Jeffrey Lynskey carrying on a Galway tradition
Jeffrey Lynskey carrying on a Galway tradition
By Brian Murphy
When Jeffrey Lynskey finally realised he wasn't going to make the grade as a Galway senior hurler, he set himself a target of getting involved in inter-county management within five years.
An All-Ireland winning minor with Galway in 1994, the Liam Mellows clubman had been on and off Galway senior panels for years and had played under five different managers when at the age of 31, he decided to refocus his energies.
Lynskey played on with his club until he finally retired after 20 seasons with the Galway city outfit last year, but he had already had a number of spells as his club's player-manager and he knew that was where his future lay.
"I got to a stage in my life when I was 31, 32 and you are trying to make the breakthrough, but I didn't make it and that was it," Lynskey, who is in charge of the Galway minor side that will face Tipperary in Sunday's All-Ireland final, explains.
"You learn from it and make a set of goals for yourself and you want to get involved in management at a higher level and you put down a pathway in your own head. At 31, 32 I said I would like to manage an inter-county team and see where it brings me."
In fact, Lynskey, who teaches at Galway Community College, had shown an interest in coaching going all the way back to his secondary school days, when he repeated his Leaving Cert at St Mary's College in the city and started coaching the school's senior team because he was overage.
"From that, I developed and at around 24 or 25 I started doing coaching courses and then through teacher training I started getting involved in coach education and then finally the academy system within Galway hurling.
"I started working with U14s, U15s and U16s at the club as you do every Saturday and then that blossomed and mushroomed into me getting involved with adult teams at the club, and teams at minor, U21 and senior.
"I am on a journey at this stage of about 15 to 20 years, playing senior hurling for the club and coaching also."
A huge talent at underage level, Lynskey played for two years with the Galway minors and was a member of the squad for the 1994 All-Ireland final win over Cork under the legendary coach Mattie Murphy, whom he succeeded as Galway minor manager earlier this year.
In the 1995 semi-final, Lynskey lined out at midfield against Cork, but Galway allowed a nine-point half-time lead to turn into a two-point loss.
Galway won the All-Ireland title in his first year at U21 level, in 1996, but Lynskey missed out with a broken leg and he then played in the 1997 and 1998 final defeats to a hugely talented Cork side that would produce the raw materials for the three All-Ireland titles that followed for the Rebels at senior level.
(Mattie Murphy, who has guided Galway to six All-Ireland minor titles)
Not only did Lynskey get indoctrinated in Galway's remarkable culture at underage level, he played under three incredible coaches in Murphy, Cyril Farrell and Noel Lane.
When the chance came to get involved with the Galway U16 development squad in 2013, Lynskey jumped at it and he has been with the same group for three years now, guiding them through a crucial phase in their development.
"I started with this current crop, the 18-year-olds, at 16," Lynskey explains. "I've had them through 16, 17 and now 18 so this year I had a good idea of who was good enough or ready for the step-up and what I had to do was bring two coaches who were with the U16s last year so they would have known all the U17 players in the county.
"We wasted very little time in formulating the panel and we started strength and conditioning training back in February, and between U21 club hurling a schools competitions in Galway, there is very little else you can do with them because they are playing enough hurling as it is. You don't really get much of an opportunity to really go at it until after the Leaving Cert and then you have five weeks of a window.
"But all the lads on the team are playing senior hurling in Galway, regardless of whether they are 17 or 18. They are playing at a very high standard of hurling at home."
Lynskey took over as minor manager from the legendary Mattie Murphy at the start of the year, following in the footsteps of a man who had delivered six of Galway's nine All-Ireland minor titles (1992, 1994, 2004, '05, '09, '11).
"I had worked with Mattie the last two or three years at U17 level and I know Mattie. I wouldn't regard it as pressure; I would regard it as an honour that you are trusted to take over the minor team and start them off on their inter-county career and hopefully that they will go on to U21 and senior level.
"Pressure? No. The only pressure I felt under was to ensure the structures were in place in year one and so that in year two we can really go at it and ensure that the development of the players continues."
Galway haven't won an All-Ireland title in the grade since 2011, and while Lynskey admits his group weren't expected to break that run, he says they have done everything he has asked of them since they first got together last February.
"What you are doing is putting down a pathway for them and it is about development at the end of the day. Did I see potential? You are hoping that if you put all this effort into them regarding coaching, it will bring them some place.
"If you told me last February it would bring them to an All-Ireland final I would probably have told you I would have been happy enough to win a semi-final or win a game. Look, they have bought into everything we are trying with them.
"They wouldn't be regarded as a particularly strong group within the county because we have no superstars as such, but they are a team. At the end of the day, that's what it's all about."
(Lynskey celebrates with the Jack Grealish after the semi-final replay win over Kilkenny)
One of the most notable things about this Galway side is the mental strength they have shown throughout the campaign. In the drawn All-Ireland semi-final against Kilkenny, they looked dead an buried twice, but rallied to force extra-time and then a replay, coming from six points down at one stage.
In the replay, before the senior team's memorable semi-final win over Tipperary, they set the tone for the afternoon by scoring two goals in the last five minutes, through Jack Kenny and Cian Salmon, to seal a two-point win over the All-Ireland champions.
"In Galway, we have a huge tradition at minor hurling. That's because of what Mattie (Murphy), John Hardiman and Noel (Lane) have done over the last 20 years.
"A Galway minor when he comes to Croke Park is looking at teams since aged nine or 10 and they perform and they know they have a good tradition of performing and getting to some place.
"I would have told the lads that, that this environment (Croke Park) is yours and it's shown over the last 25 years with the number of titles they have won and finals they have been in. They don't suffer stage fright, that's for sure.
"The first day, there were 45,000 people here and there were only 300 Galway supporters. The lads went to extra-time and the last day we had 25,000 Galway supporters with us and it helped in the last 10 minutes. You could sense it and it will stand to them in the final.
"The occasion is the day and you need to embrace it. The lads have been fairly tuned in both days they have been here so far. It's our fourth game when usually Galway minor teams have only played two and they have an All-Ireland won."
Jeffrey Lynskey has played his part in creating the unique tradition of Galway underage hurling, and on Sunday he will be hoping to play his part in another success for the county in the grade, exactly 21 years after his first.
Electric Ireland GAA Hurling All-Ireland Minor Championship Final: Galway v Tipperary, Croke Park, Sunday, 1.15pm (Live on TG4)