Rising Limerick hurling star Ronan Lynch has called on supporters to be patient and to give the county’s talented young players time to fully develop as seniors.
Hopes are high on Shannonside that after two All-Ireland U21 wins in the last three seasons, both of which Lynch was part of, their senior drought could be coming to an end.
Limerick have not won a senior All-Ireland since 1973 though UL student Lynch, 20, is among a clutch of emerging talents who are keen to change that statistic.
He has three All-Ireland medals in total, the other coming with Na Piarsaigh, whom he’ll attempt to help to AIB Munster club success this weekend. But he’s wary of any guarantees about transferring that U21 domination to senior level and has pleaded with fans not to saddle the players with high expectations.
“We won three U21 championships in a row at the turn of 2000 and, barring the 2007 All-Ireland final appearance, not much came of that at all,” said Lynch.
“I know we won (Munster) in 2013 but an All-Ireland is always your key goal, particularly in Limerick. It is very difficult to keep young players at their peak. You can come out of your Leaving Cert, be a superstar at minor level and the next thing you have four or five bad games and people are saying, ‘this fella was supposed to be a superstar, what’s wrong with him? He’s not that good’.
“Then suddenly a fella who is used to getting pats on the back the whole time is getting a bit of criticism. It’s very, very difficult to deal with that pressure and spotlight. If you’re TJ Reid or Richie Hogan, two of top players in the country, with numerous All-Irelands, you’ve a fountain of experience to deal with that sort of pressure but when you’re 19 or 20, and people are putting expectations on you, ‘oh, we’ll go on and win an All-Ireland now if these guys keep their heads down’...people have to be given the space to breathe as well.”
Limerick senior manager John Kiely was furious earlier this year that a section of supporters verbally abused his players during a pre-season game. Kiely spoke of an ‘extremely abusive’ group who hit out at the players during their 7-22 to 1-19 defeat to Cork in the Munster hurling league.
“We have great support in Limerick, huge support in terms of numbers but they can be rather impatient at times and maybe lack a little bit of perspective of where things are at,” said Kiely at the time.
Lynch, speaking at an AIB promotion ahead of Sunday’s Munster club final against Ballygunner, said he liked what Roy Keane had to say recently on the issue of developing talented young players.
“Roy Keane was talking about Ronaldo when he first came on the scene,” said Lynch. “They were very conscious that they knew he was a special talent that was going to go places but they were very conscious to give him the space to breathe as well and to develop as a player. I think that’s very important in Limerick, definitely, that there’s so many good young players, that they’re just given the space to breathe and develop.”
Lynch can add to his own bulging medals haul this weekend if Na Piarsaigh beat Ballygunner and make it 11 games not out in Munster.
It’s a remarkable record that since winning their first Limerick title in 2011, Na Piarsaigh have played 10 provincial games and won nine, drawing the other. Two of those wins, significantly, have been against Ballygunner, in 2011 and 2015.
“It’s a serious record,” said midfielder Lynch, who scored 0-15 in the semi-final whitewash of Blackrock. “It’s only when you are actually in the thick of playing these games that you realise how impressive a record it actually is. When we won the first county title, we went on to win a Munster club straight away and you kind of get that response, ‘Jesus, that was a lucky break for them’. But when it’s nine, 10 games like it is now, you begin to say it’s pure consistency in that particular championship.”
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