|Irish name||Niall Ó Rónáin|
1 September 1979|
Ballyhea, County Cork, Ireland
|Height||5 ft 10 in (1.78 m)|
|*Inter County team apps and scores correct as of 19:21, 22 October 2014.|
Born in Ballyhea, County Cork, Ronan first excelled at hurling whilst at school at St. Colman's College. He arrived on the inter-county scene at the age of sixteen when he first linked up with the Cork minor team, before later joining the under-21 hurling side. He made his senior debut during the 1999 championship. Ronan went on to play a key part for Cork, and won two All-Ireland medals and three Munster medals. He was an All-Ireland runner-up on one occasion.
Ronan's brother, Darren, also played for Cork.
Throughout his career Ronan made 28 championship appearances. He retired from inter-county hurling in 2009.
Neil Ronan was born in Ballyhea, County Cork in 1979. He was educated at the local national school in Ballyhea before later attending St. Colman's College, a famous hurling nursery in Fermoy. It was here that Ronan's hurling skills were further developed. By the time he entered senior cycle he had established himself as a key member of the forward line on the school's senior hurling team. Ronan won a Dr. Harty Cup winners' medal in 1996, before later lining out in the All-Ireland final. Mighty St. Kieran's College of Kilkenny provided the opposition and secured a 1–14 to 2–6 victory. St. Colman's retained the Harty Cup in 1997 before qualifying for a second consecutive All-Ireland final. Good Counsel of New Ross were the opponents on that occasion, however, the game turned into an absolute rout. St. Colman's were much too strong and powered their way to a 4–20 to 0–9 victory. The win gave Ronan a coveted All-Ireland colleges' winners' medal.
Following his secondary schooling Ronan studied at the Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT). Here his hurling career developed further, along with such players as Michael Kavanagh, Dave Bennett and Henry Shefflin. In his first year in college Ronan made the senior team and lined out in the Fitzgibbon Cup final. An exciting 4–15 to 3–12 defeat of University College Cork gave Ronan a winners' medal in the inter-varsities competition.
After graduating from college Ronan worked as a quantity surveyor.
Ronan played his club hurling with his local club in Ballyhea. He made his underage debut at the age of eight, and was quickly recognised as one of the club's brightest prospects.
In 1995 Ronan had only just turned sixteen when he lined out in the final of the cork senior championship against Na Piarsaigh. The game turned out be a disappointing one for the north Cork side as Ballyhea were defeated by 1–12 to 3–1.
After a number of years in the top grade of Cork hurling, Ballyhea were relegated to the county intermediate championship.
Minor and under-21
Ronan's talent at club level brought him to the attention of the Cork inter-county selectors. He subsequently went on to join various county underage teams, winning under-14 and under-16 hurling honours with his native-county. Ronan later joined the Cork minor hurling team, however, he enjoyed little success in this grade.
In 1998 Ronan was a fringe player on the Cork under-21 team. He did come on as a substitute to collect a Munster winners' medal following a 3–18 to 1–10 victory over Tipperary. For the third year in-a-row Cork played in the All-Ireland final and, for the second consecutive year, Galway were the opponents. Ronan was introduced as a sub once again and, in a close game, Cork just about secured a 2–15 to 2–10 win. It was Ronan's first All-Ireland under-21 winners' medal.
Ronan was just out of the minor ranks and still an under-21 player when he made his senior championship debut with Cork in 1999. That year Cork were back in their first Munster final since 1992 and Ronan was named in the left wing-forward position. Clare, the team that had won three of the last four provincial titles, together with two All-Ireland titles, provided the opposition and were very much the favourites going into the game. An exciting contest unfolded with Joe Deane scoring a key goal after an excellent pass from Seánie McGrath. A score line of 1–15 to 0–14 gave Cork the victory and gave Ronan his first senior Munster title. Cork later defeated Offaly in one of the games of the year to set up an All-Ireland final meeting with arch-rivals Kilkenny. A wet and windy day meant that the classic game that everyone expected failed to materialise. Both sides shot seventeen wides over the course of the seventy minutes as a young and inexperienced Cork came back from five points down to win by 0–13 to 0–12, however, Ronan failed to score. It was Cork's first senior All-Ireland title since 1990 and it was Ronan's first.
In 2000 Cork were the favourites to retain their All-Ireland title. The team got off to a good start by retaining their Munster title, however, Tipperary put up a good fight. Cork won by 0–23 to 3–12 as Ronan added a second Munster winners' medal to his collection. Cork's next game was an All-Ireland semi-final meeting with Offaly. While Cork were expected to win the game without breaking a sweat Offaly caught Cork on the hop and recorded a 0–19 to 0–15 win.
While the Cork hurling team should have gone from strength to strength as a result of a solid foundation at minor and under-21 levels the opposite happened. Embarrassing defeats in 2001 and 2002 saw Cork reach rock bottom and call a players' strike just before Christmas in 2002. Had the strike failed it could have meant the end of his and his teammates' careers, however, in the end the county board relented and met the demands. Although still amateur sportsmen the Cork senior hurling team were treated as professional athletes. In spite of the concessions won in the strike Ronan decided to walk away from hurling. In 2003 and 2004 he lived and worked in Australia.
In 2005 Ronan was back and reclaimed his place on Cork's starting fifteen. That year the team won back the provincial crown with a 1–12 to 1–16 victory over Tipperary. It was Ronan's third Munster winners' medal as Cork went on the march for glory once again. Cork qualified for the All-Ireland final once again after a tough semi-final against Clare. While it was expected that Cork and Kilkenny would do battle again in a third consecutive All-Ireland final Galway were the surprise winners of the second semi-final. It was the first meeting of Cork and Galway in an All-Ireland final since 1990 and even more daunting was the fact that men from the west had never beaten Cork in a championship decider. Once again neither side broke away into a considerable lead, however, at the final whistle Cork were ahead by 1–21 to 1–16 with Ben O'Connor scoring the goal. For the second year in-a-row Cork were the All-Ireland champions and Ronan collected his second winners' medal.
2006 saw Cork turn their attentions to a first three-in-a-row of All-Ireland titles since 1978. Ronan, however, lost his place on the starting fifteen but was used as an effective impact sub. He came on as a sub in Cork's 2–11 to 1–11 defeat of Tipperary to take his fourth Munster title. Subsequent victories over Limerick and Waterford saw Cork qualify for their fourth consecutive All-Ireland final and for the third time Kilkenny were the opponents. Like previous encounters neither side took a considerable lead, however, Kilkenny had a vital goal from Aidan Fogarty. Ronan started the game but failed to raise a white flag. Cork were in arrears coming into the final few minutes, however, Ben O'Connor goaled for Cork. It was too little too late as 'the Cats' denied 'the Rebels' the three-in-a-row on a score line of 1–16 to 1–13.
Ronan's final few years on the Cork team proved frustrating. After contesting four consecutive provincial and All-Ireland deciders between 2003 and 2006, Cork's next few seasons frequently saw the team in the All-Ireland qualifiers. Ronan, however, revelled in his role as an impact sub and developed his goal-scoring touch. He was ultimately frustrated at not being included on the Cork starting fifteen and decided to walk away from the set-up in 2009.
Ronan also had the honour of being called up to play with Munster in the inter-provincial series of games. He played with his province for the only time in 2001 as Munster beat Connacht by 1–21 to 1–15 to take the Railway Cup title.
- St. Colman's College
- Waterford Institute of Technology
- Fitzgibbon Cup (1): 1999
- All-Ireland Senior Hurling Championship (2): 1999, 2005
- Munster Senior Hurling Championship (3): 1999, 2005, 2006
- All-Ireland Under-21 Hurling Championship (1): 1998
- Munster Under-21 Hurling Championship (1): 1998
- Railway Cup (1): 2001
- "Cork's Neil Ronan". Hogan Stand. Retrieved 1 September 2010.
- "Back to school time for also-rans". Irish Independent. 22 October 2010. Retrieved 1 September 2010.
- "Sidelines: the Magazine of Waterford Institute of Technology GAA Club" (PDF). Waterford IT GAA. 1 September 1999. Retrieved 1 September 2010.
- "Senior Hurling Finals 1970 – present". Cork GAA site. Retrieved 1 September 2010.
- "Under-21 Hurling – Munster Final Winning Teams". Munster GAA. Archived from the original on 19 July 2008. Retrieved 1 September 2010.
- "The Banner is lowered as restless Rebels rule once more in Munster". Irish Examiner. 5 July 1999. Retrieved 20 April 2009.
- "Pay off for Barry Murphy". Irish Examiner. 13 September 1999. Retrieved 20 April 2009.
- "Cork's 49ers repel resilient Tipp". Irish Examiner. 27 June 2005. Retrieved 22 April 2009.
- "Double delight as Rebels triumph". Irish Examiner. 12 September 2005. Retrieved 22 April 2009.
- "Calm champions just won't let go". Irish Examiner. 26 June 2006. Retrieved 22 April 2009.
- "A glorious 29th for Kilkenny". Irish Examiner. 4 September 2006. Retrieved 22 April 2009.
- "Railway Cup Hurling Final Winning Teams". Munster GAA. Retrieved 2 September 2010.