Cian Lynch is not a pitcher on the ditch – he just aims to be in the field
From screamer of the year to screamer off the pitch… that’s not how Cian Lynch envisioned 2022 to go after his near-perfect 2021.
He’s no ditch thrower, mind you, instructing John Kiely on the finer points of All-Ireland team selection. For the past few weeks, Lynch has been limited to talking on the training ground – and for around 15 minutes against Galway.
And when he spoke at the Gaelic Grounds ahead of Sunday’s showpiece, it was clear he didn’t want any sympathy after an injury blighted season because, well, it could have been much worse.
An accident of birth might have put him among all those previous Limerick generations for whom the grief of all Ireland was a rite of passage.
Instead, he played a pivotal role in Limerick’s greatest ever team. They have had three Hurlers of the Year in the past four seasons; Lynch was two of them.
Also, an accident of timing could have seen him tear his hamstrings against Galway nine days ago, instead of against Waterford more than 11 weeks ago.
In that scenario, he would now be resigned to watching this Sunday’s All-Ireland SHC final against the plainclothes Cats.
Instead, he has a chance to play his part against Kilkenny.
How big or how small is still to be decided, first and foremost, by John Kiely.
But after making his long-awaited semi-final return – joining the fray in the 57th minute and living to tell the tale, much like Limerick – he now wants even more.
Could he really play a full match this weekend?
“I’d like to think so, yes,” he replies.
It’s safe to say that, even if Limerick completes three-game history against the Cats, Lynch won’t add to his three All-Stars – he simply missed too much.
The question is, given how much winning margins have shrunk in his absence, how much did Limerick miss him?
The Patrickswell man, 26, believes it was probably the worst injury of his career.
“The longest anyway, ten weeks. I injured a hamstring at U-21, but I don’t think it was that long,” he said.
“It was quite painful, and it was something you couldn’t really get up and go, you could guess it was something you could do more damage with.
“The first game after the injury was tough – I wouldn’t be used to not being pissed off and not being ready to go,” he admits.
“But we are such a tight-knit group that you always feel part of the group.
“As games go on, you want to keep pushing guys, whether it’s talking to them in the dressing room or talking to them on the sidelines.
“You just take the opportunities to try something else, to get into guys’ ears, to give them advice,” adds Lynch.
All the while, out of necessity, patience was the only virtue Lynch could embrace.
After hobbling after nine minutes against Waterford, he missed Limerick’s next three games – against Tipperary and Clare twice.
“You don’t want to make it worse or prolong it, that was the main thing – if you came back too soon, you prolong the rehabilitation time even further,” he reasons.
“After a week I was driving crazy, but you have to be patient and get it right. The medical team and the backstage staff were trying to get it right and get me ready to go.
“After the Munster final, these four weeks were an opportunity to push myself in training to get back to full sprints.
“Testing it before a game, that’s when you really know how it’s going to be – and thank goodness I did. Get the few minutes [against Galway] was a huge confidence boost for the injury itself; for the next two weeks it’s about moving forward and for everyone on the 36 it’s about saying ‘I’m ready’ – for the 26 or the 15,” he adds. he.
Lynch was deeply grateful for the reception he and Peter Casey received as they took on Galway.
If ten weeks was long enough for Lynch, can you imagine what ten and a half months felt like for Casey after his last All-Ireland crossover tear last August?
Casey’s older brother Mike was out even longer with persistent knee problems before his return this year.
“Perspective is everything,” he stresses.
“Mike and Peter had long term injuries. I’m just grateful that I was able to go back and continue.
And if Limerick manages to seal the deal at Croke Park this Sunday afternoon, will it mean the same for their playmaker prince after a summer on the outskirts?
“That would of course be,” he insists, “every game, every All-Ireland is as important as the next, whether as number one or 36.
“I am extremely delighted to be in the position we are in,” concludes the Patrickswell clubman.