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'A legend in his own lifetime' - 10-time All-Ireland-winning manager Éamonn Ryan passes away

The iconic Cork GAA figure steered the Rebel County’s ladies footballers to 10 All-Irelands in 11 years.

Éamonn Ryan and Valerie Mulcahy celebrating Cork's All-Ireland success in 2014.
Éamonn Ryan and Valerie Mulcahy celebrating Cork's All-Ireland success in 2014.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

LEGENDARY CORK GAA figure Éamonn Ryan has passed away at the age of 79.

Ryan, who steered the Cork ladies footballers to 10 All-Irelands in 11 years between 2005 and 2015 — including their first ever Brendan Martin Cup success in 2005 — had been battling illness. Cork also won nine national football leagues during his two stints at the helm, from 2004 to 2009 and from 2011 to 2015.

Ryan’s impact on Cork GAA was felt across all codes, genders and age groups. He played senior inter-county football for the Rebels between 1963 and ’68, going on to manage the men’s senior footballers between ’80 and ’84. In his penultimate year at the helm, Ryan’s Rebels earned a famous Munster success over Kerry via Tadhg Óg Murphy’s late goal — a strike frequently cited following another vaunted Cork victory over their neighbours earlier this winter.

Ryan oversaw two All-Ireland minor football titles for his native county in ’91 and ’93, also managing Na Piarsaigh to senior county hurling titles in ’90 and ’95. He lent a hand to a further county success for the Fair Hill club in 2004.

Following his period of unprecedented success with the Cork ladies, Ryan joined the Cork men’s footballers’ setup as a selector. He was, incidentally, the only member of the backroom team retained when Ronan McCarthy took the reins from Peadar Healy in 2017. Two years later, he linked up with the Limerick ladies, then All-Ireland junior champions, in a mentoring role for the 2020 season.

eamonn-ryan-with-shane-ronayne Shane Ronayne, now Waterford men's football manager, embraces Éamonn Ryan during the 2014 All-Ireland ladies football final. Source: Tommy Grealy/INPHO

The Beál Áthan Ghaorthaidh native, often referred to as ‘The Master’, was revered by the clubs with whom he had played and remained hugely involved: UCC, Glenville and Watergrasshill. The Hill, of whom Ryan was vice president, described him as their “greatest ever player” upon the announcement of his passing on Thursday.

Cork LGFA billed Ryan “a legend in his own lifetime” in a separate statement, with former Cork GAA chairperson Tracey Kennedy adding: “Éamonn gave so, so much to the GAA and LGFA over a lifetime and was unbelievably wise and generous with his wisdom. He will be very sadly missed.”

Former Cork star Valerie Mulcahy said his passing was “such sad news”, describing Ryan as “a gentleman”. Current Cork ladies boss Ephie Fitzgerald, who succeeded Ryan from 2016 onwards, echoed those sentiments, saying Ryan had “an unbelievable sporting record” but was “above all else a thorough gentleman.”

Mary White, author of Relentless: The Inside Story of the Cork Ladies Footballers, said: “I had the pleasure to report on 165 games while Éamonn Ryan was in charge of Cork and not once did he seek credit.

“Today, the credit goes to his wife Pat and her family for sharing a legend with the rest of us.”

LGFA president Marie Hickey released a statement on behalf of the association in which she labelled Ryan “a larger-than-life character who guided Cork to unprecedented success”.

“Éamonn had a unique bond with the players he worked alongside, who all speak of his influence in glowing terms,” Hickey added.

“Many of us in the LGFA also had the opportunity to get to know Éamonn on a personal level over the course of many years. He joined us on TG4 All Star tours abroad and he was such a personable character and engaging company.

“I am deeply saddened to learn of Éamonn’s passing and he leaves behind an incredible legacy.”

GAA figures, clubs and associations paid tribute to the Cork great following news of his passing.

Watergrasshill GAA

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Tomás Mulcahy

Tracey Kennedy

Mary White

Gráinne McElwain

Ladies Football

Jacqui Hurley

Ephie Fitzgerald 

Tony Davis

Dublin LGFA

Orlagh Farmer

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