"We definitely didn't appreciate the extent of what we achieved at the time" - says Borris' 1987 captain Mick Ryan

Noel Dundon


Noel Dundon


Mick Ryan

Mick Ryan in action against Rathnure in the All-Ireland club final in 1987


A doughty corner- back, Mick Ryan existed in a defensive unit of exalted repute with the likes of Tipperary defenders Gerry and Timmy Stapleton, Bobby Ryan and Richard Stakelum forming the steely backline which prevented opponents from running up scores.

Mick himself was in the Tipp squad up to 1984 and though centenary year of the GAA didn't see the Premier County bridge the ever-growing gap for Munster success, things were improving, even though the Munster final defeat to Cork really hurt.
Mick had plenty of success behind him by the time he got to climb the steps of the Hogan Stand on that fateful St Patrick's Day in 1987 as the Borris-Ileigh captain on All-Ireland club final day.

Not only had he lifted the Dan Breen Cup a few months previously as Borris-Ileigh defeated a fancied Kilruane MacDonagh's in the Premier County showpiece at Semple Stadium, he had also been part of the 1981 and 1983 successes for the club and had won Munster and All-Ireland under-21 titles with Tipperary during the 1980 and 1981 seasons.

And, he had won coveted Dr Harty Cup and All-Ireland colleges medal with Templemore CBS in 1978 as well as Rice Cup medals and a host of others with the school.
Now, his son Eddie is hoping to follow in his footsteps as he readies himself not only for the All-Ireland club final, but also the Dr Harty Cup semi-final against St Flannan's of Ennis - he bagged 0-3 from his wing-forward berth against Thurles CBS in the recent quarter final and has been involved with the senior squad in training despite his tender years.

So, Mick Ryan had been around the block by '87 and though he was regarded as being in the middle group of players in that famous Borris-Ileigh team with the likes of Mick Coen, Francis Spillane, Noel O'Dwyer, Noelie Maher, Timmy Ryan, Tommy O'Dwyer and Timmy Delaney representing the older section, and Conor Stakelum, John McGrath, John Joe Ryan and John Glasheen, the younger ones, he had seen more success than most by the time the date with Rathnure emerged on the horizon.

Eight players on the panel were older than thirty-four years of age; four were under 20 and the rest were in between. So, there was a big mix in ages, a lovely blend of youth and experience as coach Paddy Doyle would always acknowledge when speaking about the side he inherited after the North final defeat.

That North final would be a game changer - Doyle arrived in from Thurles Sarsfields with medals a plenty and a great reputation as a coach. The approach changed; the attitude changed and Borris-Ileigh were transformed into county champions, Munster champions and on that glorious day at Croke Park, the All-Ireland champions.
“You definitely didn't appreciate the significance or the extent of what we achieved at the time. With hindsight you do realise it because county finals are not easily won in Tipperary and, of course, going on and winning Munster and All-Irelands are hardly even thought about unless you were winning county titles with great regularity as the likes of Toomevara and Sarsfields were,” he said.

Richard Stakelum in action
Mick, who is involved head, neck and heels in the club, as selector with teams over many years, was named as captain in '86 and is now pleased that the mantle of the last winning captain has finally been passed on.
“I heard that on so many occasions and I'm just delighted that this aspect has been put to bed, finally. At the time back in '86 the captaincy moved around the team and I was just lucky to have been the one when success came our way. It wasn't for any particular leadership skills that I got the role, I can assure you, whereas nowadays it's the big leaders in the team who tend to be made captain,” Mick Ryan told the Tipperary Star.

As a man who attends games all over the county, the number of people who come from all over Tipperary to watch Borris-Ileigh is not lost on Mick. He readily acknowledges that there is an affection for the club outside of the parish and is looking forward to there being a big Borris-Ileigh support in Croke Park on Sunday as well - he will be there with his wife Clare, their two girls Sinéad and Niamh, and Eddie to cheer on the Borris' boys and hope that they can emulate the men of '87.

“The '87 team had a bit of a get together over Christmas in Stapleton's. It's not something we have done too often and we really enjoyed the night. The only one gone to his eternal reward from that team is the late Mick Coen - he was a great addition to us when he moved from Moyne-Templetuohy and he really delighted in that victory,” Mick explained.
“He had been living in Borris' for many years before he hurled with us and we were delighted to have him with us. The lads are scattered all over the country and the world at this stage, but it is great to meet up and have a chat after all the years.
“Some of them you wouldn't see too often, but others you would meet nearly every day. Paddy Doyle was at the reunion as well and we were thrilled to meet him again because he really transformed us into a team and once we got the run of matches behind us, we improved all the way to the All-Ireland final. He was a tremendous coach and motivator,” Mick added..

No doubt Mick picked up plenty of tips from Paddy during his time with Borris' - Mick was involved with the Borris' team which won the county minor final in 2019 and is delighted that the conveyor belt is supplying players to the adult teams right now.
Chatting to Mick Ryan, it is obvious that he is a man who knows his hurling, thinks deeply about the game and has travelled the hi-ways and bi-ways of Tipperary following ash and sliothar. His life centres around Borrisoleigh and he likes nothing more than heading into the field for training or games - he delights in the magnificent new facilities provided for current and future generations and takes great pleasure in the huge numbers using them - body and mind are benefiting from the clubs facilities right now.

Mick has to look after his own body in a few weeks time too -hopefully, the All-Ireland club championship silverware will reside in Borris-Ileigh by the time he has his second hip replaced at the end of the month - climbing the steps of the Hogan Stand these days would be a little harder than they were in '87. Still, if Conor Kenny and Seán McCormack get to do it on Sunday, Mick Ryan and many of his fellow Borris' colleagues might just vault the fences in excitement and celebration at the making of history.