Ronan retires

There’s been very little in the way of Mayo GAA news during the week while I’ve been out of the country (for work, sadly, albeit far enough away to get a week of stonking summer-like conditions) but when I arrived back today it was to the news that Ronan McGarrity has called it a day as an inter-county player.

The Ballina midfielder first broke into the county senior team back in 2004 during John Maughan’s second stint at manager. According to my results archive, Ronan’s first ever appearance for the county took place in a league match in February of that year against Fermanagh up in Enniskillen where he replaced injured corner-back Liam O’Malley. A week later he made his full debut when he lined out at midfield on the team that gave Dublin a severe drubbing at McHale Park and he was a regular at centrefield from then right up to that year’s All-Ireland final and beyond.

2006 was probably his apogee as an inter-county footballer where he starred at midfield as we progressed to our second All-Ireland decider in three years. My own favourite memory of Ronan has to be his standout performance in that year’s Connacht final against Galway, a match which Conor Mortimer afterwards rather cheekily claimed he’d won on his own with his late, late free. It was, though, the Ballina man’s ownership of the skies around the middle of the park that day in Castlebar that ultimately provided the platform for what was a hard-fought but hugely enjoyable provincial decider win over the Old Enemy.

Ronan seemed well on his way to an All-Star that year but then a combination of the thuggish manner in which he was poleaxed by a clearly frustrated Ciaran Whelan – whom Ronan was taking to the cleaners early on in the All-Ireland semi-final against the Dubs – and another trimming by Kerry in the final meant that he was rather unfairly overlooked. He got a nomination that year alright but missed out to Cork’s Nicholas Murphy and Kerry’s Darragh Ó Sé in the final shake-up for the two midfield places on offer.

From 2007 onwards, Ronan’s career was blighted by injury. Although he made a brave comeback following a testicular cancer diagnosis early that year and went on to be named team captain by then manager John O’Mahony in 2008, he suffered a series of injuries on a depressingly regular basis and was never able to recover either the fitness or the form he’d shown in those early years playing for the county. James Horan brought him back into the squad for last year’s championship but the emergence of a fresh generation of midfield talent by then always meant that Ronan was unlikely to break back into contention for a starting place on the county team.

An extremely honest performer and a player capable on his day of whacking over some truly beautiful long-range points, Ronan served the county faithfully over several seasons.  He deserves our heartfelt thanks for doing so and our best wishes for the future. Thanks for the memories, big lad.

4 thoughts on “Ronan retires

  1. Anybody remember 2003 ?…the year we suddenly ran out of midfielders. Fallon finally gone, McHale a memory, Brady out for some reason…suddenly we were bereft. Sligo’s Rory Brennan put in a shift in the league for us but decided not to continue. Dublins Enda Sheehy arrived carrying injuries and a lack of match time. In a challenge V Dublin May 3rd 2003 we listed London’s Kevin Waldron at midfield. Kevin passed on that one as well. Interestingly at mid for Dublin that day was the son of a Mayo native Thomas Mulligan RIP, a great fielder of the ball.

    That was a bad year. O Neill still had three seasons of purdah ahead of him. McDonald and Brady weren’t around for one reason or another. Things were bad as Fermanagh drowned us in Sligos backdoor. I was also in exile in a place beside hell so that year has a resonance for me. Anyway at a parent teacher meeting a tutor of Mayo blood told me that all would be well, a young guy was returning from a basketball journey and would prop the middle for us.

    Ronan McGarrity was that boy. Arriving on a team in 2004 that marched most of the way before stumbling the last few steps to an All Ireland final loss . His fielding over Sean Cavanagh in the Tyrone QF was sublime, yet despite Cavanaghs season ending there and then and McGarrity playing three more games , it was Sean who got the All Star. Wrong wrong wrong, as Maggie might say.

    Again his pure football cleaned out Dublins Whelan in 2006 . Now that was an interesting player who seemed to have the knack of avoiding referees cards when it came to his mode of “tackling”. Meaths Crawford was stopped in his tracks with a nasty foul and soon enough so too was McGarrity. The consolation for me being that Dave Brady sat Whelan on his arse with a belt the second they met after that “tackle”.

    And that perhaps was the one single club Ronan possibly could have done with. He played the game in a manly style and in a basketball style where skill counts paramount. In Gaelic skill can be like a sign on your back writ large “Kick me please”. Injuries and illness blighted him as WJ pointed out since 2007. I was surprised and of course delighted to see him add a bit of venom to his game in a league match V Galway in Tuam a couple of years ago. Big Barry Cullinane tried to wrestle him and horse him around but Ronan was his match.

    Like many Mayo players, including the recently retired Billy Joe, they leave the stage without the true measure of their worth being reflected in gold. Ronan McGarrity for me bridged an enormous gap for us when we were short of a strong ball winning midfielder. That contribution alone is worthy of a greatful thanks.

  2. Many thanks to Ronan for the great memories, one of the countries best midfielders in my opinion from 04-08, such a shame he never managed to get that celtic cross, will always remember some outstanding performances from Ronan particularly against the Tribesmen, I remember a few years ago a mate of mine from Galway described him as a class act and the one player from the Mayo team that he most wished was playing for them.

    I think perhaps our deep well of talent around the midfield area at the moment may be one of the reasons he has called it a day, the likes of Moran, the two O’Sheas and Gibbons have moved ahead of him in the pecking order over the last 12 months.
    Best of luck in the future to him

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