It's been one seamless pattern for Cian Lynch. After a sparkling minor and schools career spot-lit by the fact that his uncle Ciarán Carey was one of Limerick's great players, he stepped up to Munster senior championship with on Sunday and reeled off a debut performance that earned him the RTE man-of-the-match award.
"He's brilliant," said team-mate Gavin O'Mahony, one of Limerick's most experienced players. "He's a great lad; he's very honest and unassuming. Every night he comes into training and keeps his head down. To look at him, you'd think he was going to be the next David Beckham but even when he comes in training, there's no airs or graces.
“He comes in and works very hard, trying to get his place on the team. He was a great outlet for us [against Clare on Sunday]; he won a lot of even 50-50 balls, good possession. He was very clever and used the ball very well. Any player that does that – who’s playing for the team – is good.”
Named at corner forward, he played most of the match in a more withdrawn position but ended up with three points from play and was fouled for a couple of converted frees.
Just last September Lynch captained the county’s minors in the All-Ireland final, which was lost against Kilkenny, but he collected three points from play and maintained his promising reputation with another excellent display.
All-Ireland-winning player and manager Eamonn Cregan was a selector with Lynch's minor teams and he says that the player's temperament is an asset. "I got to know him very well as a minor and have been keeping an eye on him since he was 13 and even then you could see the talent. He has a brilliant hurling brain but as importantly for a young player, he's very grounded. I know his parents Seán and Valerie and they make sure his feet are planted on the ground.
“I wasn’t at all surprised that he took it in his stride. Cian went in to an All-Ireland minor final as captain and did himself justice, which isn’t as easy as it sounds. I did the same in 1963 except that my legs wouldn’t move once I got on the pitch. The occasion was just too much for me.”
Lynch’s technical ability is clear. Against Clare he was able to execute skills without inhibition, flicking the ball over defenders’ heads and running on to it – but always for a constructive purpose. “He’s very confident,” says Cregan, “but also level-headed. He wouldn’t do that sort of thing for show.
"When he comes to training, he trains properly. He enjoys himself but he takes it seriously and I'm sure TJ [Ryan, Limerick manager] must have seen that at some stage during the training sessions, 'this guy is ready for senior championship'. Now, at 19, there'd be apprehension for a player but the way the modern game has gone, it gives younger players a chance to come in.
“Waterford are an example of that. Austin Gleeson made the same sort of impact in his championship debut last year when he was also 19. Clare, the year before, won an All-Ireland.”
Lynch’s first two points were scored in the first half when Limerick were keeping their noses in front. They were well-taken scores but the third was a more vital intervention.
In the minutes that followed their goal, Limerick conceded 1-1 and had replacement Seán Tobin sent off as soon as he arrived on the field.
With two points between the teams, Lynch stepped up and took on as formidable a defender as David McInerney and managed to get away a scoring shot in tight circumstances.
Punishment “The thing about Cian is that he can take punishment – and give it, within the rules,” says Cregan. “And he’s very, very cool under pressure.
“He has that ability to hold the hurley short and get off a wristy stroke and even though he was being put under pressure by the Clare defence, he’d always have the ability to score. If that wasn’t on, he also has the ability to let it off to somebody else close by.
“He’s totally aware of what’s going on around him; he’s great lateral vision.”
That vision and awareness have been honed by a hurling career constantly played out at the elite level from schools' grade and onwards. Cregan has also been involved at third-level, as coach in Mary Immaculate College of Education, and says that Lynch's potential is vast.
“I played him at centre back for Mary I in Freshers. No problem – I asked him how he felt and he just said, ‘I’ll do that’.
“He can play anywhere, centrefield, but I wouldn’t put him out there at county level just yet. I think he’s more dangerous closer to goal within scoring distance, but I wouldn’t confine him.
“He has the ability to make it to the top. He’s on a learning curve but he will learn well and he’ll learn fast.”