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‘Farewell to The Master’: TG4 documentary tells the extraordinary story of a Cork GAA legend

Éamonn Ryan’s family and former players share their personal recollections in the new film, which airs tonight.

Source: Sport TG4/YouTube

AT 9.20PM TONIGHT, TG4 will show ‘Éamonn Ryan: An Máistir’ for the first time. 

This excellent documentary looks at the enormous impact the former manager, who passed away in January 2021, had on Gaelic games in Cork.

Directed by Ronan O’Donoghue, the film features contributions from Éamonn’s family and several of his former players.

“I remember at Éamonn’s funeral,” begins Rena Buckley, in the opening minutes. “There was a sign saying: ‘Farewell to The Master. A good coach can change a game, a great coach can change a life’.”

There is no doubting that Éamonn Ryan changed the lives of many.

Born in Watergrasshill, he proved to be a fine inter-county footballer — putting in a man-of-the-match performance as Cork won their first Munster final for nine years in 1966.

A year later, they reached the All-Ireland final at Croke Park but lost out to Meath.

Ryan found work as a teacher at his old primary school and soon realised he possessed a natural talent for coaching. ‘The Master’, as he was known, was capable of motivating and improving players from a young age.

He was appointed Cork senior football manager and led the Rebels to the 1983 Munster final, where a late Tadhg Murphy goal edged old rivals Kerry out by a single point. In the All-Ireland semi-final, they fell at the hands of Dublin.

eamonn-ryan Éamonn pictured in 1983. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

When Ryan arrived at Na Piarsaigh, they were living in the shadow of Cork city’s big clubs. He would breathe confidence and a winning mentality into them, resulting in a first-ever Cork senior hurling championship title in 1990.

People talk about Éamonn Ryan like he was a messiah,” says Na Piarsaigh clubman and former Cork star Seán Óg Ó hÁilpín. “A magician of sorts. He was a giant.”

Donncha Ó Néill adds: “The main thing he gave us was belief. He came as a stranger and left as a great friend.”

Ryan’s greatest sporting success, however, was achieved during his time in charge of the the Cork ladies footballers.

When he took over in 2004, the set-up was in dire straits.

“Cork ladies football was in disarray before Éamonn came on board,” says Valerie Mulcahy. “There wasn’t a whole lot going on and people didn’t really want to play for Cork. The best players weren’t involved and there wasn’t a lot of pride in the jersey.

“I remember being to training sessions with five and six players at them. It was that bad.”

Having never won a trophy before, they remarkably went all the to the All-Ireland final within a year — and saw off Galway to lift the Brendan Martin Cup.  

“You don’t really realise how crazy it was until you look back,” another former player, Briege Corkery, tells. “How we went from winning nothing to becoming All-Ireland champions.”

What followed was nothing short of incredible as Cork claimed an unprecedented ten All-Ireland titles in 11 years with Ryan at the helm.

eamon-ryan-celebrates-with-the-brendan-martin-cup Ryan and the Cork players with the Brendan Martin Cup in 2014. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

At the age of 79, Éamonn sadly passed away on 14 January of this year but he never lost his grá for the GAA. 

His wife Pat explains: “Around two months before he died, he said to me ‘I think I’d like to go and train some team but I don’t know if my health is strong enough’, and that was good because he had hope until the end.”

‘Éamonn Ryan: An Máistir’ airs at 9.20pm tonight. You can watch it on TG4 or worldwide on TG4 Player.

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