Sport Gaelic Football

Tuesday 28 February 2017

Lyng's home thoughts from the Big Apple

Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

THINGS are good for Diarmuid 'Gizzy' Lyng just now. He's in New York, working just enough to cover his travel costs and squeezes in our phone call before he heads out for a game of beach volleyball of all things.

Free and easy.

"I'm trying everything, out here," said last year's Wexford hurling captain. "Baseball, lacrosse, American football. Different things."

The baseball went well enough, but hitting a round ball with a round bat is more difficult than he thought. In American football, the natives were impressed with his kick, so he was sent to the special teams where he punted. He had a run at receiver, too, and got "buried by some serious big men" -- but enjoyed it all.

Still, the GAA has the strongest pull of all. He spent last weekend in Gaelic Park in the colours of Kerry trying to keep tabs on former Monaghan All Star Tommy Freeman against Leitrim.

"He has serious gas and he had Rory Woods at centre-forward letting it into him," Lyng said.

"Sure those two are kicking about together for years. They beat us by three."

In hurling, his Offaly side beat Galway comfortably on their last outing, but Lyng isn't the typical import to the club scene in the States.

At 29, he's probably 10 years older than most of the J1 brigade, but that's the choice he made. Back in Wexford, he was a teacher, county captain and did a little bit of work for Eamonn Sayers' Sports Charitible Trust. But he left it all behind, to spread his wings and see some of the world.

"When you look at it one way, it's a dangerous time to go. I'm 29, bang in the middle of what should be your peak years and I left.

"I loved teaching, loved hurling for Wexford and playing for the club. It might turn out that I'll have regrets about leaving when I did. That might have been the end of hurling for Wexford for me, who knows."

Lyng was Wexford's go-to man for years, generally operating anywhere from five to 12.

He also took the frees and for the last couple of years he did it all while carrying a rare energy sapping illness which, thankfully, is now under control.

Gizzy made his debut in 2004 and gave it "seven good years," so it's understandable when he says the Kilkenny game was "hard" to watch. He's in touch with home and the team regularly and Colm Bonnar was on the phone in the build-up.

Lyng gave them every chance against the Cats.

"They had a few good results at the end of the league and I know they were doing savage work. Whatever else you say, those lads are giving serious commitment, serious effort.

"It's impossible not to get drawn into it still. There's nowhere like Wexford Park when it gets going. It's tight and noisy and a great place to bring teams."

He's seen most of the championship hurling. The games are re-run midweek on TV and he'll get to watch whatever he missed.

He's also kept a close eye on the county's footballers, for whom his little brother Ciaran is shooting the lights out for a swashbuckling, entertaining side. "Those lads are playing really well. And Ciaran is doing his own talking. The performances speak for themselves."

Lyng was asked to team up with the football squad once or twice, but never really considered it. He doesn't think he has the build for it and anyway, hurling is the first love.

And with Wexford taking on Limerick today in do-or-die championship fare, it was going to be another difficult week of 'what ifs' before perspective struck.

A childhood friend, Paul Wilson, lost his father in a work accident and Lyng won't be there. Things have snapped sharply into focus.

"I hurled with him for Wexford all the way up at underage. Lovely fella, lovely family and I won't be home."

Has he a plan? Beyond the volleyball match, no.

After that, who knows? Maybe home, maybe South America, maybe Hong Kong, but this afternoon, his head and heart will be in the Gaelic Grounds.

Irish Independent

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