Health scare

'One of the first things he said when he came to was he asked for the result of the game'

St Mullins selector Micheál Ryan is conscious and recovering in hospital after being taken ill during their famous win over Cuala on Sunday.

FROM THE HIGH of shocking the two-time All-Ireland club champions to the low of watching selector Micheál Ryan receiving medical attention for over an hour following his suspected heart attack, it was an afternoon that won’t be quickly forgotten in the St Mullins parish.

an-ambulance-on-the-pitch-at-the-full-time-whistle-treats-a-member-of-the-st-mullins-backroom-team An ambulance on the pitch at the full time whistle treats a member of the St Mullins backroom team. Morgan Treacy / INPHO Morgan Treacy / INPHO / INPHO

“A rollercoaster of emotions would almost be an understatement,” former St Mullins player and coach Pat Coady tells The42. ”It was a very surreal day.” 

Coady was positioned directly opposite the stand in Netwatch Cullen Park when Ryan – father of one of the players – was taken ill as Leinster club SHC quarter-final against Cuala neared its conclusion. 

“I spotted it fairly quickly myself when I saw his son Oisin tearing off the field over to him,” recalls Coady.

“You could see the emotions of the people carrying out CPR. I could see who it was and Micheál was a team-mate of my own for many years, a great friend.

I’d say there were six or seven more minutes of hurling going on while the ordeal was happening and you could see the amount of work that was being done by the people.”

It made for bizarre scenes at the full-time whistle as the situation became clear to the St Mullins players, muting what would otherwise have been joyous celebrations. 

“Most of the players were unaware of what happened and when the final whistle went sure there was jubilation,” Coady says.

“Then they went over towards their supporters and we were basically looking through them. They couldn’t understand why we weren’t sharing in their jubilation and it became quickly obvious to them then what the situation was.

“Micheál’s son Oisin was one of their team-mates so it was a very, very hard situation for him to deal with.” 

st-mullins-players-after-the-game-as-they-learn-a-member-of-their-backroom-team-has-been-taken-ill St. Mullin's players after the game as they learn that Micheál Ryan was taken ill. Morgan Treacy / INPHO Morgan Treacy / INPHO / INPHO

A late goal from James Doyle handed the Carlow champions a famous 2-13 to 0-18 victory, but attention quickly turned to Ryan’s welfare, leaving those in attendance shaken at the incident. 

Thankfully, Ryan – a former St Mullins and Carlow player – is conscious and recovering in a Kilkenny hospital today. His first question after waking up? 

“And who won the match?”

Coady delivers a positive update on his condition: “I spoke with his brother this morning. He’s physically sore because he was pounded for the best part of an hour and I think he was shocked up to eight times with the defibrillator so that can have a physical toll on anyone’s body. 

He’s conscious and one of the first things he said when he came to was he asked for the result of the game. Even though hurling is a small thing, it’s a big thing as well. I suppose even the result might help him pull out of it as well, a bit of a positive vibe on it.

“We’re hoping things will work out well for him now and that he’s on the right road anyway. Things are looking good for his future please God.” 

Ryan’s son Oisin was only introduced to the fray in the 50th minute, but once he realised what had transpired he substituted himself off. According to Coady, it was a Cuala player that first raised Oisin’s attention to the incident.

“In fairness, I think his marker at the time copped what was going on and just said to Oisin, ‘Is your father a selector on the team?’ And he said, ‘He is.’ He said, ‘You need to go over there. This game is not important now.’ 

Now that’s from word of mouth I got last night, but it just goes to show when push comes to shove these things become much bigger than the small, trivial matter of a game of hurling.

“If there was any goodwill in a place it was all flowing the one way and hopefully with the bit of luck it was one of the factors that helped Micheál because he was fighting a battle there for an hour, you know? He was fighting a hard battle.”

cuala-players-after-the-game-as-an-ambulance-treats-a-member-of-the-st-mullins-backroom-team The Cuala players leave the field after the game. Morgan Treacy / INPHO Morgan Treacy / INPHO / INPHO

St Mullins club paid tribute to Cuala fan Dr Niamh Murphy on Twitter last night, who was among those that offered medical assistance to Ryan.

“Micheál’s brother said the amount of work that went on… There was Dr Niamh Murphy, a Cuala supporter, involved. Dr Tom Foley from Carlow, the Order of Malta, the ambulance service arrived, the gardai, the stewards,” adds Coady.

“Human nature took over from the competitive nature of sport and it became a much bigger issue. His family were all there and we were all there watching. It was a very surreal moment because of where it happened.

“It was in the open and he couldn’t be moved until they got some sort of a positive development in the situation. But jeez it was unbelievable.”

The game itself a was a remarkable victory for St Mullins, considering they suffered a 12 point beating to the same opposition in the 2016 Leinster semi-final.

“I remember thinking to myself on the day that the scoreline flattered them,” says Coady.

“But if you were to look back through their results that year through the whole club championship, their average winning margin wasn’t far off 12 points. They were on fire that year. 

“We knew they mightn’t have been the team they were two or three years ago when they were at their height. Obviously Con O’Callaghan was carrying an injury from the Dublin county final, we also know that in the likes of ‘Mouse’ (Marty) Kavanagh, James Doyle and Seamus Murphy we have quality in our own ranks as well. And if they were to click on the day that there was always a chance. 

james-doyle-celebrates-scoring-a-goal James Doyle celebrates scoring a goal for St Mullins. Morgan Treacy / INPHO Morgan Treacy / INPHO / INPHO

“Now you’d be foolhardy and naive to go out there expecting a victory yesterday and we were far from it. In the first ten minutes, we rode our luck because David Treacy missed maybe four or five frees in the first 15 or 20 minutes and kind of left us in the game.

“They went for the jugular early on with their passing game and tried to work a few goalscoring situations. Our defence with John Doran especially playing in a centre-back, sweeping role, and Paul Doyle they were outstanding and they broke up attack after attack.

“I’d say once we got a foothold in the game at all and the people began to realise this wasn’t going to be one-way traffic in favour of Cuala, our confidence levels rose and they were probably saying, ‘We’re in a bit of a game here.’

“It’s not always easy to change things around when you’re expecting things to go one way and they don’t actually work out that way. We were absolutely thrilled to put in a performance like that on the day and it was a well-deserved win at the end of it.” 

With Ryan on the mend, St Mullins’ attention will turn to their upcoming Leinster semi-final against Laois champions Rathdowney-Errill, who dumped out Offaly’s St Rynagh’s yesterday. 

“We know how good a team Rathdowney are,” says Coady, who works as a teacher in Borris National School behind enemy lines in Mount Leinster Rangers territory. 

“We played them in a practice match in the run-up to our championship semi-final last year and they literally blew us off the field. Any team that can call on the likes of Ross King as a forward is going to take watching. 

ross-king-celebrates-scoring-a-goal Laois star Ross King is a key man for Rathdowney-Errill. Laszlo Geczo / INPHO Laszlo Geczo / INPHO / INPHO

“I’d say the bookies might have them as favourites to beat us despite the fact that we beat Cuala. They’ll look at the respective resources of both clubs and I think our adult membership would be less than 100 adult members in the club.”

He continues: “But we just happen to have a few diamonds alright that are coming to the fore. But we wouldn’t even begin to even attempt to look at a Leinster final, we can only dare to even dream about those sort of things.

“The issue of taking every game as it comes, we take every half as it comes nearly because we saw yesterday how things can be up and down both on and off the field. So it’s a big journey for us as a club and we’re enjoying the journey.”

It’s been an eventful few weeks for St Mullins, who requested that their county semi-final against Ballinkillen be played last month after the latter were initially thrown out of the championship.

Ballinkillen refused to fulfil the fixture on player welfare grounds as they had five players involved in an intermediate football semi-final the night before. They appealed the decision to the Carlow CCC and Leinster Council to no avail, until the St Mullins club made a request for the game to be played.

“It was a very messy situation which was avoidable,” says Coady. “There’s four senior hurling clubs and for the greater good of hurling St Mullins didn’t want to progress to a county final with a bloodless coup.”

They needed a stoppage-time goal to force extra-time in that game, eventually prevailing before they denied Mount Leinster Rangers the three-in-a-row in the county final.

They’re determined to enjoy the rest of the journey, whatever it brings. 

“Coming from a little place like us we definitely wouldn’t be taking things for granted or looking too far ahead in the future.

“We’re a tiny little club, we’re down in the very tip of county Carlow. Our resources are few but you’ve to make as good as what you can with what you have. We’re just lucky to have the crop of players we have at the moment anyway.

“Where we are in St Mullins, from my own house I’d say a half-mile one way I’m in Kilkenny and a half-mile the other way I’m in Wexford.

“Hurling is religion down with us and that’s all we look forward to every year, the championship, and heading down to the hurling field to watch the boys training, going to matches and we’re thrilled to have the bunch of players we have at the moment and thrilled that they’re coming to the fore with Carlow as well.

“We’re a small little heartland alright but we’re proud of the hurlers that we’re producing at the moment.”

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