Kevin Ryan standing down as Antrim hurling manager

Kevin Ryan took on the Antrim job in 2012
As a player Ryan won five Waterford county titles with his club Mount Sion

Kevin Ryan has announced that he will step down as Antrim hurling manager when the county's involvement in the All-Ireland Under-21 Championship ends.

The Waterford man's decision is not a surprise after a dismal 2015 for the Ulster title holders.

The Saffrons suffered relegation to Division 2A of the Hurling League and then demotion to the Christy Ring Cup.

Antrim's Under-21 team will take on Wexford in the All-Ireland semi-finals on 22 August.

Unless there is a repeat of the Ulster county's shock win over the same opposition in 2013, Ryan's stint will then end.

"It has been a poor year for Antrim senior hurling," he said on Monday night.

"That's apart from early league form and a fantastic display against Laois."

However, following that home win over Laois in the Leinster Championship, Antrim collapsed to a heavy loss against unheralded Westmeath and a further ignominious defeat by Carlow confirmed their demotion to the second-tier Christy Ring Cup.

Kevin Ryan facts
Mostly as a midfielder, played for Waterford senior hurling team from 1980 until 1989Was manager of the Carlow side which beat Down in the 2009 Christy Ring final at Croke Park
Recruited 2003 World Indoor 400m bronze medallist Paul McKee as Antrim's fitness trainerTravelling to Antrim from his Waterford home meant a round trip of eight hours

Ryan came to the Antrim job with a highly impressive CV when he was appointed in September 2012.

His first competitive game in charge saw Antrim go down to an unlucky league reverse in Limerick but the 2013 championship campaign was short as an opening Leinster SHC win over Westmeath was followed by defeats by Laois and Wexford.

The biggest achievement of Ryan's reign did come later in 2013 as his Under-21 side shocked Wexford in the All-Ireland semi-finals before shipping a heavy defeat against a star-studded Clare side in the decider.

In 2014, Antrim lost all their group games in Division 1B of the league but retained their top-tier status thanks to a relegation play-off win over Offaly.

Ryan's side won all their games in last summer's newly-formulated Leinster preliminary round group but were then hammered by Wexford before their 2014 season ended with a narrow qualifier defeat by Offaly.

Kevin Ryan talks to his Antrim players after a hurling league match in 2014
Kevin Ryan talks to his Antrim players after a hurling league match in 2014

This year, team captain Neil McManus spoke optimistically about the team's prospects prior to the National League but the 2015 campaign instead witnessed an all-time low for Antrim hurling with the senior team's double demotion.

After a narrow opening defeat in Wexford, Antrim's league form collapsed alarmingly as they eventually suffered relegation after play-off losses against Laois and Kerry.

The Leinster Championship win over Laois then proved a false dawn as the drop to the Christy Ring Cup was confirmed by their defeats by Westmeath and Carlow.

Ryan's side did manage to extend Antrim's unbroken run of Ulster senior titles to 14 but that didn't mask their struggles at national level.

In his resignation statement Ryan, who had previously indicated he would stay for another year, said a vast amount of change was needed to revitalise Antrim hurling.

"It needs a clear pathway for the next three years or more. Starting that process in my last year may not suit my successor," he added.

"I would like to thank Frankie Quinn and the board, all those who helped and supported me in the backroom team and some seriously dedicated supporters for their support in the past three years.

"In particular, I would like to thank and pay tribute to the players for their continued efforts and support for both Antrim and myself.

"I wish them all the success their efforts deserve."

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