P.A Announcer – Gerry Ryan Interview

You can’t avoid the dulcet tones of Gerry Ryan anytime you visit the Showgrounds for a League of Ireland Premier Division game or indeed a Women’s Premier Division outing, but not too many supporters would be aware that his preferred option when asked to take over the duties of the PA was to take on the role of Benny the Bull.

However, the persuasive skill of one Robert Fitzpatrick convinced the Tipperary native to ‘give it a go for a week or two just to help out’ and, like most things that are Sligo Rovers-related, the ‘week or two’ has, so far, turned into about six years.

Not only is Gerry on announcement duty, but his son Donal could be on LOITV duty or commentating for the local radio station, OCEAN FM.

And like many supporters of Sligo Rovers, Gerry can well recall the first time he had the opportunity to see the Bit O’Red in action, and on that occasion he most definitely wasn’t cheering for the League of Ireland champions back in 1977 in the birthplace of the GAA.

Gerry takes up the story, with a certain amount of delight.

“My first Sligo Rovers encounter was actually at the Greyhound Stadium in Thurles for the opening game of the 1977 /1978 season, I went along there with a few of my friends and we were all supporting Thurles Town,” he stated emphatically as he recalled the ‘glory days’ of a team that graced the League of Ireland from that memorable first day until 1982.

“I’m from Tipperary and I can remember that game, there was great excitement locally at the time, especially with the visit of the League of Ireland champions, the mighty Sligo Rovers, it was a big game.

“It didn’t go well for Thurles that day, Sligo Rovers won 5-1, Tony Fagan and Paul McGee were amongst the goalscorers, we finished bottom of the 16 teams that season.

“We did a good bit of travelling while Thurles Town were in the League of Ireland, we’d be going to games in Dublin, Galway, Cork, Athlone, all the usual venues from that era.

“The first game Thurles won was a 1-0 victory against Bohemians at the Greyhound Stadium, we got great value out of that as Bohs had drawn a pre-season friendly with Man Utd a few weeks before they played us.

“When we analysed our win in the pub after the game, well you can imagine where the conversation went, great memories,” he added.

And Gerry ventured to Sligo occasionally as well, but it wasn’t all football-related. 

“I had never been to Sligo, never mind to the Showgrounds, but a few of us went to the Boys of Ballisodare Festival in 1980 or 1981, we were all going on the beer as well as for the music,” suggested Gerry. 

“I eventually got a bit of a liking for Sligo and used to travel there on a regular basis, I was working in Naas with the P&T (Department of Posts & Telegraphs), and it was reasonably straightforward to get there.

“The games against Cobh Ramblers in the FAI Cup in 1983, they were memorable, but with the extra-time and all that it used to put a bit of pressure on the timetable for getting the bus or train back to Naas,” he recalled.

And just explain how you were coaxed into taking on the role of stadium announcer.

“Robert Fitzpatrick used to do the public address and we do a lot of stuff together in the theatre, the Hawks Well,” explained Gerry.

“He asked if I would take over and do the announcements for the games, my first reaction was that I told him I’d prefer to do something like Benny the Bull because no one would actually know who it was.

“I eventually agreed to try it out for some of the pre-season friendlies, that would be maybe six or seven years ago.

“When I started doing it, I found that I actually enjoyed it and it sort of developed from there.

“I think the first game I did was for the Liverpool under-21s, that was in 2016 and I was an instant hit, or maybe it was because that there was no else,” he said.

All joking aside, the role of the stadium announcer is an important part of match night and the supporters need to be kept informed before, during and after the game, so with a responsibility like that, what are the main duties?

“There are a few things that have to be on the list for a match night, the first is to get there before kick-off,” said Gerry.

“I’d arrive in good time to get ready and the first item on the list that needs to be mentioned would be the match sponsor and the ball sponsor, that would be very important.

“The team sheet for the game, announcing the starting teams, substitutes, added time at the end of the first-half, second-half, that’s all relevant to the match night and it’s important to keep the spectators informed, that’s what they expect.

“The winner of the half-time raffle has to be announced and the prizemoney has to be handed over.

“Quite often supporters would come up to the press box asking for birthday announcements, that type of thing, and then the mascots and things like that have to be on the list.

“I also have to watch out for some of the ‘smart guys’ as I’ll call them, handing in a note with something that wouldn’t actually be either true or appropriate to announce,” he cautioned.

Gerry is multi-talented, not his own words, but nevertheless, credit where it’s due.

“I’m into the theatre in a big way, I have an international award for acting,” he explained.

“I won an award for best actor at an international festival in the Isle of Man, the role was Captain Boyle in Juno and the Paycock.

“I would have been doing a lot of stage work back in the day with Everyman Productions in the Hawks Well, I probably would have to rebrand that to Everyperson Productions now, just to be PC.

“I still do a lot of lighting for the stage and that type of thing, but my son Donal is also involved most match nights at the Showgrounds.

“Donal did media studies through Irish in Galway and then he did a masters in sports journalism.

“He is really into the sport and he’s with Ocean FM now, he got to go to the Viking game in Norway for Ocean FM last year, that was a great opportunity for him.

“He’s doing well with the commentating, but he does a lot of preparatory work beforehand, that’s very important, to have the facts and figures ready before the game starts.

“I have one other son, Dermot, he lives in Collinstown in Westmeath and one daughter, Sinead,” added Gerry.

There are some games that the Ryan family attended as supporters of the club that remain memorable to this day.

“We used to go to the games together and we have great memories, the usual ones like the FAI Cup final wins at the Aviva Stadium and the League success in 2012,” stated Gerry.

“However, the FAI Cup semi-final win against Bohs in 2010, that was some performance from the team, that was a very good team.

“We also had a great seat for that memorable Joey Ndo flick here in the Showgrounds, it was against UCD, you never knew what Joey might do, but it was always entertaining.

“We have a What’s App group for the Sligo Rovers games, there’s about a dozen of us in it and it’s always hopping when there is a game on.

“Looking at Sligo Rovers, I suppose the most noticeable thing is the number of managers that go through the club, I suppose that’s just football.

“One thing I was very disappointed with was the way Johnny Kenney went to Celtic, I felt he should have stayed here for another season or two, but that’s football and I sincerely hope that it all works out well for him,” said Gerry.

Getting out the old crystal ball, and Gerry has a number of items that he would like to see completed over the next three or four years.

“Looking into the future, I hope that the plans for the stadium development are completed in time for the centenary of the club, it will be a marvellous stadium and a marvellous venue for football,” he suggested.

“Less ambitious, but equally important, is the fact that we managed to get an upgrade for the PA.

“Myself and a friend, Barry McKinney, we did the best we could with some new equipment, but we also had to recognise that all this stuff will likely be changed and upgraded anyway with then new stadium.

Sometimes it’s a bit hit and miss in the away stand; we are trying to find where the problem is and once we find it we can fix it.

“Then there is the music, Donal (son) did a playlist for me and it’s on a CD, so that’s fairly simple for match nights.

“We have the Johnny Chadda / 2001 A Space Odyssey for the entrance of the teams, that’s real dramatic and it will sound so much better in the new stadium on the new PA.

“I knew Johnny well, he had a great way of selling the tickets, you’d ask on the way in “How much are the tickets Johnny” and you could be taking out a fiver and quick as a flash would come the answer – “Oh, that’ll cover it” and the fiver would disappear.

“Men like Johnny Chadda and Packie McGowan, they kept the club going when it wasn’t easy.

“I’d have to say that the Sligo Rovers supporters are the best supporters in the League, whenever there is a crisis, usually finance, they always come up with the goods.

“Look at the funds that were raised during the Covid 19 season, €85,000, and most of that would have been people handing over fivers and tenners.

“I’m very impressed with our team this year and I’d be looking at a top three finish, top four at worst, I like what I see at the moment and I think they will improve as a team as the season goes on.

“There might be a speed wobble or two, but we’ll get there, Europe is where the money is.

“A group of us went to Motherwell for the first leg of the European game, we went by car and ferry, it was the best outing ever with Sligo Rovers, it was probably bettered by the second leg, but memorable. “Donal gave me a montage of photographs for Christmas and one of the photos is the scoreboard from that first leg – MOTHERWELL 0, SLIGO ROVERS 1 – that’s a great memory, but there are more to come and plenty to look forward to,” he concluded.