This Sunday, Galway will look to scale the last hurdle in between three All-Ireland minor titles in four years when they face Kilkenny in the Electric Ireland minor hurling final. Throughout it all, they have had the same man at the helm, parading the touchline and sculpting the next generation of Tribesmen hurlers, Liam Mellows clubman Jeffrey Lynskey.
Lynskey is a rare breed amongst Inter-county bosses. Management was not an afterthought but the primary focus from an early age. In 1994, he collected a minor All-Ireland medal of his own under the astute command of Mattie Murphy. They defeated Jimmy Barry Murphy's Cork 2-10 to 1-11.
However, Lynskey failed to make the breakthrough to the senior set-up and instead focused on the next best thing; becoming an Inter-county manager. It was always an aspect he was interested in, a fire that was stoked during his school days. As he told GAA.ie two years ago, Lynksey repeated his leaving cert and thus was over age for the senior team. The next best thing? Managing that team.
By 2010 Lynskey was well on his way towards coaching expertise. The school from which he teaches was approved as the first educational body that could host the GAA's foundation level and level 1 coaching programmes.
In November 2014, the Galway county board began their interview process for the position as minor manager. Lynskey was experienced with several members of the group, having coached the Galway U16 development squad in 2013. He applied and was warned that the crop weren't the best group of minors the county had ever produced. Ten months later the group won an All-Ireland title.
A year later Lynskey's side were dumped out of an All-Ireland semi-final at the hands of Tipperary. the team was lambasted within hurling circles for conceding seven goals. But quickly, Lynskey turned it all around.
Here's the thing about Jeff Lynskey. While underage success is promising it is not prioritised. His focus is on development, thus in 2016 he recruited a career guidance officer to work with the team and address the historic failure to progress successful minor players through to senior. He has been outspoken on the lack of crucial games afforded to Galway underage sides and called on the GAA to implement Championship reform in that regard. Coaching youth is his passion and last year his fingerprints were all over the Liam Mellows side who won their first County Hurling Senior Championship in 47 years last year. In fact, Lynskey is still involved with the U8s/U9s.
2017 was a special year for Galway hurling. On September 3rd the county secured a much-coveted All-Ireland hurling title. Jeff Lynksey's side ensured that day was extra sweet by also winning the minor. As he told Galway Bay FM after the final, their win set the scene for that historic day.
For us, it was to kick off the day. To get the Galway supporters going, to get energy into them. I thought we did that in abundance and thank god the seniors got over the line as well.
A year later, both teams are back on the biggest stage in search of an extraordinary second double.
Sean Loftus, Brian Concannon, Fintan Burke and Jack Canning are just some of the talent that have come through the minor ranks in recent years. This current outfit have shown much promise this year, as Gort's Jason O'Donoghue, younger brother of 2011 minor All-Ireland winner Gerard, Dean Reilly and Donal O'Shea, son of former Tipperary manager Eamonn, continue to demonstrate the strength of the next wave.
Many in Galway would never have believed it, but thanks to the remarkable work of Jeff Lynskey, the rest of the county will soon be occupied with another awesome group coming down the tracks.
Minor players are embarking on their adult lives. They have hopes, dreams, pressures, distractions and ambitions, but for this one moment in time, the Electric Ireland Minor Championships is the major thing in their lives. Follow the conversation at #GAAThisIsMajor
If you’re heading along to Croke Park this weekend make sure to get down early. Electric Ireland is highlighting the major significance of GAA players’ pre-game ritual, ‘The Championship Haircut’ by offering complimentary haircuts ahead of the Electric Ireland Minor Hurling Final from 11.30am on the Cusack Stand side of Croke Park on Sunday.