Cian Lynch happily dances to his own beat
By John Harrington
Cian Lynch has always stood out as something a little bit different on a hurling pitch.
He moves across the grass and plays the game with a unique flair that makes him instantly identifiable even if you’re perched high in the stands.
Off the field, he very much dances to his own beat too.
He’s surely in a small minority of 22-year-old Irish males who are both teetotallers and regular mass-goers.
Abstinence from alcohol helps keep him in prime physical condition for hurling and he believes the spiritual nourishment he takes from his religion gives him an important emotional balance too.
“In all walks of life, when you’re going from massive highs - like this year, huge highs of winning an All-Ireland, then you come back to the club, you might lose - you’re back down to a low then, back down to level ground,” said Lynch.
“How do you deal with that? For me I go to mass and pray. For me, it's that bit of silence, that community spirit when you're inside a community body in a church. It's kind of a grounding feeling.”
His passion for hurling is something that’s been passed down from both sides of his family.
His uncles Ciaran and Pa Carey played for Limerick with great distinction, while his father John is a hurling-mad Tipperary man who drove his children all over the country for years to indulge their shared love of the sport.
And in much the same way that hurling has always bound them tightly together, so has their catholic faith.
“There are six of us in my family, my father and mother brought us to mass every Sunday,” said Lynch.
“If it was a feast day, we’d be in mass to celebrate it or we might say a few prayers...but every Sunday, I’d be down for mass.
“If it’s down to Ballybrown for 10.00 mass or Patrickswell for 11.30 mass, I’d be there. For me, it’s a bit of a structure in my life. It's an equilibrium.
“When you’re on massive highs from winning or when you’re on a massive low, I find if I say a few prayers or go to mass it kind of brings me to level ground.
“A lot of us aren't prepared for the highs and lows that come with the game and mentally I think it’s great to be able to offload and have that safeguard too. It comes back to family, going to mass from an early age and having structures in place.
“Our local parish priest, father Michael Cussen and Eamon Fitzgibbon and Monsignor Lane - they’re A1, they’d be down at the house nearly once a week, calling in to make sure we’re all going well. They’re mad about the hurling too.
“It's great, but, obviously, it’s what whatever everyone’s into. That’s just me. I wouldn't force it on anyone.”
He’s not the type either to preach to others about his preference for not drinking alcohol.
The way he sees it, it’s no big deal. He simply decided from a young age that his time would be better spent playing sport than drinking pints.
“Yeah, I never got into the whole thing,” he said. “When I was 15/16 and other lads were testing it, I would have been playing soccer or hurling. I was out hitting the ball off the wall and I wouldn’t find a reason to go have a drink.
“I’d always go for a puck or meet the lads down the road and hit a few balls. Whereas other lads...it’s what you’re introduced to or what you choose.
“It was my own choice, nobody ever told me not to drink, I just never got into it, it could have been a different story if I got into it, it’s just different paths in life.”
He mightn’t drink but that doesn’t stop Lynch socialising with his friends into the wee hours of the night when he’s not in the thick of a club or inter-county hurling campaign.
And it certainly didn’t stop him celebrating Limerick’s All-Ireland Final with the same gusto as all of his team-mates.
In fact, if you want the full low-down on exactly how the Limerick team celebrated then no better man than Lynch to talk to because his recollection might be a bit better than some of his team-mates’.
“I saw too much!” he laughs. “Ah, it was great. The day after, when we got off the train at Colbert Station we didn't expect to see the crowd there at the station at all.
“We knew the Gaelic Grounds was going to be packed but to see the people's faces - old people crying and kids bawling their eyes out it kind of puts it all into perspective and what it means to the people of Limerick.
Limerick city is actually a small enough city everyone knows each other and it's tight-knit.
“So it was unreal to get the bus down to the Gaelic Grounds and to walk out in front of thousands of people, to hear Dolores O'Riordan's song playing all over it was just special. Words can't really describe what it felt like. It was unreal.”
The Gaelic Grounds were special, but the moment he’ll remember above all others from Limerick’s All-Ireland win was the embrace he shared with his mother Valerie shortly after the final whistle.
Seeing that her son was struggling to even breathe as he struggled to process the enormity of winning a long awaited All-Ireland for Limerick, she raced onto the field and wrapped her arms around him.
“It's crazy, it all happens so fast,” said Lynch. “Even when the whistle goes, I couldn't even get my breath. She grabbed me and I grabbed her and it was just that moment of safety.
“Your parents are always that safeguard, your mother, father or any family member.
“To see my mother there on the middle of the pitch, she was there in the ‘90s with her brother when he was playing with Limerick and to be there for me was lovely.
“It brings it back. People forget that without families a lot of this wouldn't be possible - the washing of the gear, cooking of food or lifts to training from underage. Without the parents we wouldn't be here.”
He might be an All-Ireland champion now, but Lynch isn’t the type to lose the humility that’s a big part of his personality.
Family, faith, and hurling will always be the three pillars of his life, and as far as the latter one goes he reckons he and his Limerick team-mates still have a lot more to achieve in the years to come.
“I just think there’s no point in getting carried away,” said Lynch. “We won the match on August 19th.
Obviously, we’ll enjoy the few weeks but once 2019 comes and we’re back training with Limerick, it’s a clean slate and heads down, focused again.
“We’ll just focus on every game as it comes, if it’s the first round of the League, that’ll be our aim and we’ll work from there. There’s no point looking at an All Ireland final or a League final.
“Look at Real Madrid in the soccer, they keep coming back for more. You have Ronaldo, he wants to always strive for the best.
“John Kiely and the backroom team have us very level-headed. Lads are not getting carried away and there’s no point.
“We have the utmost respect for other teams, you see what Galway have done down through the years, Tipperary, Kilkenny, and for us, we want to aspire to be as good as those guys.
“I know we’re after winning one this year but we know that the next year coming, it’s going to be harder again.”
Bord Bia has partnered with cookery writer and personal trainer, Roz Purcell, Limerick All-Ireland Winning Hurler, Cian Lynch and World Cup Women’s Hockey Silver Medalist, Nikki Evans, to celebrate World Egg Day as part of the Bord Bia Quality Assured Eggs Campaign - all of whom have had a ‘cracking’ year in 2018!
Check out www.bordbia.ie/qualityeggs for recipe inspiration and #CrackOn and get cooking with eggs.