John Kiely didn’t mince his words as he confirmed that the reigning hurler of the year Cian Lynch will not be fit for Sunday’s Munster Hurling Final with Clare.
And with the news comes the conundrum once more, who replaces Lynch at centre-forward, quickly followed by, how do you replace Lynch?
The Patrickswell man plummeted himself into a different stratosphere in the 2021 season where he became just the second player to win multiple Hurler of the Year awards.
Cathal O’Neill’s audition in Lynch’s role must have been pleasing to Kiely with the youngster clipping over three points in his hour against Waterford, adding to the two point cameo in his senior debut against Cork the week previously.
He started at centre-forward for the Tipp clash and applied himself with one from play and a couple of frees won before limping off shortly after half time.
An ankle injury ruled him out of the game with Clare, although Kiely did provide a positive update on the Crecora Manister man as he alongside Aaron Gillane and Darragh O’Donovan returned to full training in preparation for the Munster final.
David Reidy occupied the centre-forward position for the round robin clash with Clare but struggled to get into the game with the Banner immediately to the pitch of the contest as John Conlon dominated at #6. Reidy was one of three changes injury enforced changes to the team that won the All-Ireland title last August with Lynch, Peter Casey and Gillane replaced by Reidy, Mike Casey and Conor Boylan.
Boylan was deployed at full forward line beside Kyle Hayes and Seamus Flanagan with that line in particular going under huge reconstruction during the championship.
Mike Casey’s remarkable reemergence from two-years on the sideline saw Dan Morrissey relocate to wing-back where he won an All-Star in 2018, with Kyle Hayes reverting into the inside forward line after a pair of All-Star seasons at #7. Hayes’ adaptability was shown against Cork where he grabbed the game’s first goal out of nothing and added another against Clare last time out.
Those games saw him line out in the full forward line, but the Kildimo Pallaskenry man could be the one to replace Lynch on 45’ as he did in Limerick’s run to the Liam MacCarthy where he was the All-Ireland final man of the match and Young Hurler of the Year.
Hayes will offer a different style to Lynch as more of a powerful runner but as a Hurler of the Year nominee last year, it’s hard to argue that he couldn’t be as effective.
Gearoid Hegarty and Tom Morrissey will most definitely start on either wing with Gillane and Seamus Flanagan assured of their places on the inside line.
Hayes will start but there is always the option to push him into defence with Kiely offering a positive update on Peter Casey and Barry Murphy, both of whom featured in last year’s All-Ireland final.
“Both Barry Murphy and Peter Casey are still making very significant progress in their recoveries, getting nearer to a full recovery, but again that’s a little bit off yet.”
If Casey is ready to go, then Kiely may pull the trigger on last year’s All-Star who has been missed despite Limerick’s championship results. If he isn’t, then O’Neill looks in pole position to occupy one of the forwards jerseys.
It is a happy headache for Kiely and co to configure with Lynch’s absence thus far failing to really halt the Limerick juggernaut.
Their next man up mantra has been proved true but heading into the All-Ireland series with a Munster title secured in the absence of the Hurler of the Year is a huge incentive for Limerick who will be hopeful of his return sometime in June.