The pride in Jeff Lynskey’s voice is unmistakable.
After leading Galway to a second All-Ireland minor title in three years, he has plenty of reason to be chuffed. Being part of the cavalcade as the county welcomed the Liam MacCarthy and the Irish Press Cups the Monday after September’s finals is one of those moments he hopes will never leave him.
Tomorrow, though, will be something else. His beloved Liam Mellows are in their first senior county final in 47 years and the excitement is palpable. As the interview closes, he WhatsApps photos of his grandfather Ned’s county medal from 1935, the club’s first senior success.
“It’s a bit surreal for all of us in regards what has happened,” he says. “This time last year, we went about looking for a manager. We had two or three lads in mind but Louis [Mulqueen] was top of the list and he’s done a brilliant job.”
It’s been a Galway championship not short of controversy or delay, but also not a case of others difficulties being Mellows’ opportunities. They finished top of their group with four wins from five before seeing off Clarinbridge after two tussles and then another close-run thing against Cappataggle in their semi-final. This appearance, as much they would like to mark it with a victory, has been the culmination of years of grunt and graft.
As Lynskey explains: “There’s been a huge amount of work done and people probably don’t realise that the juvenile section wasn’t really formed until 1982/’83. It’s taken us that long to put together a team capable of competing. If you look back over the last 30 years, we’ve been in relegation battles. We were intermediate in 2003 and came back up again and had been working away at the juvenile section.
“This crop, a lot of them came from the minor “A” finalists three years ago and the U21 finalists last year. Eleven of those are involved and it’s down to the players and the management this year and thanks be to God we are now reaping the rewards with a county final.
“We’ve nearly 700 members between camogie, juvenile and senior. We’ve a very proactive club. We have a full-time coaching officer who goes to about nine schools on the east side of the city. We’re hoping to put structures in place that will ensure there are many more county finals to come.”
Lynskey’s two great-uncles featured on the Galway city team prior to his grandfather’s title 82 years ago, which was achieved against Ballinderreen in the Sportsground.
“The ’43 one against Loughrea was taken away from us because of the size of the pitch,” Lynskey cites. “It went to a replay in Ballinasloe and they had to walk back! It took them 15 or 16 hours. That made the front-page news.”
More titles followed in the 1950s and 60s before they dried up after 1970. At a time like this, it’s understandable to remember those both alive and deceased who guided the club during the fallow seasons. “The lads who coached us starting off, the Paddy Currans, the Jimmy Duggans and the Johnny Buckleys, they all came from the 1950s and early 1960s,” recalls Lynskey. “A lot have left us, unfortunately. Gerry Mahony from Cork, who was in the army for a long time. (Clare native) Niall McInerney. Great lads who showed us what a club was about. These volunteers who are not from the area originally but put in such a huge amount of work and they passed the baton on to us.
“I played 20 years senior with the club and finished up three years ago and I have gone onto other things and that’s because of other lads passing things onto me and giving back to the club. I’m back in now again over the U8s and my son.”
Lynskey isn’t concerned in the slightest that Mellows might freeze when he has seen not only how they have come through tight encounters this year but many of them glean county final experience at under-age level.
“They eked out a hard-earned one-point victory against Cappataggle the last day. They came back from six points down 10 minutes into the second half against Clarinbridge in the quarter-final to force a replay the first day. Gort have the experience, but our lads won’t bring any fear into it. They played in a minor final in front of 8,000 or 9,000 people, the U21s played in a final last year and when you have the experience of David (Collins) and Aonghus (Callanan) that will help them enormously.”
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