Hard slog worth it for Lynch as Limerick eye U-21 glory
Limerick's Cian Lynch struggles to find time to switch off at this time of year, and an All-Ireland U-21 semi-final at the weekend offers little time to seek solitude.
This is the kind of scenario that would have brought warmth to Lynch during the cold bite of pre-season purgatory. And the prize of a place in the Bord Gáis Energy All-Ireland U-21 hurling final only adds to that sense of anticipation.
"You're training since October and November and they're the hard nights when you're training and you don't have a championship match until May or June," he said.
"You're training and slogging away thinking, 'Why are you doing it?' But this time of year, when you're coming close to the end of August and the ball is hopping off the ground, you kind of say, 'Jesus, it's worthwhile'."
Galway will provide the opposition for the contest in Semple Stadium this Saturday, a county that Lynch initially became familiar with during his days as a minor.
He has come to know more about the ways of Galway hurling since his arrival to the Limerick senior panel, while Galway forward Thomas Monaghan is someone he sees frequently around the campus at Mary Immaculate College.
The pair soldiered alongside each other on the triumphant Fitzgibbon Cup panel earlier this season. They were reunited at a photo shoot this week to precede their U-21 fixture, but there was no sense of either party dialling down the chat to try and psyche out the opposition.
Lynch has no time for such unnecessary tactics, and was just pleased to meet up with a friend from college. "These things kind of make it a bit of fun as well. There's times when you can take hurling a bit too serious. You're looking at opponents thinking they're robots, but at the end of the day, we're all the same age, we're all in the same boat, so it's nice to get out and get to know the players from other counties.
"There's way more to life than hurling," he added. "You see a lot of lads who put a lot into hurling, and the end of the day, it's a sport. Even in the last few months, I see it in myself that you take it too serious.
"You forget the reality that you need to go to college, get your degree and get a full-time job. But it's very hard the way hurling has gone, you're training nearly six days a week. You're forgetting you're here to live a life."
Saturday's clash against Galway follows on from a Munster campaign in which Limerick accounted for Tipperary and Clare before defeating Cork by two points in the decider.
Lynch appreciates the value that each of those challenges brought along the way, but his eyes are fixed on the next step of the journey.
"Beating Cork was huge. I know it's past tense, but at the start it was Tipperary and by the time we played Tipperary, it was a huge game for Limerick and luckily we got over it," he reflected.
"It was the same with Clare, and with Cork, they're coming back. Their senior team was unlucky at the weekend. Their U-21 team has some great young fellas and we didn't take any of it for granted.
"This weekend is totally different against Galway, we've played them at underage and minor in the last two or three years. They're always strong and you just have to respect that."