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PwC Hurler of the Year Cian Lynch.
PwC Hurler of the Year Cian Lynch.

Cian Lynch: 'It's an absolute honour'

By John Harrington

Limerick’s Cian Lynch was announced as the PwC Hurler of the Year for 2018 at tonight’s PwC All-Stars banquet in the Convention Centre, Dublin.

Earlier today he sat down with GAA.ie to reflect on the achievement and what has been a life-changing season for him as a Limerick hurler.

Q: Have you told your parents, Sean and Valerie, yet that you're the PwC Hurler of the Year?

CL: No, I haven't. Barry (Cahill) rang me during the week and when I saw the phone ringing I didn't really know what to expect. I thought he was just enquiring about something.

When I answered it and he said, 'Cian, I've a bit of news, you're after getting the Hurler of the Year', it took me a second actually to realise what he said. To be honest, I didn't believe him.

It never actually came into my head that I could possibly get it. It was a great year for Limerick as a team and that was the only thing that I looked at around the start of the year and even since the 19th of August. Anything after that was a bonus.

I was questioning whether I'd tell the mother and father or not and I kind of said to myself that I won't. It would be a great night for them to come up, they're coming up expecting nothing, and to see me go up and collect the Hurler of the Year Award is going to be extra-special for them.

Because, at the end of the day, it does go back to the mother and father. They were there with me since Day One and it's an absolute honour to get it.

Q: Will Valerie invade the All-Stars stage like she did Croke Park after the All Ireland Final?

CL: They might need a bit of security here tonight and have it extra-tight to keep her seated for a while anyway.

No, it's going to be special for them. As much as it is special for me on an individual level, but for the parents and the other members of the Limerick team, I always say you're only as good as the lads around you.

I'm lucky enough to accept the award but I have to give credit to the boys and the management team around us that helped me to get here today.

Q: Your team mates helped you get here, but how much does it mean personally to you to win this award?

CL: It's huge. You see lads down through the year getting the Hurler of the Year Award...I remember seeing Austin Gleeson a few years ago, Tony Kelly, Joe Canning last year.

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.

Gearoid Hegarty and Cian Lynch celebrate after the All Ireland Final in August.
Gearoid Hegarty and Cian Lynch celebrate after the All Ireland Final in August.

Q: A few years ago you were a young lad who probably looked up to Joe Canning as a hero, now you're winning the Hurler of the Year in a year when he was also nominated for the award. Is that a bit surreal?

CL: That's the crazy thing. I'm playing senior hurling for Limerick for four years and Joe is there at least ten years playing with Galway. I remember going to matches looking up at him.

I used to be running onto pitches after games trying to get his autograph. Even when he was nominated again this year along with Padraic Mannion, these are guys that I admire and aspire to be like.

I was just lucky enough to get the award this year, but there's still great credit due to those guys for what they do for their counties and hurling itself.

It keeps going back to family, and I'd dedicate this to my family and the other members of the Limerick team. Because at the end of the day no-one is here tonight based on their own performances.

It's the lads around you who put you here.

Q: When you look back on the year as a whole now, is it difficult to believe just how much you've achieved in the space of a few months?

CL: It's crazy. It actually is still hard to believe. At the start of the year, who would have known we'd be All-Ireland champions come the 19th or 20th of August.

For ourselves, we just kept the head down and everything happened so quick. It was game after game, week after week.

We were straight back with the clubs and when we got knocked out of that two weeks ago I went away on a holiday for a week and it was kind of the first time I took a deep breath and looked back at how we reached the all-time high in GAA. We won an All-Ireland after 45 years.

To see people and how it affected them in a positive way was just unbelievable. Tonight, for the 15 Limerick lads nominated for All-Stars, the nomination alone is extra-special for all 15 of us.

We always give credit back to the other 16 lads who aren't going to be here tonight and what they've done for us on the training pitch and in matches. It is a great achievement as an individual to come up here, but we keep going back to the team and the family and the people that surround us and keep us grounded. That's huge.

Q: Life has changed for you now. You're an All Ireland winner and PwC Hurler of the Year. People know you wherever you go. Will you have to make an effort to make sure you're not changed in any sort of negative way by all the attention you'll get?

CL: Yeah, obviously things like this could affect people in different ways. But for me as a person I'm not going to change who I am.

At the end of the day it's an award, we won an All-Ireland, but I'm still the same person I was 12 months ago.

There's no point changing the way you go about yourself. But, obviously, you have to mind yourself. You can't be going everywhere and doing everything and kind of draining yourself of energy.

But it's a great complaint. 45 years in Limerick without winning an All-Ireland, it's surreal to think about the whole thing.

You have to cherish every moment because, who's to say, you might never be in this position again. Please God we will be, but you have to cherish every day and live every day as it comes.

Cian Lynch celebrating Limerick's All Ireland victory at Croke Park.
Cian Lynch celebrating Limerick's All Ireland victory at Croke Park.

Q: This is a young group of Limerick hurlers, but you come across as a mature bunch who have handled themselves very well since the All Ireland win?

CL: Yeah, that goes back to John Kiely and the backroom team. John, I always say it about him, he's a father-figure to all of us. And you've Joe O'Connor, Brian Geary, Paul Kinnerk, Alan Cunningham, Jimmy Quilty...these are lads who have been there and done that.

They've played hurling, they've been involved with teams before, and they and Caroline Currid, our sports psychologist, kept us grounded.

I go back to why would you change an attitude or change who you are because you've won something? We have to be the same people we were 12 months ago. 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 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. Supporters, family members, and just neutral people who are there putting the hand around us when things don't go so well.

Q: You spoke recently about how you don't drink and have a strong religious faith. People responded very positively to what you had to day. Were you surprised by the extent of that reaction? It's almost as if people are looking for role models like you?

CL: Yeah, maybe they are, especially in this day and age. 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.

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 quoted Oscar Wilde at the ploughing championships a few weeks ago when I said, 'Be yourself, everyone else is taken'.

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. 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 I can be of any help to any young fella or young girl or older man or lady, I'm happy to help.

Q: So, you don't mind if people hold you up as a role model even if it's not something you've ever asked for? You're a hero for lots of kids now. That's a new responsibility for you to deal with?

CL: I don't know if I'm a hero or any of that crack, but I suppose I was at a camp the other day and kids were asking me what I do to prepare for games or training, that sort of thing.

You kind of have to say to young guys and girls to just enjoy everything you do at that age.

In this day and age there's a lot of peer pressure and a lot of social media and lads are getting involved instagram and snapchat and they're all over that but they're forgetting that they can just go out and open up and express themselves.

We're kind of very confined now so what I'd say to young people is to just go out and enjoy hurling or whatever else you’re into. Whether it's football, soccer, rugby, or education, just enjoy it. Just be the best person they can be.

As I said, if there's anything I can do to help anyone I'd be happy to help.

Cian Lynch in action during the All Ireland SHC Final against Galway at Croke Park.
Cian Lynch in action during the All Ireland SHC Final against Galway at Croke Park.

Q: You looked like someone who was enjoying his hurling this year. Going forward, is that the aim? To just keep enjoying it and whatever comes, comes?

CL: Yeah, that's it. If you ask any of the boys, that's what we always say to each other. Just go out and enjoy the game and play to the best of your ability.

Thank God we reaped the rewards this year. But, at the end of the day you're playing a sport because you love it.

People would be asking why you do it and why do you put so much hours into it. It's because you love it and you make great friends.

There's 36 of us on the Limerick panel and we were literally a band of brothers this year. I know it's a cliche when people say that we're like a family, but for us this year whatever happened it all just clicked.

I'd happily pick up my phone and ring any one of those players or any one of the management team.

That's what's special for us and there's 15 of us nominated tonight. Just to see them all coming, it's just brilliant for Limerick, brilliant for the city, and just brilliant for hurling in the county.

Q: You're here with the PwC Footballer of the Year, Brian Fenton. He's won four All Irelands in a row and never lost a Championship match. You're probably not going to say you want to win four All Irelands in a row yourself, but I'm sure you're very ambitious for the future in terms of what this group of Limerick hurlers can achieve?

CL: Yeah, you see Dublin and what they've done, and I'm inspired by it. To hear that Brian has lost no championship game in the last four years and to get Footballer of the Year, I'm just delighted for him. The size of him, I didn't realise how big he was!

They've set the standard in the football and they're a professional outfit who keep going about their business no matter what's said or what's done or what thrown at them. They just keep going.

For us as hurlers, we'd aspire to be like them, be the Dublin of hurling if you like. But, for us at the moment, it's about enjoying this year and now we'll be getting back to the drawing board now.

We'll get back training and we'll keep our heads down. There's no point looking beyond the next few months and there's no point getting carried away.

2018 is going to be gone soon enough and 2019's doors will open. It's going to be open country again and I think anything is possible.

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