Friday 24 November 2017

Inspirational duo leave it all behind

Eamonn Sweeney

You'd go a long way to find two more diligent sportsmen than Anthony Lynch and John Miskella who both retired last week. In their careers with the Cork football team, both men became by-words for honesty of effort, physical toughness and competitive spirit.

Lynch sprang to prominence with a man of the match performance when the Rebels shocked Kerry in the 1999 Munster final. A spectacular block on Johnny Crowley late in the game sticks in the memory because it encapsulated what Lynch was all about, a sublime marriage of technique and timing with bravery beyond the call of duty. The Naomh Abán man went on to become one of the best corner-backs of the modern era, up there with the Kerry triumvirate of Michael McCarthy, Tom O'Sullivan and Marc ó Sé.

Neither notably quick nor particularly physically imposing, Lynch excelled at the strange specialised duties of the man-marker, something at which he had few peers. His reading of the game, guile and intensity of concentration made him the defender nobody wanted to see trotting in beside them. That injury ruled him out last year when Cork finally made the big breakthrough was a terrible pity.

Miskella's achievement was on one level even more remarkable than Lynch's. A blink-or-you'll-miss-it stint in the Cork team round the turn of the millennium was followed by years in the wilderness and struggles with injury which led to him being written off as a county prospect. That he came back and made the team for the 2007 final was a fine achievement. That two years later he was by some distance the county's best player as they reached another decider was phenomenal.

Miskella's haul of nine points from six games at wing-back showed that few players in that position have been such a potent attacking weapon. He also managed to curb every wing-forward he came up against. Paul Galvin got the Footballer of the Year award but two years ago no-one was playing better stuff than John Miskella.

Injury and age, Lynch is 34 and Miskella is 33, did for them in the end but their careers were inspirational. Lynch showed you can become a great player without being blessed with great natural gifts, Miskella that you can never write off a footballer who keeps believing in himself. They left it all on the pitch every time they played and did Ballyvourney and Ballincollig proud by doing so.

They were some men for two men.

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