Improving Cian Lynch personifies Limerick's progress
Two-time All-Ireland U-21 winner now fitter, faster, stronger and more productive
Cian Lynch in action during the victory over Tipperary at the Gaelic Grounds. “We’ve 100 per cent belief in ourselves and the management team.” Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho
No player better personifies the progress of Limerick hurling this season than Cian Lynch. Fitter, faster, stronger, more productive.
Three years ago, on a similarly balmy sunny day in May, a definitely skinner Lynch attended an U-21 hurling event and spoke about his own ambitions with Limerick, partly based on the tales he was born and raised on.
It began with Limerick’s famous Munster hurling semi-final win over Clare in 1996, when Lynch was aged about six months, and being held in the arms of his mother Valerie. Clare were defending All-Ireland champions, red-hot favourites, and poised for victory, until Limerick brilliantly triumphed at the death – thanks to the now legendary fetch, run and winning point from captain Ciarán Carey.
So unfolded the slightly less legendary tale of Valerie throwing her infant son into the air, and very nearly missing him on the way down. There was also a perfectly good reason for his mother’s enthusiasm, given Carey is her brother.
Lynch is particularly proud of the Carey connection, not just of Ciarán but Pa Carey too, who also starred with Limerick in the 1990s.
Lynch has grown up a lot since then. Later in 2015, he won an All-Ireland U-21 title with Limerick, and added a second last year.
Now aged 22, and not nearly as skinny, he’s shifted from the forward line to midfield this year, playing a central role in Limerick’s promotion from division 1B, and also in their opening win over Tipperary in the Munster hurling championship first round.
“After losing to Tipp in the league semi-final, it was about bouncing back and getting off to good start in the Munster championship,” he says. “Lucky enough, we got over Tipp but there was nothing won, no medals for it, no Munster championship sorted in one game.
“And you never play a bad Tipp team, and there’s no point saying it’s a bad Tipp team. We knuckled down and came out on top but I know for a fact that they’ll bounce back and they’ll be there or thereabouts at the end of the Munster championship and the All-Ireland series. We just backed ourselves and we’ll take every game as it comes, like we’ve been doing all year. Hopefully we can keep going.”
Beyond bringing that enthusiasm and some extra kgs to his game (he weighed about 76kg when first joining the senior panel, in 2015, and is up to 85kg now), Lynch has extra confidence too, built over the unbeaten start to the season, which only ended with that league semi-final defeat to Tipp.
“That small piece of belief has maybe been lacking in the last few years. A lot of times we’ve got carried away by wins. We need to move away from that and focus on every week, which is important in the new championship. We’re playing Cork on a Saturday and then Waterford and Clare. There’s no point dwelling on the games that are past. It’s about looking forward at whatever’s coming at you.”
Also graduating from the U-21 teams over the last three years are Richie English, Seán Finn, Diarmuid Byrnes, Gearóid Hegarty, Darragh O’Donovan and Tom Morrissey.
“You’d hope that would be the natural process but it’s not always as straightforward as that. Back in the 2000s, we had good U-21s but never really pushed on to winning at senior level. I know we’d a great win last week but things are very open still. We’re hoping we can keep it up and keep the confidence going.
“The big aim is to try and win something but it doesn’t happen overnight, either. You’ve to keep that constant flow and constant belief that you are as good as other teams out there. It’s not enough to stand back and admire teams; it’s about looking up and competing and playing to your best.
“There is a belief there now. If you don’t believe in yourself and your team you’re not going anywhere. We’ve 100 per cent belief in ourselves and the management team. That’s what it’s about – enjoying your hurling too.