Mascot to mainstay: Cian Lynch looking to add more good memories with Patrickswell

Limerick star will lead out his side against Kilmallock as they chase 21st county title

There is a lasting image in his own head of that special day Cian Lynch was paraded out with Patrickswell before the Limerick county hurling final. It being the 2003 final, when Lynch was a mere whippet of a seven-year-old and the intention was he'd bring the club good luck.

Which he did – Patrickswell extending their record number of wins to 18 after beating Adare, 1-3 to 0-14, Lynch already boasting strong ties to the team given it was built around his uncles Ciarán, Paul, Pa, Seán and Nigel Carey, all stalwarts during a golden era for the club in the 1980s and 1990s. The perfect baptism of sorts.

Only the luck didn't quite last, and Patrickswell didn't win back the Limerick title until 2016, at which point Lynch had already established himself a young leader of the team. They won title number 20 in 2019, and this Sunday look to make it 21 when Lynch leads them out in the 2021 county showdown against Kilmallock.

They’ll start as 1-2 favourites, in part after taking out defending champions Na Piarsaigh earlier this month, while Kilmallock are playing in their first final since 2017.

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For Lynch it has the makings of another special day on several fronts: after winning a third All-Ireland with Limerick in four years, his astonishing performance in the final (0-6 from play etc) leaving him frontrunner for hurler of the year, it's the chance to sign off another dream season with the players he grew up with; it will also be the club's first final since his uncle Paul Carey was killed in a car accident last year, aged only 41.

“For us to be able to go back to your club after winning the All-Ireland is unreal, it’s such an honour,” says Lynch. “It’s where you began your hurling days. To be able to do it after a massive high is huge too.

“And I suppose a lot of us that have been soldiering together on the pitch all year have been going out playing against each other now. It’s nice to battle with each other and look, I suppose, every game you win is a great game.

“We’ve had battles with Kilmallock down through the years and they’re a massive outfit, they have great strength in depth. For us it’s just about focusing on ourselves and just trying to bring our game to them because we know they’re brilliant, they have a massive team. We just have to keep driving on.”

In ways Lynch gives the sense of unfinished business about the season, that only another club title would be the perfect bookend to the year.

“Yeah, we were probably disappointed with the way last year finished as well. We’d have liked to have driven on and went on and pushed again but that’s just the way it goes. And as I say, Limerick championship is massively competitive. Every year, there is always a new team putting their hand up. For us it’s just about focusing on ourselves and trying to push again.

“And 2003 is a long time ago now, Paul was captain that day. I suppose it was massive. Going back to growing up and looking at your heroes, those guys, my uncles, and the players who played in that era were my heroes. I used to go to the club games, and obviously looking up to the likes of Paul, and all the rest of them. Massive memories to have and to cherish.

“When you grow up and you are dreaming of representing your club and wearing the club jersey, and to be in a position to wear it out on the pitch and representing the local area is huge. That’s the cycle of life. You keep going and try to push things as much as you can.”

Speaking at the launch of John West Féile 2021, with 50th anniversary events taking place at Croke Park and Thurles over Halloween, Lynch is also viewing a time to put down his hurl completely: "I will, for a few weeks anyway, to be able to recharge and get that appetite back because it is all about freshness and being able to go back and put the foot down and go all at it again. Just getting away from the hustle and bustle of trying to be in top shape so you can go back with that bit of appetite."