In his teens, J. J. Ryan worked at a lime kiln near his home and was often sent by his fellow workers to a shop in Bansha, and he would run the entire way, getting back quicker than seemed possible to his co-workers. They advised him to take up athletics and from 1915-26 he won Irish titles from 880 yards up to 4 miles, and was also Irish cross-country champion three times. In 1925 Ryan had his greatest year, placing second at the International Cross-Country Championship and winning the Berlin International cross-country meet. Ryan started out with Dromline Athletic Club but joined Tipperary Athletic Club in 1923. Ryan was a successful farmer at Cordangan, Tipperary, and regularly won ribbons at local agricultural shows. A few weeks prior to his death, he was chosen for the Knocknagow Award, given to an outstanding Tipperary sportsperson, although it would be awarded posthumously.
Personal Best: 10000 – unknown.