‘NEVER food-shop on an empty stomach, you’ll only end up buying items you don’t need’, so goes the advice now being widely broadcast to us in these trying times. Well, on the same note, when you look out the window and see the frost, the snow, the sub-zero temperatures, is this a good time, Derek Lyng, to be considering retirement?
Is that what prompted your decision to end a magnificent career with Kilkenny?
“Not at all,” he laughs, “Actually, I always loved that aspect of it, and that’s the killing thing about it — I’d love to be going back training in January. The friendships — that’s the hardest thing of all, leaving that dressing-room for the last time. Those players are your family for all those years. But this is it, it is all over. Still, what we’ve had for the last few years, what we’ve experienced together, that can’t be bought, and it can’t be taken away either.”
If not the weather, then, what is it? “Injury. In 2007 I was getting a recurrent groin strain, or that’s what it was diagnosed as. Then I went to a specialist in Dublin and it turned out I had a bone impingement on my hip, an extra bit of bone that, over the years, had worn away most of the cartilage. I had surgery to shave off a bit of that bone. I couldn’t go to town on it or it would have taken a lot longer to recover, so I had just enough off to keep me going.
“There was a lot of damage already done and it wasn’t going to get any better with repetitive training and all the twisting and turning you have to do in hurling.
“The operation got me through the following year, but it was a constant battle. I had to skip a lot of training, minding the hip. You’re taking injections, you’re taking tablets and all the rest, but you’re only masking the problem. I’d have to be in an hour before everyone else for training, just to get ready with stretches and warm ups so that the hip was mobilised.
“We have a great medical team with Kilkenny, they set out programmes for me that enabled me to keep going. But when I had the surgery I was told that more than likely I’d need a full hip replacement within 10 years, so that’s how serious it is.
“I didn’t play much league over the last few years because of it, I always got back just in time for the championship, but you need to be playing some part in the league to have a realistic chance of making the championship team.
“I didn’t want to start getting frustrated because I wasn’t getting my game, I didn’t want to end on a sour note. It’s been on my mind since September, and it’s not a decision I enjoyed making. I love hurling and would love to continue playing, but it has to end sometime. I have to be realistic — I’m 32 now, and to go back again next year I’d need to be able to go flat out to get myself back on the team — I can’t do that.
“But I can’t complain. This could have happened just as easily when I was 22 too. I had a good innings, I can live with this decision now.”
There were other factors, of course, more personal.
There’s the day-job; Derek is a hospital rep for GlaxoSmithKline, which means he is on the road a lot but spends most of his time these days in Dublin, a fair commute from his home in Urlingford.
And there’s the family: “I have a young daughter now, Ruth, she’s eight months, and Evelyn (his wife) is expecting again in the new year, so I’ll be spending a bit more time at home. It’s still hard to walk away from it but the head is telling me it’s the right thing to do.”
A pity to see it end prematurely, but still, nice to know you were part of history. “It was a great time, a lot of great players out there — better players than me — who never won even one All-Ireland, so yes, you have to be happy with that.”
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved