He's a keeper

The 'reluctant goalie' shining in debut campaign for Kerry

Converted goalkeeper Shane Ryan regularly features at full-forward for his club Rathmore.

TYRONE NETMINDER NIALL Morgan isn’t the only inter-county goalkeeper who regularly plays outfield with his club. 

Kerry stopper Shane Ryan, an All-Ireland minor winner in 2014, lines out at full-forward with Rathmore.

Shane Ryan Morgan Treacy / INPHO Rathmore clubman Shane Ryan. Morgan Treacy / INPHO / INPHO

In fact, he played the majority of his football at underage level outfield but featuring between the posts paved a way for Ryan to claim a starting jersey with the Kingdom. 

He was Kerry’s first-choice keeper at U21 level in 2015 and 2017, before the call-up came from Peter Keane to join the senior set-up this year. 

Shane Murphy’s run to the All-Ireland club final with Dr Crokes created an opening for Ryan in the Kerry number one jersey and he’s grasped it with both hands. 

“It’s good to see him in there,” says defender Paul Murphy, a fellow Rathmore man.

“He was minor a few years back. He’s something of a reluctant goalie. He plays outfield for us. I’d say he’s quite happy to be out the field. But he was brought in as a goalkeeper now this year.

“He’s had a solid start, and he’s getting good experience there, which is probably the big thing from the league, getting lads in, getting a few minutes under their belt and seeing if they’ll flourish in a senior set-up.

“He never really played in goals for Rathmore. He played soccer with Killarney Celtic I think when he was younger and they made a goalkeeper out of him. Then from that in underage development squads I think he was put in goals.

Shane Ryan celebrates winning Donall Farmer / INPHO Shane Ryan celebrates at the final whistle of the All-Ireland minor final in 2014. Donall Farmer / INPHO / INPHO

“I don’t know where it came from but basically with Kerry underage he played as a goalkeeper but with Rathmore he never played as a goalie, no. 

“He’s very comfortable out the field. He plays full-forward (with Rathmore), he’s a handful in the full-forward line. You’d have no bother seeing him coming out with the ball, you’d have no issues with that.”

Ryan started all but one of Kerry’s seven league games to date, with Brian Kelly deputising in the nets against Mayo. 

Defensively, Kerry have improved drastically in Keane’s first year in charge. Last year they conceded an average of 18.1 points per game, a figure that dropped to 13.1 in the 2019 campaign.

Ryan conceded just three goals in his six games and overall Keane’s defence has a meaner look about them.

The improvement can be attributed to the introduction of Tommy Griffin and Donie Buckley to the coaching department.

“Peter and the team, it’s enjoyable. Trainings have been good, collective gym sessions and things like that have been good.

“Lads are generally quite happy with the trainings, with all of the management team. Peter has taken bits of training, Donie has come in, done a lot of the coaching. Tommy is doing a lot of the defensive work.

Tommy Griffin James Crombie / INPHO Kerry coach Tommy Griffin. James Crombie / INPHO / INPHO

“Maurice (Fitzgerald) is doing a lot of the attacking work. James (Foley) has a great knowledge of the younger lads coming through, having worked with them at minor level as well. So I think they work well as a team, and lads are quite happy.” 

Murphy has been placed at the spine of the defence this season and it’s a role he enjoys. 

“I’m probably not bombing up the field as much as I would have done, not that I was too much of a bomber before, but I’m probably playing further back the field alright,” he says.

“Slightly different role but I would have played centre-back a good bit for the club as well so it’s something I’m familiar with.

“I’m comfortable enough doing it. You’d all different sort of roles back there so that’s a role that needs to be filled and I’m happy enough to do it.

“I’ve always said I’m happy enough to play where ever. I’d probably be more natural as a half-back. Underage I would have played nearly all my football as a half-back. It was quite late in the day that I played a bit up front.”

Allianz Football League Division 1 & 2 Finals preview event Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE Paul Murphy was in Croke Park at the Allianz Football League Division 1 & 2 finals preview event. Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE / SPORTSFILE

Murphy broke onto the Kerry side in 2014 as a wing-back and spent time on the half-forward line in recent years, but admits the number six role is his favourite position.

“When things are going well for you centre-back is the best position on the field. But when there’s lads running at you in twos and threes it’s probably not as comfortable.

“You can influence the game a lot from there. A lot can go through you, you can cut out ball from there. In a wing position, particularly wing-forward, you can put in a huge shift I’ve found and the ball just might not come your way and you can spend a lot of time chasing a guy back the field.

“It can be frustrating whereas I think at centre-back a lot of the play would be coming close to you anyway so you can get involved a lot.” 

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