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Ballyclare Primary School

50 years of National Allianz CnmB: Ryan ‘Ricey’ McMenamin

29th Nov 2021

Ryan McMenamin


Ryan ‘Ricey’ McMenamin attended Curley Primary School, Dromore, from 1983- 1988. He has won five Ulster Championships, 3 All-Irelands and was an All-Star in 2005


I began my primary school career at Curley PS, Dromoreduring my P2 year. I was actually born in Canada as my parents had emigrated there after they were married. They spent a total of 9 years there and returned to Dromore in 1982 when I was 6 or 7 years of age. On returning, I attended Curley PS where Marion Meehan was principal.
My earliest memory of playing Gaelic football was in P3 being stuck in nets by my neighbour Eamon Goodwin who was in P7 at the time due to a shortage of players at the school. From the minute I started kicking the gaelic ball I developed a keen interest in it. My father, who had stayed on in Canada for a few months after we came back, arrived home and I must have been plaguing him to practise with me because he was always taking me out to the garden and showing me the basic skills of Gaelic, picking the ball up, soloing and kicking


At Curley PS we had a small pitch to play on. Alongside the pitch was a shuck where sewage must have been running. It didn’t stop us from playing, though. Eventually, a fence was erected alongside the shuck, but even so myself or some of the boys climbed over it to retrieve the ball on the many occasions it was kicked into it. Now it happened that the shuck was always stinking and many boys fell into it while fetching the ball. The stench would have carried into the classroom for everyone to enjoy when lessons were resumed!

Being a typical small school there was just one big game played during break and lunch-time where pupils from all P4-P7 joined in. Boys whom I recall being great footballers in the yard were Aidan Goodwin and Damien McAloon. My neighbour Liam O’Neill was big into football also, and I just wanted to tag along with those boys and play football with them.

On one particular occasion during my P5 year the children in the school began to give each other all sorts of nicknames. For some unknown reason, I was given the name ‘Ricey’ and I never knew who made it up nor could I understand from where it came. Anyhow, not long after, we were playing a match against another school who had a lad called Ryan McCann whose nickname was also ‘Ricey’. So throughout the game both teams were shouting at ‘Ricey’ to do this or ‘Ricey’ to do that. It was both confusing and hilarious at the same time. As it happened, myself and ‘Ricey’ McCann ended up in the same class at St. John’s Secondary, Dromore.  He lost the name from then and I have retained it to this day!


It was around that time that Francie Mulgrew from Ballygawley, who was appointed by the County Board, began to come to our school for coaching sessions in Gaelic. It was also the time when our school began to play in a competitive league with schools in our area. It was the time when Cumann na mBunscol was first organised in the county, and schools were grouped according to locality and size to play competitive football. I recall playing games against neighbouring schools like Tummery PS, Tattyreagh PS,Tallysallagh PS, Drumlish PS, and Knocknagor PS.

Colm McCullough played for Tummery PS, and even then despite being quite small, was a standout player that I remember. Tummery PS had always the best team even though in one year they had two girls playing. One was Kitty McGoldrick, sister of former Tyrone player John McGoldrick, and also Nuala Gormley. Both girls were worthy of their place as they were as skilful as any of the boys on either team.

One particular game I remember in my P6 year was against Tattysallagh which was played up at their school. Tattysallagh was only a two-classroom school, so one of the classes had to leave their room while we got changed. Jumpers were used as goalposts and I was marked by a player called Enda McFarland. Enda was much taller than me but our school managed to win that game. Years later on my first day at Omagh Tech one of the first fellow students I ran into was none other than Enda McFarland. His first words to me were, “Jaysus, you’ve got tall, you used to be up to my elbow!“


I also recall a particular match against Tattyreagh PS. From what I remember they had to beat us to win the league otherwise Tummery would be champions. The match ended in a draw. Tummery, with Colm McCullough,’ were crowned champions and I had a ‘falling out’ with some of the Darcy boys!! Colm still likes to remind me that Tummery were the outstanding school of that period!


The interest in promoting Gaelic games was very much evident in our school around that time. It was in the period after Tyrone’s appearance in the All-Ireland Final in 1986 and our principal Mrs Meehan was very keen for us to be taking part in any competitions that would have been available. Also, with Francis Mulgrew coming to our school each Friday morning, interest in Gaelic was very high among the pupils. When I was in P7 I have great memories of some very good footballers for our school from that time. Cillian O’Neill and Feargal Quinn, now a teacher in CBS, Omagh, were excellent along with my neighbour Liam O’Neill. At that time there was only an U12 team at club level (no u10s or below) which meant that boys from aged 9 or over and who attended different schools in the parish would have got to know each other at training. This led to good-natured banter where school rivalries were evident among the boys, and school matches were eagerly awaited as an opportunity to put one over your Dromore club-mates. Colm McCullough’s ability was very obvious to me and everyone else at that time. Even at 9 years of age he was a major player on the u12 team and his ability to score points was second to none. One other player who impressed me was Ryan Hannigan who was to become an All-Ireland Champion boxer. Despite his undoubted ability, for some reason he showed little interest in playing club football.


I had a keen interest in the fortune of the Tyrone senior team during that time. I recall going to the 1988 Ulster Final where Tyrone played Monaghan. My abiding memory of the 1988 final was the outstanding performance of Noel McGinn at centre half-back. My memory is of him showing no fear; competing and winning every ball he went for and generally being a tower of strength in the Tyrone defence. Noel ended up managing me at Dromore and I never did tell him of my admiration of his performance because he would probably never let me live it down!!!

Going back to the school after we won the first All-Ireland in 2003 was a very special occasion for me. The school had a whole Tyrone day arranged. It was beautifully decorated and I took a coaching session with the children and had photographs with the Sam Maguire Cup. It was great to see my old school again and it was amazing that as a pupil at the school I had thought the football field was enormous, but seeing it again on that day as an adult it wasn’t anywhere close to the size that I had imagined as a child!

Curley PS will always have a special place in my heart, especially as it is no longer there. It is the place where I enjoyed Gaelic football for the first time and provided me with the experiences and friendships I have retained to this day. I enjoy watching the young children of our parish down at the pitch at their coaching sessions knowing that the future of our club is secure in their hands in the years ahead….”



                                                    Ryan McMenamin