June 11, 1993
Cyril Lyons from Ruan
A Constant Force in an unsettled Clare team over the past decade and more.
There's at least one in every unfashionable county, hurling or football. The sort of player that the man over the unfashionable team would like another thirteen of the same ' ilk to rattle the bones of the opposition or to rattle over a few oh so important scores. The sort of player that would easily slot into the premier fifteen of the most successful counties around. One such player is Clare's Cyril Lyons.
A top class hurler, Lyons is now thirty four years of age, but still doesn't know whether or not this year's Munster Championship will be his eleventh and last one. The body is willing, it seems, but the mind …? At the close of play on Sunday evening next at the Gaelic Grounds in Limerick, Cork's Red Army of fans may well have wished that the Ruan clubman had called it quits before a ball was struck in anger in Ennis on May 23rd last when Clare's latest threatened renaissance was launched.
However much the Clare hurling team has been tinkered with over the last decade and a bit, one figure has remained constant force therein. That figure is Clare's current full forward Cyril Lyons. He's the man that could yet make this the mother of all Indian summers himself by helping his beloved county into the provincial final against all the odds. On the basis of his 2-4 tally against Limerick and Clare's overall fire and passion display at Cusack Park that day, anything is possible as Clare footballers would have you know.
Despite their well-merited and acclaimed victory over Limerick, Clare hurlers remain a couple of notches below the watermark which says definite champion material. That's how those of the county perceive the side. We've seen so little of Clare for so long now that that belief is the natural product of quantifying the unknown. As far as Cyril Lyons is concerned, it's a similar story. He's a Clare prophet scarcely known too far outside the county itself if not the province of Munster. Outside of two Oireachtas medals in the early eighties and a couple of National Hurling League Division One B medals, his cupboard is distinctly bare of silverware. Getting selected on the Munster Railway Cup team of 1986 is perhaps Cyril Lyons greatest claim to fame as yet. Not that the Cloughleigh Primary Schoolteacher has any pretensions to greatness, for he is the archetypal team player.
Cyril Lyons has played on so many losing Clare teams that had he been tempted to betray his roots and Galway for instance, few hurling aficionados could have found it in their hearts to blame him. He has ended up on the losing side so often that one could hardly imagine him being gutted on Sunday next should Cork triumph as is expected. Those that have followed the school master's career to date though will testify to the theory that no Clare player will be hurting more come Sunday evening should Clare's latest renaissance become a still-birth.
He, who should know better than most, knows that fortune shines on those of a certain age or era. Ruan's best known hurling son of modern times (ex-great Jimmy Smith was also a Ruan clubman, and Johnny Moroney is a current county man too) was born in the wrong era, his fans assert. Cyril himself is typically rational and honest about such hyperbole. "If you were to judge any hurlers talents by the success they've enjoyed there would be a lot of very average hurlers over the years. A player can be very lucky to come on to a county team at an opportune time and vice versa. Players like Sean Hehir, Ger Loughnane (Clare), Jimmy Carroll (Limerick) and Jim Greene (Waterford) were all unlucky in that respect".
A pupil at Saint Flannans College in Ennis when the Banner county appeared to have a Championship or two there for the taking, the young Lyons can remember Father Harry Bohan's lions of '76, 77 and '78 going on to win a couple of Leagues, but at the same time flattering to deceive when Championship steel was wanted.
Prior to the team's recent triumph over Limerick, Clare's last Championship win was against Waterford in the provincial opener in 1988. Cyril Lyons was both a seasoned Senior county player by that stage one of the veterans of the team in the wake of the retirement of several of the seventies squad. He sees no analogy between then and now however. Optimism is based much more on realism now. "There's no comparison between the situation in '88 and this year, there's a whole different atmosphere about. We struggled to beat Waterford then and weren't a patch on the side that reached the Munster final in 1986. There wasn't much faith in the team but this year's team has got great confidence especially after the win over Limerick", explained the 1988 - '91 Ruan club Secretary.
As keen and eager now for the fray as he was when impressing the likes of Father Walsh and Father Gardiner at 'Flannans, Cyril Lyons freshness and ambition makes him more than just a wily forward for his county. Whereas in days gone by he fetched and carried from midfield or wing forward, his brief now is to make every shot count and every score hurt. His relocation up front has visibly bolstered Clare's traditional achilles heel. "I suppose up front is where games are won and lost and on many times things just didn't work out for us in that department. Of late though, the forwards have been playing well as in the Limerick game".
Save a couple of club Under 21 Championship and later an Intermediate honour, life with Ruan has been likewise disappointing. Surely a litany of near misses, culminating in a series of soul destroying times? What kept the engine ticking over? "Several reasons I suppose. The enjoyment you get from different people you'd meet through hurling whom otherwise you'd never have got to know. The odd good match you'd have and the craic there's be after training or if you won a match plus the fact that I've been lucky enough to avoid serious injury and I haven't found it difficult to get fit", replied the former St. Pat's Drumcondra Division Two All-Ireland Colleges medallists.
Convinced that if Clare were to beat Cork and go on to win out Munster this year that hurling would once again take off in the county (just like football has done since July '92), Cyril Lyons refutes any suggestion that the upcoming Cork head to head clash represents a make or break for the Banner county. He puts on ice any personal business about also signing off. "Winning makes life easier on the hurling field but at the moment I'm too engrained in the game to think about parting company with it. Even if we were to lose in Limerick, players retain that ability to bounce back", explained the long-time underage coach at Ruan, where the only tombstone (that of Namer Hayes) with hurley engraved is sited in the local graveyard.
Reluctant to pour scorn on Limerick's failure to live up to their billing as much favourites against Clare, Clare's longest serving team member is concise in his observation. Limerick didn't play well and might have snatched a draw which they wouldn't have deserved to do. We made poor work at the interval, didn't gather our thoughts while being on a high at 3-10 to 1-3 ahead but deserved to win through.
A member of the Ruan side beaten in four county Championship semi finals between 1982 - '87 and now with John Moroney carrying the hopes of all Ruan supporters for Munster glory. Cyril is under no illusion as to the size of the task awaiting the Banner team on Sunday next. Playing that out for the full seventy minutes forms the basis of his theory of how Clare must perform against Canon O'Brien's National League winners. Fifty minutes of excellence as well exhibited at Cusack Park will not suffice, he muses
Talk among the beleaguered Clare fans has thankfully been elevated and directed away from that of overcoming merely the first round. Hope rather than expectation still is the overriding emotion, west, north and in all areas of the county. For both young and old Clare fans, Ruan's hitman remains Clare's best bet to break down the barrier as can be expected to be erected by Cunningham, Corcoran and the rest of the Cork cutting crew. Lyons: they say, can be relied upon to lob over a handful of frees and at least a hat-trick of points from play. Cyril Lyons most committed fans were not the least surprised by his 2-4 tally against Limerick. Over the last ten seasons, they've been accustomed to Lyons up front as the teams leading midfielders 'cum attacker. They wish their county had more folk like him.
Cyril Lyons has always been serious about his hurling. Still his philosophy remains earthed in real life priorities with the emphasis on the basic belief that hurling is not a matter of life or death. Hurling will never be more important than that for Cyril of the artful wizardry. "At the end of the day nobody asks you how many medals you've won", he insists with one eye on the clouds above which are threatening to make a mockery of his lawn cutting plans. Philosophy or nay, don't bet against the Ruan rampager breaking the pain barrier to get in a few daisy cutters to telling effect on Sunday next".
Written by Hogan Stand Magazine
11/ 06/ 93
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