It is an illustration of the level at which senior camogie is operating now, that an individual of the calibre of Martin Lynch has been appointed as Wexford manager writes Daragh Ó Conchúir.
Mind you, when you’re taking over the reins of one of the most successful teams the code has ever seen, your credentials need to be impressive.
Although a native of Dublin, Lynch has been living in Blackwater for the past five years. It is a case of returning to his roots, as his mother grew up in the village. His grandmother was from Oulart while his grandfather hailed from Buffer’s Alley.
That all led to summers in Wexford and being infused with a love of Gaelic games. Despite that though, it was in soccer that he established his coaching pedigree initially, spending 15 years with the FAI.
He worked with a host of international teams at underage level and counts Robbie Keane and Andy Reid amongst his former protégés.
Having become somewhat disillusioned though, he began looking for a way to get into GAA coaching. His next-door neighbour in Ratoath happened to be the GAA’s director of games, Pat Daly. He invited Lynch to become involved with the local club and they went on to enjoy quite a bit of success at various levels in Meath.
When Lynch moved to Blackwater, Daly put in a call to George O’Connor, the Model County legend who is now Wexford’s director of hurling. Within weeks, Lynch had secured a job as a full-time coach to the county’s primary and secondary schools. He also spent three years with the Oulart-The Ballagh camogie team and has worked with his home club too.
So when JJ Doyle stood down after Wexford had completed the three-in-a-row last September, he was an early and obvious contender. And once he was offered the job, the enormity of it, and the pressures that might come with it, did not cause him a split-second of thought.
“It’s the challenge that attracted me to it” says Lynch. “A lot of people would say ‘that’s some job to take on’, ‘a tough act to follow’ and so on and so forth but life is all about challenges, so that was the reason I was in the frame for the job and was delighted I got it.
“Camogie is on a high in the county at the moment after winning the three-in-a-row and winning in 2007. There’s a lot of young women out there who are anxious and striving to play for the county. We’d be strong… the intermediate would be strong as well so it is something to look forward to.”
He will be meeting with the players in two weeks and hopes that most of this year’s victorious panel will still be available. He will outline plans which will include the commencement of training in January but insists that he won’t be reinventing the wheel.
Far from wanting to distance himself from the previous regime, Lynch was very happy to approach Doyle for advice and insight. Indeed, he was sitting down with his predecessor less than 24 hours after his appointment.
“My firm belief is if it’s not broken, you don’t fix it. I had a good chat with JJ last Tuesday. We went through an awful lot of stuff.
“My first task is not to discommode the players in any shape or fashion. Obviously I can put my own stamp as manager on it but the most important thing is to create the atmosphere and the environment for the girls to hurl in and once I’ve created that we’re in business.
“The girls are hungry for success. The more success they get, the more success they want, which is a wonderful way to think, isn’t it? That’s a fantastic way for a player to think: ‘I never have enough, I want to win more’.
Lynch has brought elements of his previous life as a soccer coach with him to hurling and camogie but there is no great secret, and as he says himself, they would apply to athletics just as easily.
“In every sport, no matter where you go, if the organisation and preparation isn’t right, if the players aren’t fit both mentally and physically, you’re wasting your team. They’re four big areas that I look at – preparation, organisation, mentally fit, physically fit.”
In his day job as a hurling coach, he feels that progress is being made at underage level. He recognises that “everybody wants success straight away” but feels that supporters might have to wait another five or six years before the advances made are transferred at senior level.
The story is very different with the camogie squad though. The manager won’t be given five or six years to deliver. He acknowledges the fact that Wexford will be expected to be at the sharp end of competition once again and that winning an All-Ireland is almost expected at this stage.
“There is only one aim as far as I’m concerned. I will leave no stone unturned in order to achieve that for the girls.
“Really, as a manager, I have got to create the right platform for those girls to hurl in and to be successful and that’s exactly what I intend to do. Their sole job will be to train and hurl and everything else will be looked after for them.
“If you create the right environment for a player, you’ll always get the best results.”
Pictured: Wexford take to the field ahead of their All Ireland Final v Cork on September 16th 2012