Fabled Glens put dark days in past
IT is a storied Cork city club whose hall of fame includes two GAA legends, yet it is safe to say that Glen Rovers' rollercoaster 2010 campaign is unprecedented, even by the standards of their own fabled history.
Totemic figures like Christy Ring and Jack Lynch starred for the Blackpool club in its heyday, yet the northside club suffered such a decline that their appearance in tomorrow's Cork SHC final is their first in 19 years.
What makes their progress to meet Sarsfields in the Leeside decider all the more remarkable is how their campaign unfolded.
They lost their championship opener by 16 points -- a five-goal drubbing by Na Piarsaigh -- and then, next day out, a mass brawl between themselves and Bride Rovers resulted in the 'nuclear option'.
Ian Lynam was in the middle of taking training when a club officer arrived with news from the initial hearing; the clubs' €7,500 fines had been reduced to €2,000, but now both had been thrown out of the championship.
"I really didn't know how to break it to the lads initially so I decided I'd finish the session before I told them," Lynam reveals.
"I told them we could either fold up there and then or just focus on our own job and let the committee take care of it, and that's what we did. We trained away for the next 10 days and then we got back in."
The Cork County Board's surprise decision to reinstate both clubs came at an even heavier financial cost -- the fines were increased to €10,000 each -- but it was a reprieve that the players grabbed gratefully.
"There's no doubt that whole experience galvanised us as a team," Lynam says.
Yet they had another hill or two to get over.
They needed two games to get past St Finbarr's, and their county quarter-final against Midleton also went to a replay --all of which made last weekend's five-point semi-final defeat of Douglas especially welcome.
With several of their players, including county senior hurler Graham Callanan, also lining out for the club's football arm -- St Nicholas-- it has been a gruelling schedule.
"Our dual players have played eight of the last nine weeks but championship games aren't a problem as long as you're not getting injuries and, thankfully, we've a clean bill of health," Lynam explained.
He took over as senior manager this season after three years as a selector during Tomas Mulcahy's reign.
Under the famous county star and RTE pundit, Glen Rovers had already threatened a breakthrough; reaching three consecutive county quarter-finals and losing the 2008 semi-final by four points to tomorrow's opponents.
Lynam's managerial success with their underage teams is also a key factor in their long-awaited return to centre-stage.
Eight years ago he was involved with the Rovers team who beat Kilkenny's O'Loughlin Gaels to win Division 1 of Feile na nGael, the prestigious U-14 All-Ireland championship.
He was also managing when they won Cork minor titles in 2005 and 2006 and an U-21 title in 2008.
"There'd be five or six of that Feile team who are now seniors," he explains.
"We were lucky to get a very talented bunch who came through together but we'd also another group, like Graham, who had underage success four or five years earlier and they've combined well now."
Inter-county forward Patrick Horgan, Callanan and county U-21 defender Stephen McDonnell have starred as they've come within one game of their 26th title and first since 1989.
But how did a club that won two All-Ireland club titles in the '70s struggle for so long?
"It's a combination of factors," Lynam says. "The strength of club hurling in Cork has moved out of the city in the last 20 years to places like Newtownshandrum and there is a lot of competition now from rugby.
"We're now essentially an inner-city club and a lot of people who originally lived here moved out to the city's satellite towns.
"It's taken a lot of underage work, by an awful lot of people, to get here but it's fantastic for the club and there is great excitement around the place this week."
It was Sars' they beat in the '89 final and their traditional rivals are now in their third final in a row.
They won it in 2008 and include Cork captain Kieran 'Fraggy' Murphy, Ray Ryan, Conor O'Sullivan and Teddy McCarthy's son, Cian.
"They have a lot more experience than us and are hot favourites with the bookies, but everything we have we'll be throwing into this one," Lynam vows.