By Cian Manning
On 14th February 1906 Martin Ronan was born at 13 Usher’s Island by the River Liffey in Dublin city to John (a labourer) and Anastasia Ronan. By 1911 the Ronan family now numbering 10 (nearly enough for a soccer team) were living at Brandon Terrace on Usher Quay and Martin played football and hurling for School Street N.S. Inevitably young Martin entered work at the St. James’s Gate Brewery which was just a ten minute walk from his childhood home. From early on, Ronan became involved in the sporting activities of the Guinness club as he noted ‘I was a messenger boy for the Gate team when I was a youngster, and eventually graduated to play in goal for them.’ Around the same time in the early 1920s, Ronan took up boxing after impressing in a gym session under Dan Voyles and was subsequently entered into the Irish Senior Championships.
Ronan competed in the Middleweight Division and was defeated by Jack Chase but such a loss didn’t impede him representing Ireland in Britain and Scandinavia as well as competing at the British Commonwealth tournament in Cardiff. Such was Ronan’s durability that one evening he fought in four bouts for the brewery boxing club against a Trinity selection. The Guinness storeman claimed victory in all of them including against a 16-stone heavyweight. Sadly an Irish Championship eluded him as he was beaten three times in the deciding bout for the National Middleweight Division. One of his great disappointments was his semi-final performances in the 1928 Tailteann Games when he was defeated by Welshman Blackwell.
In soccer, Martin Ronan played primarily in the Leinster and Munster Senior Leagues and was picked for both provincial selections. The goalkeeper had a three year spell with Fords at Cork between 1928 and 1931 though his appearances in the League of Ireland were few due to the efforts of the Tractors Boys Willie O’Hagan between the posts. O’Hagan had played for St. Mirren and Norwich City and received 2 caps for Ireland (IFA); one against England in 1919 and his last came versus Wales the following year. His uncle was Charlie O’Hagan who played for Everton and Tottenham Hotspur and received 11 international caps. The older O’Hagan went on to manage Norwich and Sevilla in the early ‘20s.
With playing second-fiddle to O’Hagan, Ronan would line-out for Cobh Ramblers in the Munster Senior League (making the switch from Fordsons in the Spring of 1930) which caused considerable attention in the Dublin papers. During his time in the Rebel County, Ronan claimed Munster League and Cup honours with Fordsons B which he noted as ‘…more than I can say for my spell with St. James’s Gate, with whom I won nothing.’ In a retrospective interview Martin Ronan claims the honours came while at Cobh which is not accurate but probably reflects a fondness for his time there. Later Ronan played for Brideville where he won a Leinster Senior League title in 1932/33. During the summer he swam and became brewery champion and competed in water polo with the Half Moon Club. Tis fair to say Ronan was a remarkable Rambler.