Sport Interview

A Rossie who came to love the Green & Gold

Friday saw the end of an era for sports fans in Leitrim as Shannonside FM Head of Sport and Leitrim GAA commentator John Lynch steps down after over 20 years giving us the lowdown on Leitrim Sport. The Observer's John Connolly caught up with John ahead of his departure to look back over his career behind the mic and his views of the future of the GAA.

John Connolly

Reporter:

John Connolly

A Rossie who came to love the Green & Gold

He might be from Roscommon but he is the Leitrim camp now - John Lynch pictured at the Quay in Carrick-on-Shannon. Photo by Willie Donnellan

John Lynch may hail from Roscommon but the Arigna native is very much an adopted son of Leitrim after following the fortunes of the Green & Gold down through the years.

Reflecting on the highs and lows of his career, John said “Coming in from Roscommon, I can say I never heard a bad word from anybody in Leitrim. You appreciate what’s going on, you know the challenges that are and as a result, you have huge respect for what goes on in the county and you know that they are committed.

“You buy into it, you get sucked into it, you almost find yourself there as a supporter, you want to see them do well and I suppose that came across in the commentaries, you can’t hide that and I suppose on local radio and whatever county you are following, you have to have that genuine passion there.

“The fact that you are close to the county and you are living in it, you build up close bonds. And I suppose all sporting organisations know that it works both ways, they know the media and other times they need them like a hole in the head when they mightn’t want something covered but it works both ways, it is important to have those professional relationships there.”

There have been many good days and just as many bad days but a strange highlight stands out for John - “There is so many moral victories down through the years that just fell short and believe it or not, one of the times I felt most sorry for Leitrim was back in 2004 in the Qualifiers against Roscommon.

“A last minute David O’Connor goal and I left Carrick-on-Shannon that day feeling really sorry for Leitrim because I felt they were the better team on the day, luck just wasn’t with them on the day.

“The first Championship game I did a commentary on and I’m talking about being thrown in in the deep end, it was Leitrim London Connacht Championship in 1997, 20 years ago and to see that drama.

“Everybody expected Leitrim to win comfortably and I remember going over the day before and talking to Des Quinn and a few other officials and I remember asking what happens if the game finishes level and they told us there would be extra time but there was almost a laugh around the table, nobody expected it.

“But as the game played out, we needed a last minute penalty and I can still see Adrian Cullen in the mind’s eye going down, whether he was fouled or not I’m not sure because we were on the balcony behind the goal.

“I can remember Declan Darcy slotting away the penalty and I remember Gerry Flanagan, meeting him in the bar after the game, and he said I hope when you did your report, that you mentioned the Aughawillan connection because between Darcy and myself, the Aughawillan connection hit 2-14! Gerry came on and got a point and he was keen to get that across.”

“The fact that they won their first Qualifier against Wicklow, that was hugely important after what had happened in the Mayo game beforehand and the way Barney & George got that team back up and running again and they subsequently ran Laois close, that was significant getting the monkey off the back, that they had won a qualifier.

There have been bad days too - “The low days, there have been a lot of them. You go back to some of the defeats in the Connacht Championship, people would have expectations there like 2006 in the All-Ireland Qualifiers and Leitrim had beaten Sligo the previous year.

“The defeats against Sligo and Louth in recent years and maybe this year in Carlow, the first half performance against Carlow was a little bit more positive and you would say that if they could reproduce there what they did for the first half, there might be a chance but those games against Sligo and Louth were low points.

“2013 was a major pity because everything was there, they had beaten New York and the draw had fallen kindly in the sense that it was London and it was a chance to get into the Connacht Final.

“The management took the course of action they did but the real annoying thing was they got crucified with injuries after that, Emlyn Mulligan was one and he played a significant part in games up to that.

“Yet their second half performance that day in Roscommon when they came within a score of winning, it was a case of what might have been. We wouldn’t have beaten Mayo in a Connacht Final but it would have been great to get there.”

Individuals too spring to mind but two stand out - “From looking at it, a lot of names spring to mind and it is always dangerous when you look back. Philly McGuinness had the potential to be absolutely huge.

“I came into in an era when Declan Darcy was coming towards the end of his career, Seamus Quinn was one of those magnificent full-backs and there were so many guys along the way, to pick out one particular player for hearts, for guts, for determination, Seamus Quinn would have been it, the fact that he got an All-Star, what he achieved with that team at a young age.

“And there was a period for three or four years where he was the best full-back in the country, absolutely. He would be up there and now it is has gone full circle, he is back as a selector.

“When you see the guys you started off with as players and they are now managers, maybe it is time to take a back seat,” joked John.

Read more from our fascintating interview with John on www.leitrimobserver.ie.