Aaron Gillen laughs when he says this isn’t something he would tell Sean Lynch to his face.
Without him guiding the route, Limerick’s lethal inside doesn’t seem like he would have made it as much of an inter-county hurler as he did without the influence of his Patrixwell ally.
They’re the same age (26) and great friends, but for Gilane, he’s always been someone it was important to observe and follow.
“Growing up with Cyan, we would have been great friends, we kept in touch with each other. Seeing what he was doing, the way he was going about things, took a leaf out of his book. So, now I’ll never tell him! Little things, what it took to make it. I learned a lot from Cyan,” he admits.
He himself was a slightly reluctant devotee to inter-county life, but has taken it so well since 2018 and arguably had his best season gone as Limerick won his fourth Liam McCarthy Cup in five years.
How did he shape life to receive such a personal reward?
“Quite simple actually. Once it’s put on a plate for you, that’s what you have to do, and if you want to work hard enough, do it,” says Gilane, who won 3 in the 2022 championships. -47 runs, 3-21 from the game.
Lynch’s injury on Sunday before the All-Ireland final, ruling him out for the rest of the season, was quite a blow to the rest of the season, as Gilaney admits – and he felt a debt to them when he played Kilkenny seven days later.
“He has been the best bowler in Ireland for a couple of years. Especially with Patrickswell being such a small place, we are definitely going to miss him. Hope he comes back sooner rather than later. All the supporters Fans see what Cyan brings while playing.
“No one sees what he brings out of the field. He’s just as good around the dressing room, getting the most out of people, being there for people. He will be at Patrickswell training before some of the guys who are training, just talking to young dudes who are breaking up. He is so untrue.
“Cyan was the same Cyan we’ve always known (when he sustained his ankle injury), didn’t change once, didn’t get angry once, just got on with it, still brought positivity to the group, Putting everyone else in front of you.”
Thus, for Gillen, Lynch and his other Patrixwell collaborators take the cup with Diremade Byrnes—a man he feels should be crowned Hurler of the Year—and raise it to the crowd at the Gaelic Grounds when they Returned to Limerick on Monday night. The final, was a season highlight.
“I just remember the three of us bringing the cup out on stage and that place was just going on mentally. It’s something you’ll never forget.”
That and a Munster final victory over Clare in Thurles, something that, for Gilane, went even further than the All-Ireland final they had played six weeks later.
“There’s something so traditional about playing the Munster finals against Claire. We’re right next to each other, we all have to take a good shot at each other with school and college and just play it in Thurles. That’s it. A pure fight, rain of extra time, it was a game for ages that will stand in memory and thank God we came out on top.”
Gilane has been fortunate to avoid a few red cards over the past two seasons and reflected on a ‘near miss’ against Tipperary in last year’s Munster final, when he returned to Tipperary’s Cathal Barrett soon after arriving. He was a huge influence in turning that game the way Limerick knows and, for over 12 months, he got a break.
“It was a little wild,” he admits. “A little stupid. It’s not making excuses. I lost my head there for a few minutes. I was so lucky to be there, I’m grateful for that. All I had to say was, ‘Police on your side’ It would be very embarrassing to be let off. The more you let the team down, which is more important than anyone. So I had to talk to myself a little bit.”
Personal improvement is something he continues to pursue and always feels there is room for more.
“One of the great things is that after the matches, just sitting down, is good enough if you play well but there are always four or five things that you can improve and bring into training from Sunday and do better little by little. Weeks in progress. Even in training, if you look at these little things that you’re working on, if you see them paying off, it’s going to give you satisfaction.”
Aaron Gillen was speaking as Littlewoods Ireland, one of the sponsors of the Hurling Championship, celebrated its rebrand as Very, Very.E.