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'They have two arms and two legs like I do' - Wylie on marking the game's best forwards

Monaghan defender Ryan Wylie held the likes of Paul Geaney and Lee Brennan scoreless last summer.

JUST OVER 12 months ago, Ryan Wylie and Paul Mannion arrived back from a winter trip to America and Colombia with their hair dyed an eye-catching platinum blond.

Ryan Wylie receives a red card Ryan Wylie is sent-off in the first game of the 2018 Division 1 campaign. Source: John McVitty/INPHO

All-Star nominee Wylie is friendly with a number of the current Dublin squad from his time studying in UCD, having lifted a Sigerson Cup title in 2016 alongside Mannion, Jack McCaffrey and Michael Fitzsimons.

Dublin’s team holiday to Florida and the Bahamas meant Mannion was unable to accompany Wylie on his recent trip around Vietnam and the Philippines this off-season, which the Monaghan defender says wasn’t necessarily a bad thing.

“I had four weeks off myself, just on holidays before Christmas,” says Wylie. “I was in Vietnam and the Philippines. It was a nice little break so I’m ready to hit the ground running.

Last year, Paul hadn’t started work. He started work this year and obviously he was away then with the Dublin team.

“He wasn’t able to fit it in. Maybe that was a good thing so we didn’t come back with blond hair. Maybe it was good thing he didn’t come with me this year,” he smiles.

The 24-year-old is still based in the capital, working as a radiographer in the Mater Hosptial since August 2016, following his graduation from UCD.

He still sees a good bit of Mannion and McCaffrey around the place, although football doesn’t necessarily come up in conversation between them all that often.

“Paul and Jack, they would have been in the same year in college, starting out in freshers. They played Sigerson the whole way.

We’d be good friends. We’ve plenty of other things to talk about.  We wouldn’t really talk about football that much.

“Maybe if we play each other, we’d text each other before or after games. There’s plenty of other things going on to be worried about than talking football all the time.

The UCD team celebrate winning the Sigerson Cup UCD's Sigerson Cup winners of 2016. Source: Presseye/Declan Roughan/INPHO

“They’re the same as myself where they’re nearly at it every night of the week. It’s good to just relax and take your mind off it now and again.”

Wylie is well used to the three-hour round-trips home from Dublin for county training at this stage, having been first called into the Farney panel by Malachy O’Rourke in 2013.

“It’s probably an advantage some of the other teams have that they have more home-based players to get more collective sessions in and get their training sessions earlier.

You look at some people and they’re home at 9pm and we’re only finishing our training at nine or after in. You’re back into your house around 12am and by the time you get settled down in the bed, you’re wrecked.

“But that’s just the way it is and there’s no point complaining about it, it’s not going to change. The road from Monaghan to Dublin is not going to get any shorter! I’ve been doing it since 2013 so I’m used to it now, it’s part of my week.”

Night shifts are par for the course for Wylie, like many hospital workers, but he’s not the type to complain about balancing a demanding job with inter-county football.

“If you want to find it tough, it will be tough. You just have base your week and month on a bit more preparation. That’s nearly helping me as well. You’re nearly more prepared for the week and month.

Allianz Football League 2019 Launch Ryan Wylie was at the Allianz Football League 2019 launch. Source: Brendan Moran/SPORTSFILE

“You know what’s ahead of you and you base your training all around it. It’s grand. I’m sure there’s loads of other players around the country with tougher jobs. To be honest, personally, it’s grand. I get on with it just fine.

“There’s the odd time that I’m not able to make training or I’m missing something. In fairness, Malachy’s very good. He understands. He knows everything that’s going on. He’d know that I wouldn’t be one to miss it because you’re lying up at home.

“He knows I have a genuine reason. He knows that I’d get the work done. He’s very accommodating, in fairness. It helps out that way.

“At the minute, I’m happy. I’ve got a good house, a good job. I’m 24, living in Dublin. Dublin is good craic so I don’t think I’ll be leaving it soon.”

Ryan Wylie and Con O’Callaghan Wylie tackles Con O'Callaghan in the 2017 All-Ireland quarter-final. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

The Ballybay clubman has developed into one of the finest man-markers in the game. He can consider himself very unlucky not to have picked up an All-Star after a season where Monaghan reached the All-Ireland semi-final for the first time since 1988.

Wylie held the likes of Paul Geaney and Lee Brennan scoreless in the championship, while he conceded just a point off Galway’s All-Star forward Ian Burke in the Super 8s meeting.

The corner-back admits he enjoys the challenge of coming up against the best forwards in the country.

“They’re the same as us. They’re just another person – they have two arms, two legs like I do. Both of us just go out and the forward’s job is to score and my job is to stop him scoring. One of us is going to lose out one way or another. I don’t really change anything.

It’s a good old battle though if you’re marking somebody and their prime objective is to get a score. You get a few tasty battles during the year – that’s the exciting thing about it.

“It’s great to be challenging yourself against the best in any walk of life. You always want to keep improving and the only way to improve is to be playing the best. 

In Division 1 especially we’re going to be playing seven games and it’s going to be against the best players in the country.”

****

The inter-county famine is about to end, giving way to a nine-week feast of Allianz Football League action between the weekend after next and the four divisional finals in Croke Park on March 30/31. The exciting programme features 116 games across the four divisions in a campaign which will mark the 27th year of Allianz’ partnership with the GAA as sponsor of the Allianz Leagues, making it one of the longest-running sponsorships in Irish sport.

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About the author:

Kevin O'Brien

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