With a bagful of medals, not a bad bounty
He says that he will continue to star for his club
But will be glad of the time he can spend in the pub

For us the supporters, come championship time
It really will be strange not to see Declan Ryan
Bounding to the field, fired up for the fray
All hoping he will once again turn it our way

But nothing is certain, it's not set in stone
And when he hears the crowd sing "Alone all Alone"
And if his county needs him, you shouldn't be surprised
If he just throws on the jersey right in front of our eyes

And for opposing teams there would be no other sight
That could ever give them such an almighty fright
As they see him come on, you can picture them cryin'
"I want to go off, here comes DECLAN RYAN".

 

by Gerry Ryan (Silvermines)