Chess ace Noel Lynch shunned his life of crime decades ago
A key member of Martin ‘The General’ Cahill’s gang has died, decades after he shunned a life of crime and went on to became one of Ireland’s best-respected chess players.
Noel Lynch, originally from Ballyfermot, Dublin, was considered the most “highly intelligent” of Cahill’s gang and was one of the few to escape a life of crime relatively unscathed.
Lynch, who had relocated from Ballyfermot to Robertstown, Co Kildare, many years ago, died “peacefully” on Wednesday in Tallaght hospital, according to his death notice.
He served time in the Curragh prison camp and was also jailed in the UK.
Sources described him as a “key member of the gang” who was considered “ruthless and intelligent”.
Many people feared him, “because he was very smart”. Even Cahill was afraid of Lynch in many ways because of his intellect.
In the 1998 movie The General, which starred Brendan Gleeson, Lynch is portrayed but not named.
A scene in it shows one of Cahill’s key allies complaining about being constantly followed by gardaí and then announcing he wants to go straight as a life of crime is not worth it. It is understood this character was based on Lynch.
He was one of the 12-strong gang Cahill enlisted to carry out the heist in 1983 at O’Connor’s jewellery factory at Harold’s Cross, Dublin, which netted €2.5m in gold bars and jewellery.
The organisational skills displayed led gang members to give Cahill his nickname.
The criminals sold the jewellery for a fraction of its value, and the robbery resulted in the closure of the family-owned manufacturing business, with nearly 100 people losing their jobs.
Lynch was also an explosives expert for Cahill’s gang, sources said.
In 1982, fearing the increasing role forensic science could play in detecting his robberies, Cahill arranged to have a bomb placed under the car bonnet of Dr James Donovan, the director of the Forensic Science Laboratory at Garda Headquarters.
Dr Donovan was critically injured but survived the attack, which was meant to kill him. He was left with life-long health issues.
It is unclear precisely what role Lynch played in the bombing, but it is believed he was involved in at least the planning of the attack.
Lynch and Cahill were said to have been close friends. In an attempt to hide his vast wealth at the height of his notoriety, Cahill bought a house in Cowper Downs in Rathmines and put it in Lynch’s name to evade the authorities.
But when garda targeting and around-the-clock monitoring of Cahill’s gang became intensive, Lynch left and turned his back on crime entirely.
He relocated to Kildare, and in his later years became one of Ireland’s leading chess players.
He was a member of the Curragh Chess Club, where he occasionally hinted to other players about his previous life in Dublin and involvement in crime.
“It’s no surprise he was so good at chess, he was a highly intelligent criminal,” a source said.
“He managed to walk away from The General’s gang and start his life afresh. Only a very smart man can pull that off.”
Lynch’s funeral mass will take place at the Church of the Holy Trinity in Allen, Co Kildare, tomorrow morning.
Cahill was shot dead in Dublin by the IRA in 1994.