Lyng enjoying life on the 'other side' with Kilkenny
Despite little coaching experience, former Cats' ace didn't think twice when he got Cody call
Published 09/08/2014 | 02:30
DEREK Lyng was in Limerick, on the road with his job as a hospital accounts manager, when the mobile rang last autumn.
The number that flashed up was Brian Cody's, the man who had managed him to a sixth All-Ireland just three years earlier. It was, he concedes, a bolt out of the blue.
Lyng had already got involved with the Kilkenny U-14 development squad.
His only previous management experience was within the club and only at U-21 level, managing Emerald's to a county semi-final in 2012. That was the extent of it.
He was actually still starring at midfield for the Urlingford club last summer and reportedly gave an exhibition in the county intermediate semi-final.
They lost the final to eventual All-Ireland champions The Rower-Inistioge and, afterwards, he finally hung up the boots.
The call from Cody can't have come too long afterwards.
Getting involved with the Kilkenny seniors certainly wasn't on his radar, but "straight away, I was curious to know what was going on," he reveals.
"I was surprised to get the call and very honoured.
"It was really simple. He just asked me would I be interested in getting involved. I didn't take too long to think about it," he added.
After last summer's earlier than usual exit, Cody did not just breathe new life into his squad, he also revamped his management.
Martin Fogarty was especially valued for his tactical and analytical nous, but, after nine years, he called it a day, leaving a vacancy in the Cats' backroom.
Cody filled it with two ex-players of relatively recent vintage: midfielder Lyng and goalkeeper James McGarry.
McGarry was already tipped as county management material after co-managing Ballyhale Shamrocks to All-Ireland club glory in March 2010.
Lyng came from much further left-field.
Yet, if you've ever heard Cody giving motivational advice to camps and youngsters, Lyng is a name he often cites as an example of how you can be a late bloomer if you work hard enough.
Lyng never played county minor. He couldn't even make the team in St Kieran's college and he didn't make the Fitzgibbon team in Waterford IT until his final year.
But through sheer hard work, he earned himself a shot at the big-time and, once there, became a champion.
People may see the Kilkenny manager as a dominant presence, but Cody likes to challenge himself and others and does not surround himself with yes men.
Lyng confirms as much.
"It would be a bit odd if we're all always agreeing," he said.
"That makes it interesting. That's why we're there. Brian is interested to hear our views on different things.
"Everybody draws from their own experiences, be it Brian, James or Michael (Dempsey). You look at what's going on in front of you (at training) as well."
Selection, he says, "is thrashed out from the last match right through. It's a continuous process. It doesn't make it any easier any time you try and pick the 15."
His one reservation beforehand was about having to make hard decisions about players with whom he had soldiered so long.
He would be particularly close to Henry Shefflin – they were in school and college together – and big calls looked imminent. Venerated veterans like Shefflin and Tommy Walsh have not been starting.
"I would be friendly with a lot of the senior players, definitely," Lyng concedes.
"It's a little bit different, there is a line there. I think they are happy with that as well, it would be awkward otherwise.
"You can't ring up a guy after training and see how he's doing, that would be unrealistic," he stresses.
"Something I might say mightn't be true for the following week."
If anything, it's men like Shefflin and Walsh who understand the quandary most, he says.
"It's harder for those who have more success, but they are probably more clued in as to the reasons why.
"I came in on the back of somebody else being dropped. You take your chance when you get in there, it's as simple as that.
"Sport, inter-county hurling, can be a ruthless game. We all accept that.
"You have to pick yourself up, go again."
Helping get the best from late developers like himself is surely among his strengths, as well as his reading of midfield and his thoughts on it are revealing.
"I don't think you're necessarily looking for a settled midfield or a settled half-forward line. You take it on a game-to-game basis. You look at what's ahead and what's happening in training.
"Myself and Cha' (Fitzpatrick) played there for a number of years, but, if I go through my career, I played with a lot more midfielders as well, as did Cha.
"I don't think there is a need to say, 'we need to have a settled midfield for the next three games.' That would be unwise."
As Lyng heads to an All-Ireland semi-final on the opposite side of the thin white line, he says: "It's a great opportunity to get involved at a high level again, to see how it works from the other side. So far, I've really enjoyed it."