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.