Monday 16 September 2019

Limerick's 2018 gets even better as Cian Lynch beats out Canning and Mannion to claim Hurler of the Year

19 August 2018; Cian Lynch, left, and Shane Dowling of Limerick celebrate following the GAA Hurling All-Ireland Senior Championship Final between Galway and Limerick at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
19 August 2018; Cian Lynch, left, and Shane Dowling of Limerick celebrate following the GAA Hurling All-Ireland Senior Championship Final between Galway and Limerick at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

IT is testament to Cian Lynch’s bracing individuality that he begins a sentence with the words: "I quoted Oscar Wilde at the ploughing championships a few weeks ago…"

The citation the newly-christened PwC Hurler of the Year uses is the old 'Be yourself, everyone else is taken' line and it is perhaps part of the reason the Limerick midfielder received hurling’s highest individual award tonight in Dublin’s Convention Centre.

Opinion on Limerick’s outstanding player this year was splintered among the wider hurling community, with both Declan Hannon and Graeme Mulcahy having obvious claims.

Yet Lynch’s energy and his wizardry with the hurley makes him a popular - if not quite unanimous - winner, of the same stylistic ilk as recent recipients, Austin Gleeson and Tony Kelly.

"A lot of people have turned away from the religious side of things or for everyone now the normal thing to do is to go drinking or whatever," he says, referencing his own faith and abstinence, a topic many have latched on to since Lynch's public persona revealed itself fully after Limerick's breakthrough success on August 19th.

"For me, I just don't think you have to conform to social norms. I don't think we all have to conform to those social norms.

"I'm not telling people to copy someone else or copy what I do. “We're all here, we're all different people, no one person is the same as someone else.

"Do what makes you happy.

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"Religion for me and not drinking, are just things that keep me grounded. It's where I get my equilibrium.

"Religion is where I go to kind of clear the head and get back down to level ground.

"Because it's very easy to get carried away and get ahead of yourself. It's important to stay in the now.”

If there was ever a time Lynch was in danger of losing the run of himself, now is surely it.

An All-Ireland medal on a famine-ending team, an All Star and now the Hurler of the Year Award elevates the Patrickswell man into esteemed company, something he readily acknowledged.

"I remember seeing Austin Gleeson a few years ago, Tony Kelly, Joe Canning last year," he recalls.

"I never believed that I'd be able to get one of those.

"Hurling is a team sport but there are individual accolades that players can get, and if you get them or when you get them you have to appreciate them and cherish them.

"As a hurler to get the Hurler of the Year it kind of puts the icing on the cake after a great year with Limerick. It's a bonus. Anything after winning an All-Ireland is extra-special."

The player-vote was always likely to side with Lynch over Galway pair, Joe Canning and Pádraic Mannion.

Recent history of the All Stars scheme shows that a split occurs when two players from one county make the shortlist.

Once Lynch was the only player on the victorious team nominated, he became the short-odds favourite to win, despite the fact that Canning – last year’s winner – had arguably a more consistent season in 2018, perhaps even his finest of an outstanding career to date.

Similarly, Limerick completed an individual double tonight with Kyle Hayes, this year’s All-Ireland final Man of the Match, given the Young Hurler of the Year Award, despite the fact that fellow nominee Darragh Fitzgibbon was selected as an All Star while Hayes is absent from the selection.

"We have to be the same people we were 12 months ago," Lynch added of Limerick’s next step towards the unknown.

"At the end of the day there's no point getting carried away, no point thinking you're something better than what you actually are. Just cherish every moment.

"John (Kiely) has kept us grounded and everything we go to and everything we do, we know we have to watch ourselves and just be mannerly. At the end of the day, it's great for us, as a team we won the All-Ireland.

"But it's also for the people around us, what they've gone through," Lynch added.

"Supporters, family members, and just neutral people who are there putting the hand around us when things don't go so well."

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