LIMERICK ace-forward Ian Ryan is happy that the number one goal is already acheived for the footballers ahead of this evening’s league final in Croke Park against Offaly.
RELAXED and relieved in equal measure Ryan arrives fresh from school and starts to explain just how much promotion from Division 4 means to Maurice Horan’s men.
“Division 4 is very tough, there’s so many Munster teams, we play each other so much that we know each other inside out; it’s very repetitive. Thank God we’re out of there, it’s some relief - it was our number one goal for the year,” said Ryan.
Coupled with the relief of escaping the confines of the basement of inter-county football is the excitement of testing himself against better and less familiar opponents.
The absence of another Munster team in Division 3 is a welcome bonus, as is the chance to square up to the likes of Cavan, Wexford, Sligo and Roscommon - all of which Ryan describes as very good footballing counties and good teams too.
Growing up Ryan acknowledges that from an early age in a “win at all costs” type of environment, he was one of the stronger players charged with carrying the fortunes of his team.
Although he is still seen in a similar light as one of Limerick’s leading marksmen, Ryan is quick to acknowledge the importance of every man on the field and the few on the side-line, both past and present, too.
“I’ll only have a good day if the boys outside me are having a good day, that’s a fact. If they’re not putting the ball in, I may as not be on the field. If I score it’s all because of them; the people that do the dirty work and that’s why I look up to them more than anyone, what they do for me is unbelievable.
“We’ve had unbelievable coaches over the years…and the managers have been exceptional. Mickey-Ned )(O’Sullivan) gave me my chance and I had a few bad days starting off trying to get used to the pace but he always stood by me, so I owe him an awful lot for that.
“Maurice then is very good, he works so hard, he puts so much time into everything he does and you just have to admire and respect him. You’d do anything for him because no matter what you do you know he’s working twice as hard.”
What then are Limerick’s chances of beating Offaly for a second time this season and claiming the Division 4 title?
Typical of Limerick’s campaign, their victory over the Faithful County in February was a hard-fought affair with just a sole point separating the sides in the end.
The 2008 Young Player of the Year nominee is hopeful of overcoming the Offaly challenge, but wary of their strengths at the same time.
“To beat Tipperary like they did was some result and they’ve great players like (Niall) McNamee and a great football tradition in Offaly as well.
“They could’ve won (the match) when we played them in the league. Last kick of the game they had a chance to win the game but just dragged it wide - there was nothing between the two sides that day, they could’ve easily won it,” said the St Senan’s man.
A decade on from Limerick’s first appearance at GAA Headquarters, Ryan is looking forward to stepping out onto the Croke Park pitch once again, and says that prize alone is enough to encourage young footballers in the county.
“It’s great to play there; to get on the pitch and say you’ve played it. In the last four years this will be our third time and that’s good for young fellas as well - for underage (players) and young lads coming through. They’re seeing that there are possible days out in Croke Park which is great for promoting young lads coming through.”