The talent drain out of the Kilkenny hurling camp continued last night when goalkeeper, P.J. Ryan, announced his retirement from the inter-county game, writes John Knox.
Ryan, who joined the squad in 2002, won seven senior All-Irelands, nine Leinster chamionships and five National Leagues during a distinguished career that also earned him an All-Star award.
“I leave with no regrets,” Ryan (34) said of his departure. “I arrived with nothing but hope, and I left with a pocketful of medals. I was blessed to be part of Kilkenny hurling during a golden era.”
There was no disputing the best day in the career of the Fenians (Johnstown) man. It was in the All-Ireland final of 2009 against Tipperary when he brought off a series of dazzling saves when the Cats won by 2-22 to 0-23.
Ryan was the man of the match that day. In fact, his performance was perhaps the best individual showing of the hurling season and it played a significant part in his selection as an All-Star subsequently.
“We wouldn’t have won that final without that inspired showing from P.J.,” remembered Kilkenny County Board secretary, Ned Quinn when he paid tribute to the player. “His loyalty to Kilkenny was of the highest order. It took him a while to get into the team, but after he got in and did his bit, including being the one who made the difference in that 2009 final, he stayed on in the squad to make sure the county was well covered for goalkeepers.”
“I worked especially hard during the weeks leading up to that final,” Ryan revealed when he spoked about 2009. “I spent so much time working in the hurling field in Johnstown and in the ball alley with my father that he was nearly ready to make a return to hurling.”
P.J. followed in the footsteps of his dad, P.J. who won three All-Irelands as sub goalie to the great Noel Skehan in 1974, 1975 and 1979.
In recent weeks James ‘Cha’ Fitzpatrick (Ballyhale Shamrocks) and Eddie Brennan (Graigue-Ballycallan) also announced their retirement from the inter-county game. The retired trio won 20 senior All-Ireland medals between them.