Molloy and Lynch not so strange bedfellows
THE idea that Trevor Molloy, streetwise inner city footballer, and Aidan Lynch, UCD scholarship boy, would share a bedroom had its genesis on a cold winter's evening in Belfield Park two years ago.
That night Brian Kerr, newly appointed Irish youths supremo, decided to run the rule over local talent.
Surprisingly, Molloy, currently the leading scorer in the National League, and Lynch, captain and defensive king-pin of UCD, had been overlooked by a succession of international managers prior to that. However, Kerr saw in this duo, who will be marking each other in this afternoon's FAI Harp Lager Cup tie at Richmond Park, something his predecessors had missed.
Disparate backgrounds they may have had, but when it comes to football, Lynch and Molloy are of one mind winning is what counts. Lynch enjoyed plenty of success with St Kevin's Boys, Molloy likewise with Stella Maris. For them winning was a habit-forming drug. Without it, life just isn't the same.
As Molloy, now a full-time professional with St Patrick's Athletic, puts it: ``You have to justify being a pro every week, especially with players breathing down your neck. But I thrive on pressure and when we lose it's like the end of the world. We lost to Finn Harps in Ballybofey and not one word was said on the bus all the way home.''
That winner's mentality led to Molloy winning his first international cap against Belgium U-20s in March '97. Although Belgium won with a late goal, the passion that game evokes from the two is still evident as they recall the ``lump in the throat thing'' that wearing the green jersey for the first time meant.
With international recognition comes a new confidence, taking your game to a loftier plane. As Molloy says: ``Two years ago I would have been happy just to play two games for Pat's. Now I want to play at a higher level.''
And the ease with which he has adjusted to life at Pat's after a disappointing spell at Shamrock Rovers and a short, but profitable time with Athlone Town, suggests he has learned a few lessons on the way.
``Yes, with Athlone and Rovers my head wasn't right. I wouldn't do the stretching and I didn't like all the tactics, I just wanted to run with the ball and score goals.''
Getting his head right was never a problem for Lynch he even repeated his Leaving Cert to get the points necessary to secure his UCD scholarship but he also felt the benefit of his new international status. ``Knowing that everyone is delighted to have an international in the team, you become a better player for the experience.''
And then there's the Kerr factor. ``What stands out is his passion for the game,'' says Lynch.
``Playing against anyone he treats it the same way in order to get the best out of you. It was unbelievable the way he would jump up and down on the bench during the games and he always congratulated the players individually even when we were beaten. His team talks were so full of passion and belief he made us believe we could be a lot better than we thought.
``When we finally lost in the World Youth Cup semi-finals to Argentina, he was the most disappointed person in the group. While most probably felt we had done well to go so far, he believed we could have won the World Cup.''
Molloy's memories are in the same vein. ``The first day we met up in Clonshaugh for training before the World Cup Brian told us we'd be in Malaysia for a month and to make sure we brought enough underwear. Some of the players didn't believe him and had their holidays booked for three weeks later.
``Brian gave us the belief and Noel O'Reilly held everyone together with his jokes and his songs. They need each other.
``In the St Pat's dressing-room Brian left two signs that sum up his attitude `winners are workers' and `losers make excuses.'''
Molloy, who has the proud boast that he scored more goals in that World Cup (three) than England hot-shot Michael Owen (one), is enjoying his football more this season after spending his first term at Pat's on the wing.
``I wasn't testing myself as much as I have this year and my standards have gone even higher playing up front alongside Ian Gilzean. Gillie, Osam and the other senior players help me, whereas at UCD, Aidan is one of the older players at 21 and has no one to tell him what to do on the pitch.''
``It's strange, all right,'' agrees Lynch. ``When I'm talking about the younger players, they are only one or two years younger than me.
``I'm still trying to learn the game and help the others as well. Kav (Ciarán Kavanagh) is our most experienced player, he's there about eight years and he doesn't get the recognition he deserves. He's a terrific player.''
As regards this afternoon's showdown, Lynch is hopeful. ``It's always nice to play Pat's because you know they're going to get the ball down like us.
``In the recent League game the quality was there. It was end to end stuff, with lots of chances and very little ball in the air. Someone said after that it was like Italian football.
``However, we accept we are the underdogs. Pat's are the form team, but we'll be doing our best to win.''
Molloy gets the last word: ``The way Aidan plays you can see why he's captain he gives 100 per cent every week. It's no easy ride when you come up against him ... and he's not a bad footballer either!''
The friendship which these two cemented in the month-long Far Eastern odyssey that was World Youth Cup '97 is apparent in their respect for each other's ability and friendship.
Two winners in life and in football, but one of them has to lose when today's tie is decided.