Cian Lynch proud of Limerick’s versatility:

By Paul Keane

Cian Lynch says Limerick’s versatility and the ability of their talented players to perform in a range of positions is a source of pride.

The decision to switch Cathal O’Neill from attack to defence is the latest leftfield move by the Kiely-Kinnerk led management team.

Limerick, who will play Kilkenny in Saturday’s National League semi-final, have used 37 different players so far in the campaign and O’Neill is the only one to have started all five games.

Management are keen to give him time to get used to his new surroundings in the half-back line where he has played the last three games.

Speaking at the launch of Insomnia’s five-year partnership with the GAA and GPA, two-time Hurler of the Year Lynch said O’Neill ‘can play anywhere’.

He’s not alone because Lynch himself, along with Barry Nash, Kyle Hayes, Dan Morrissey and Will O’Donoghue have all made high profile positional switches over the years which have paid off.

Asked if they’re proud of their versatility, Lynch smiled.

“Well I don’t know if there’s anywhere else for me to go but no, you would be,” he said. “Once you’re able to adapt and to do the job at hand, you’d be willing to do anything.

“If you’re asked to go out and stand in the corner and puck a ball out there, you’ll do that. I think lads have great self belief in what they’re asked to do.”

O’Neill made his name as a forward capable of creating and taking scores. But with Declan Hannon unavailable until Round 5, O’Neill slotted in at centre-back against Dublin in Round 3 and hasn’t looked back, playing alongside Hannon in the half-back line against Galway last weekend.

He looks set to hold onto his spot for Saturday afternoon’s league semi-final clash with Kilkenny at SuperValu Pairc Ui Chaoimh.

“Sure Cathal’s unreal,” enthused Lynch. “He can play anywhere, he can do anything. He epitomises the word ‘athlete’. He’s fast and strong. You can play him anywhere. He’s flying it.

“I think he might have played centre-back for his club maybe but yeah, he’s flying it. He reads the game so well and he’s got such a hurling brain.”

Lynch himself has shown his versatility when moving between the half-forward line and midfield over the years.

But it’s no cliche when he says he’s just happy to be on the field these days, after all the injury issues he’s encountered.

The Patrickswell man said the reality is that the hamstring injury which affected him in 2022, costing him almost three months at the high point of the season, was a career threatening setback.

He eventually made it back and was primed to start in the All-Ireland final before suffering a bad ankle injury in training that required surgery.

Former team-mate Tom Condon described the injury as career threatening in an interview and Lynch agreed.

“I think it was, yeah,” nodded Lynch. “I think it was something like Grade 3, Grade 3C or something. Yeah, initially it was. But sure if you take what you’re told initially on everything, you’d be left with nothing.”

Lynch twinged the same hamstring in last summer’s Munster SHC Round 2 loss to Clare. He started the next game against Tipp but was taken off, was used as a sub against Cork in the last round and didn’t feature at all in the provincial final.

“I was just trying to get it right,” said Lynch of those difficult weeks before returning to top form in the All-Ireland series.

Lynch didn’t feature in the first three rounds of this season’s National League before lining out this month against Tipperary and Galway.

Asked if the delayed return was because of a fresh injury or simply being rested, the 28-year-old shrugged.

“Just trying to get back into the swing of things really and push yourself to get on the 15,” he said. “It’s so competitive, 36 lads there and all the new lads after coming in, it’s great. It’s healthy.”

Limerick and Clare are the only unbeaten teams so far across the two Division 1 groups. If they can win their respective semi-finals this weekend then they will meet in the final, a fortnight before they’re scheduled to meet again in Round 1 of the Munster SHC.

“Sure all you want to be doing as a player is playing games, playing as many matches as you can,” said Lynch when asked if there’s any downside to potentially playing Clare twice. “Whether you’re getting to a league semi-final, or if you push on and get to a league final, isn’t that great? It’s an absolute blessing.”