It is shaping up to be busy 2019 for Fergal Lynch.
The 2013 All-Ireland winner is not just juggling his job as principal of Quin National School with managing the Clare minor hurlers, but he is also planning to take up arms once more for Clooney/Quin as the club season rolls around.
It’s a role he says he is enjoying.
“Managing your county is something you would always love to be able to do no matter what the level. I was involved with the Clare U-14’s back in 2008 and I really enjoyed it. I chose to focus on my own hurling career at that point, and when I made the decision to retire from playing inter-county myself I got involved as part of Davy Fitzgerald’s backroom team for a few years so when this opportunity came about I said I would go for it, and so far we have been going well. We started at the end of October and we have over 50 sessions done along with a good few challenge games. We are only nine weeks out from championship now so the fine-tuning is going to be done from here on out and that will be very important for lads at that age” he noted.
This will be the second year of the minor grade at inter-county being capped at U-17, and Lynch feels it is something that has affected the type of player coming through at that level.
“You would have to question the reason for changing it. I know it was to try and reduce the impact in terms of the Leaving Cert, but at the moment we are working with lads who are going their Junior Cert which is equally as important. You can see that lads are a lot weaker psychically and have a lot of developing to do in that regard. They’re a really infectious bunch and are really willing to learn and they are open to trying out new things and new styles of play so that has been very enjoyable so far. Minor hurling is always seen as this free-flowing type of game and it is always a great curtain raiser to the senior finals down through the years. It’s great to see the games now being played before the senior provincial games now too. There’s not as much emphasis on the tactical side of things but that has started to creep in a little bit. I thought it was noticeable last year in the Limerick game in that they were very much trying to play a similar style of game to the seniors. We have a few from that panel still involved with the likes of Cian Galvin, Tony Butler, Shane Meehan and Connor Hegarty who all played last year and they are great leaders. Cian is our captain and Tony is vice-captain along with Diarmuid Cahill so they know what championship is about and they know what to expect come May 12” said Lynch.
It is traditionally a busy time of year for most inter-county managers with players having commitments at both county and club level along with other codes in some cases. Take Tony Butler for example who is part of the Munster development squad at his age while Shane Meehan is also involved with the county minor football panel. Lynch admits it can be a challenge keeping all the balls in the air but is adamant that the player comes first.
“At the moment we are in the middle of the club U-21 championship and some players have been in action there. Some through unscathed and some didn’t. The physicality side of it is huge because you can have a lad who is still 16 lining up against a fella who is the full 21. Plenty of us did it, I played myself at 14 so it can be a great learning curve and a great test for them. The games that I have gone to I can see how lads react against psychically stronger teams because there is no doubt but we will come up against teams that are bigger and stronger than us as the year goes on. It’s a great opportunity for the lads to play with their clubs in these games and I welcome that. It’s great to see” he said.
The focus from a senior inter-county perspective in Clare this weekend is on Saturday’s trip to Walsh Park to take on Waterford in the National Hurling league quarter-final. Lynch feels it’s a campaign that’s yet to gather any real momentum for the Banner.
“It’s been a bit topsy-turvy kind of a campaign for us. Look at the first few games, we reacted as opposed to really going at teams. We went to Cork and played quite conservative but still hurled well and there’s a real kind of a Clare way about us when we want to play and we are confident and cocky about it. When we go into ourselves then we have a tendency to let teams get back at us. I think Donal and Gerry are doing a really good job at the moment and you can see that we are progressing slowly. I think they have more of an eye on the championship rather than the league. We can welcome going to Walsh Park and have a dry run ahead of the game in May and you can see that we are going to learn a lot from them too along with travelling down to the venue” he noted.
Despite the championship game being on the horizon, Lynch is confident both sides will be holding nothing back once the whistle blows on Saturday afternoon.
He said: “It’s always good to play competitive games coming into the Munster championship, I think that is key. Whichever team loses on Saturday is going to be travelling the country looking for teams to play in meaningless matches. Some people are calling Saturday’s game a meaningless match but I don’t buy into that. I think Clare will want to win to rectify some of the previous games and Waterford will want to win with Padraic Fanning having his first year in charge. It would be their first bit of silverware in a while if they managed to win the league and a semi-final against Galway or Wexford would be a great carrot to look forward to also. The league is a fantastic competition and you can see that players thrive on it and it’s a great way to blood players. As it goes on though, you can see the competitive streak in the likes of Cody and Davy and these fellas breaking out and they are getting their best players on the field. I don’t think the shadow boxing in the league is there in the way people think it is. The league is there for teams to prepare for championship but they still want to win it”.
You can listen to the full interview below with Fergal as he spoke with The Clare Champion’s Derrick Lynch.