Home draw a 'good omen' for Lyng as trailblazing Saints look to raise bar even higher
CIARAN Lyng has been around the block in a sporting sense, but tomorrow he embarks on a new challenge with his club St Martin's of Wexford.
Lyng and Co soared to new heights by annexing the Wexford senior football title for the first time in the Piercestown club's history recently.
And considering St Martin's have traditionally been known as a hurling entity, that's quite an achievement. Now the Martin's men are faced with a daunting task in their Leinster club championship debut as Kildare's mighty Moorefield come to Wexford Park.
Dual star Lyng admits St Martin's are going into uncharted territory in the provincial arena.
"It's an interesting one," said Lyng. "Wexford teams haven't done well in Leinster in the past. I don't think Wexford have won a game in seven or eight years, but I believe it's also our first home draw in seven or eight years, so hopefully that will be a good omen for us.
"I don't know what to expect from Moorefield, I've never played against them or seen them play. I know Ronan Sweeney, a very sound fella, plays for them, that's about the extent of my knowledge. We'll have a good desire about ourselves. Beyond that, it remains to be seen.
"We've seen what can happen teams when they come out for the first time in Leinster championship. It can seem like bonus territory and then you either want to drive on and keep it going, or sometimes the attitude is, 'look, we're after achieving these amazing things that have never been done before, maybe we've done enough'.
"I don't think we'll know until the day. I could tell you we're gunning for it and we can't wait to go out and play Moorefield and beat them out the gate, but I genuinely don't know."
Lyng is only 28 but he has already packed in quite an amount of sporting experience. An underage soccer international, he spent three years at Preston North End and when his face didn't fit with manager Billy Davies, he had a loan spell at Shrewsbury before returning home.
Hindsight told Lyng that he was a bit too young to go to England, but once he settled back into familiar surroundings, he got into action with St Martin's. He has won an All Star football award and played for Ireland in the International Rules series, but the club honours are extra special.
Any county title is hard to win in Wexford, so Lyng can be pleased with his haul of an intermediate championship, senior hurling championship and now senior football medal with his club.
They don't come easy or often. St Martin's have a proud history of producing All-Ireland winners, including Ned Wheeler, John Quigley and George O'Connor, but the club has won only two senior hurling titles – the first in 1999 and the second in 2008.
Lyng's Wexford football career highlights so far have been winning the Division 3 title and getting to the All-Ireland semi-finals in 2008 – an achievement which he reckons had an indirect influence on the St Martin's club emerging as a football force.
"It's very hard to put your finger on it," he said. "We were intermediate only three years ago. There wasn't any great effort put in and I'm not saying that in a negative way. It was nothing against football. It's just that we're a hurling club with traditionally great hurlers that have represented the county.
"Everybody wanted to be a hurler in the past, whereas that has kind of changed – more so after 2008 with Wexford going so well in the football with lads from within our club involved there.
"You had the likes of Daithi Waters, Paidi Kelly and Willie Devereux, younger lads who treated football the way they did hurling, as just a competition they wanted to win.
"Once we got a group together, the players really drove the thing. There were senior lads there, obviously, but the younger players that came on really drove it this year."
Dual commitments aren't easy, as a core group play senior football and hurling for St Martin's.
This season the hurlers flirted with relegation but managed to stay up, while the footballers pushed on to win the title, beating Fethard in the final. The victory was an act of atonement. "Last year we got to the club's first ever county senior semi-final and we didn't turn up," Lyng said.
"We got panned on the day by Castletown and the feeling of not doing ourselves justice was so bad for a lot of the players that we couldn't let it happen again."
Moorefield, Leinster champions in 2006 and winners of six Kildare senior championships since 2000, will be favourites to win tomorrow, but despite their 'newbie' status in the provincial competition, St Martin's will hope to give a good account of themselves.