Limerick's Cian Lynch deserves Hurler of the Year award

If you were taking the season as a whole, not just the championship, Lynch was definitely Limerick’s most important performer, writes Peter McNamara.

Limerick's Cian Lynch deserves Hurler of the Year award

By Peter McNamara

“The mother actually hopped the fence and got on the pitch at Croke Park yesterday and there’s still a warrant out for her! It means so much to everyone. It is unbelievable.”

This was one of the quotes of the summer from, of course, Cian Lynch.

And it came the day after one of the pictures of the summer was taken in Croker of the Patrickswell clubman’s memorable embrace with his mother Valerie who had, to her credit, found a way out to congratulate her son on becoming an All-Ireland senior champion.

That tale, in itself, became news across social and mainstream media. One of the feelgood chapters in a wonderfully scripted story of deliverance for the people of Limerick.

Thing is, Lynch’s magnificence symbolised everything good about the Treaty’s year.

He was absolutely crucial to them meeting their objective of gaining promotion from Division 1B.

And afterwards, every time Limerick needed a leader driving the team in the championship from a key sector of the field, Lynch was there providing the invention and menace required to hurt the opposition.

Yet, what is still possibly underappreciated is how he managed to tweak his game in order to thrive in a revised role at centre-field.

He slotted into the midfield position, though, as if it was second nature to him.

Of course, you can also give John Kiely and his management team kudos for having the awareness to move him into the middle-third in the first place.

In full flight, it is a wand Lynch has in hands, not a hurl. He is, essentially, a magician in possession and as dynamic a performer as you will find.

His goal in the All-Ireland SHC semi-final against Cork was testament to that theory given the amount of work involved in actually executing the move and raising the green flag.

And that was arguably the moment that truly teed Limerick up for their subsequent assault on the All-Ireland title.

You will recall, Limerick were trailing Cork by two points, 0-14 to 0-12, in added-time at the end of the opening half.

After receiving possession from the outstanding Seamus Flanagan, Lynch could easily have opted to take a handy point just to reduce the deficit before the referee blew for half-time.

Not Lynch, however. He spatial awareness allowed him to appreciate that scoring a goal was a genuine option and so he made for Anthony Nash’s net.

He shortens the grip and powers the sliothar beyond the cluster of despairing defenders attempting to block the inevitable.

Limerick, now, are rising and Lynch has been the instigator courtesy of his courage and the conviction in his capabilities to make things happen. Those qualities are worth their weight in gold, especially as it is one of your midfielders displaying them at a vital moment.

Limerick retire to the dressing room a point in front and invigorated by Lynch’s intervention.

And while Cork should still have seen out that match in regulation-time given they had accrued a six-point buffer in the last quarter, it was the likes of Lynch’s bravery in scoring their opening goal that would have stood to Limerick in those final minutes.

Shane Dowling and co then carried the torch on from Lynch in extra-time and drove the Treaty into the All-Ireland final.

However, there is no doubt that it was Lynch’s energy and charisma that defined their summer.

His insatiable work-ethic had a ripple impact on his teammates and he evolved into their tone-setter from early in the campaign.

A lot of people, following the announcement that Lynch, Pádraic Mannion and Joe Canning were shortlisted for the Hurler of the Year award, questioned why Graeme Mulcahy was not also selected.

Mulcahy was Limerick’s renaissance man of 2018. And the frustrations of many that felt he was wrongly overlooked is understandable.

However, if you were taking the season as a whole, not just the championship, Lynch was definitely Limerick’s most important performer.

After all, it was their capacity to emerge from Division 1B that catapulted them into the All-Ireland-winning reckoning in the first place. It was that important to them to earn the promotion.

Therefore, and in the year that is in it, surely Lynch has to be the Hurler of the Year? He propelled Limerick into the history books, after all.

With Canning having gotten the award last year, it is probably less likely people will vote for him again, even though, ironically, the Portumna man was more influential this year than last.

Mannion had a superb summer as well and it would not be a shock at all if he claimed the award on November 2. But was the Ahascragh-Fohenagh clubman as influential as Lynch was in the destination of the Liam McCarthy Cup? Ultimately, no, he was not. Additionally, Mannion’s distribution in the final itself was poor. He wasted a lot of extremely decent possessions from his wing-back berth. Like Lynch, though, he did raise a white flag in the decider.

It is a terribly difficult heat to call at this point, but Lynch and Mannion seem to be the front-runners of the three shortlisted.

Yet, it should be Lynch that edges the vote following one of the most memorable years of hurling drama, even if the basic skills of the game were not always as brilliantly illustrated as some would have you believe.

Alongside Mulcahy, Lynch epitomised Limerick’s Class of 2018.

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