Cian Lynch has reinforced the belief that the provincial championship should remain the bedrock of the inter-county hurling competition, with “no point” in seeking change in the future.
With the football championship gripped in a debate this week about what direction to go, the hurling championship is on course to resume the round-robin structure that was such a success in 2018 and 2019, before Covid pushed it off track for the last two seasons.
More than four years ago, Clare’s Tony Kelly suggested that he’d have no issue if the coveted Munster championship was disbanded to make way for a structure incorporating all the best teams, but Lynch feels the provinces are in a strong place and the current format will sustain for a long time yet.
“Growing up, you went to these Munster championship games and (experienced) the buzz around the place. They are local. You are seeing Cork, Tipperary, Clare, Waterford playing. As players, you love going out to play in the Munster championship. It’s a massive stepping stone for getting to the All-Ireland semi-final or quarter-final and driving things on again. It’s something that has massive tradition, a long tradition, and there is no point changing that.”
Lynch is back seeking a third Limerick county title with Patrickswell when they play Kilmallock in Sunday’s final at the TUS Gaelic Grounds. They are driven on by last year’s semi-final loss to eventual champions Na Piarsaigh.
“We were disappointed with the way last year finished. We’d have liked to have pushed on again, but that’s just the way it goes. The Limerick championship is massively competitive. Every year, there is always a new team putting their hand up. For us, it’s just about focusing on ourselves and trying to push again,” said Lynch.
Lynch, for many the hurler of the year elect, enjoyed another stellar season with his switch to centre-forward paying creative dividends. “There’s a bit more freedom and room to rotate (there). It’s the lads around you, too; Gearóid (Hegarty) and Tom (Morrissey) either side, William (O’Donoghue) and Darragh (O’Donovan) outside, three boys inside. It makes life a lot easier, because you have a guy left and right to give the ball to, and you know they’ll put the ball over the bar or do damage with it.”
Winning back-to-back All-Irelands was another landmark reached for the team but their third-quarter comeback against Tipperary is undoubtedly their high point of the last four years in performance terms, as they came from 10 points down at the interval to lead by the second water break.
“Tipperary blitzed us in the first half. We went in at half-time asking ourselves, ‘How can we come back from this?’ But we put our heads down and, thankfully, things went our way and we were able to get the few breaks (we needed), and got a goal early after half-time.
"It is huge when you get over a game like that, when things mightn’t be going your way.”
Lynch has stressed the importance of rest and recovery in the off-season and how it has worked so well for Limerick over the last two seasons. When the opportunity arises after his club interest is at an end, he’ll leave the hurl down for a few weeks and divert attention elsewhere.
“It is hugely important and Gearóid (Hegarty) is always on about it, switching off. You’re going for nearly 10 months of the year, trying to get yourself to the peak of your performance.
"It’s huge being able to chill out, to try something different. Just getting away from the hustle and bustle of trying to be in top shape, so you can go back with that bit of appetite.”