Lynskey looks at the big picture ahead of All-Ireland minor final

Galway manger Jeffrey Lynskey celebrates after Galway win the Electric Ireland GAA All-Ireland Minor Championship semi-final at Croke Park last year. 
Photo:- Mike Shaughnessy

Galway manger Jeffrey Lynskey celebrates after Galway win the Electric Ireland GAA All-Ireland Minor Championship semi-final at Croke Park last year. Photo:- Mike Shaughnessy

Jeffrey Lynskey has been a successful manager with the Galway minor hurlers over the past few seasons, guiding the county to titles in 2015 and 2017 and to another final this Sunday when his charges take on Kilkenny on Sunday in Croke Park (1pm ).

Lynskey and his management team plan on winning next Sunday's All-Ireland minor final against Kilkenny, but win, lose or draw, it is only part of the journey these young players are on.

Lynskey, who works at Galway Community College, is much more concerned with the development of the players in his care for the long term, rather than just 2018.

"What we do at this grade is hopefully a stepping stone for the county U20s and seniors over the next few years," he says. "It is always fantastic to see players who have been involved with us at minor level over the past few years making the U-20 and senior panels with Galway.

"Our approach in the minor set-up is, and has been, based on the overall development of the player. We try to take a holistic approach - both from an educational perspective, and in other aspects of life, as well as on the hurling side. We want the players to go back to their clubs, schools, communities and families after their time with us and add value.

"Minor hurling is important. However it is not the be-all and end-all for these guys. Life goes on after this Sunday regardless of the performance or result and they need to know that."

Huge spread of clubs in the 2018 panel

This season, there is a colossal spread of clubs in the minor squad, with players from clubs such as Annaghdown, Sylane, Salthill and Maigh Cuilinn all involved in the 24 next weekend.

Every talented U17 hurler in the county was given an opportunity to make the squad over the past few months with more than 70 young hurlers being developed and looked at since last January.

Lynskey explains how the squad was drawn up.

"We went with a squad of 90 for the first few months. We used to get the U-17s in first and then the U-16s for the second session - so the coaching staff were doing four and five hours on those first few Saturdays which was busy. It was a test of stamina for January, February and March.

"Then we were left with a minor squad of 24 and two Celtic Challenge squads of 24 each - so you have around 72 players in the overall development squad which gives us a chance to run the eye over a large group of young players. In terms of development they are getting games and we are trying to get the ratio of training to games down. Ideally you would have a training session or two and then a game to implement and practice what they have been coached. That is where real development takes place."

The management team look at a specific programme of work - including the technical and tactical side of things, and then the physical and psychological side of it. Once they have that programe covered, they tidy things up and really focus on the hurling from April on.

Lynskey believes that solid young men make good hurlers.

"If they are good solid guys, they will be good hurlers too. They are not separate. We try to look at the big picture.

"We have a lot of guys who are involved in the background this year, and we are constantly trying to be more professional in all we do. The backroom team all play a huge role in getting a team to an All-Ireland final. We have always tried to create an environment where the players feel comfortable and are able to ask questions and develop individually as the year progresses.

"It is an extremely enjoyable journey for us all. Our philosophy is about trying to create the right environment for all the players on our panel and to foster their love of the game.

"We are in a final now and obviously we want to win it. However, along the way we believe all our panel have improved in different ways and that the development of the lads on our panel as both hurlers and people is the journey we are on."

Galway minors should be in the Leinster championship too

"It was great to get the round robin games against Limerick and Kilkenny which helped us enormously and the lads really kicked on against Dublin in the second half of the All-Ireland semi-final. The more condensed championship is a better model with games every few weeks and it suits teams more.

"Things still need to change and ideally Galway would be in the Leinster minor hurling championship - the same as the U20s and seniors. Sunday will be Kilkenny's tenth championship as opposed to Galway's fourth - which is not a level playing field. It is an improvement, however, there is a more to go."

Winning not the most important thing

Lynskey believes winning at this age group is important, however it is not the most important thing. Developing players and improving them in a rounded way for both Galway, their clubs, and themselves is the overall aim.

"While the individual is important, the overall team is what matters most. The collective and common good is what matters.

"To improve and become top team players they need to sacrifice all egos. Players have choices to make and we will accept those choices. That is life. However, we have a panel of players who all year have worked hard to try to get to this stage, and it is about trying to finish the story this weekend."

Lynskey is especially pleased with the way Galway his panel have gelled and worked over the past few games.

"We learnt a lot over the past few years and hopefully we know the pitfalls from those campaigns at this stage. We have played Kilkenny already this year and they are a good side, but we are looking forward to the challenge."

Speed and power

When you go to Croke Park, players need speed and power, he says. "Thankfully we have both of those assets in our panel. We have been totally focusing on Kilkenny over the past few weeks. We are looking forward to the challenge of taking them on in a high quality contest.

"The modern game is about 24 players and our lads have really upped the level over the past few weeks. We are confident lads who come off the bench can and will make a positive impact. We genuinely believe Croke Park is our stage. We have tradition and legacy in this grade and it is something that does not phase us.

"It would be great to get a big Galway crowd in as early possible as the team can feed off that energy and the stage itself. If the lads embrace the day, enjoy it, and go out and play to their best we will be happy.

"It is a process and hopefully the lads can write their own story. They have set their goals and hopefully they can go out and achieve them in a few days time.

"They are young hurlers at the end of the day. We want them to be in control at all times. We all have our own jobs to do, and so do the players, and if everyone does their job they will survive the test."

Lynskey says the day of the final can be emotional for everyone involved, but it must be balanced at all times.

"You have a process that you follow and the expectation is that that process will deliver a successful outcome for the squad and management team.

"Now all the distractions are gone regarding gear and tickets and logistics for the players. It is about keeping a lot of normality for the player.

"Our sessions had really good intensity and edge to them last week and we will taper things off nicely this week. We reduce it all down for the last week and let the lads reast up a bit.

"Hopefully we will have a good Galway crowd in early as the players really feed off the Galway support. We had 64,000 in last year at half time - so hopefully the Galway fans coming to the game will come in good and early to cheer their minor team on.

"The bottom line is that next Sunday is a wonderful day for the player's families, clubs and schools, however, there is a game of hurling to be played. And it is one we are intent on winning."

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