"If we moved we were dropped" - Good memories come flooding back for Ryan 1 month ago

"If we moved we were dropped" - Good memories come flooding back for Ryan

Would you prefer to spend the team holiday talking tactics or making memories for life?

For Paul Ryan and the Dublin hurlers, the tactics could wait and under man-manager supremo Anthony Daly, they had the best days of their lives.

As he looks back now on 11 years in blue, the wins and the scalps taken clearly give him great pride but it's the stories, the people and the soul of it all that he wants to talk about.

In and around the Dalo years, hurling became a soul thing for the Dubs.

It takes Ryan back to a team holiday in Portugal when Daly's words of warning - "I'm telling you lads, don't go in drinking" - were lost to the night.

In between the prank calls and not long after a two/three hour run in the sweltering heat for some ill-disciplined players, Ryan recalls the last evening of the team holiday, when the 'secret seven' ignored boss-man's orders for the bright lights of Vilamoura.

"We weren't ten minutes down the road by the time we'd pulled in to some off-licence, got a heap of bottles. Off the night went, we ended up doing karaoke and all the rest," he says in a cracker of an interview on Thursday's GAA Hour Show.

"When we got back to Dublin - Dalo was like 'I was going to ignore it but everyone knew, the whole team knew, so I have to do something about it.'"

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He could have dropped them, could have done what so many managers advise to do, and made an example out of them. But Dalo knew better because he'd been that soldier himself. What are you hurling for if you're not allowed to enjoy it?

"So at the next training session, the seven of us had to line up across the goal and the lads had a few buckets of tennis balls and we weren't allowed move. If we moved we were dropped. They horsed balls off us for the hour."

Crisis averted.

"Dalo said 'you were lucky it was only tennis balls."

It's hardly a coincidence that these good memories coincided with one of the most successful periods of Dublin's hurling history.

"The amount you get out of lads after something like that," adds Ryan.

The stories keep on coming. Some mischievous, some character-building - take the first training session of the 2011 season when the lads met their new coach Martin Kennedy in a bitter cold O'Toole Park.

"We'd never met him before, we were just told there was a new guy coming in who'd be training you for the year. We ran out of the dressing room onto the pitch anyway, and Martin, a very serious type of character, he said 'Go back into that dressing room. Run out like All-Ireland champions.'

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"We were looking at each other like 'here's another headbanger.' We went back in, sort of laughing amongst ourselves, and ran back out. 'No not good enough.' So the third time, we absolutely burst out of the dressing room, sprinted onto the pitch and he said 'that's better.'

"That was his mark. Then he said we're going to do one run for the night, a 50 yard run, but you have control over it. Lovely. Did one run, I remember three or four lads stopped before the line that he had said to run to. We must have done about 40 runs because there was always one that stopped just before the line. You won't win anything by taking short-cuts, that was his idea."

Ryan remembers team bonding trips in the Curragh. He remembers running up mountains to earn his Dublin jersey, the laughs, the wins, the craic.

"When I was younger, I never went anywhere without a hurl. But I think you need to enjoy something if you're going to persevere with it - I always had that attitude, even at the worst of times, that you have to have a bit of craic..."

And so say all of us.