‘You’d have letters, you’d get text messages, you’d get irate parents on the phone’

SHORTLY AFTER MICHEÁL Donoghue finished his duties at Galway’s All-Ireland hurling final media day, minor boss Jeffrey Lynskey took his place in front of the firing squad.

Lynskey is preparing for his third All-Ireland final with the minors, having delivered titles on both of their last trips to the decider in 2015 and 2017.

Before long the conversation turned to Donoghue’s admission that receiving letters of abuse at his home were a regular thing. Even working with underage players, Lynskey said he wasn’t exempt from such occurrences.

“Even when you win All-Irelands there’s people waiting to catch you out,” he began. “Micheal will tell you that as well.

“There’s a term there, it’s called ‘FOMO’ – fear of missing out. Or a ‘helicoptor parent’ or the ‘lawnmower parent’. So, they will contact the county chairman, the bishop, the priest, local councillors, TDs – all that stuff that I’ve had for the last four years.”

Lynskey recalled a serious incident that occurred recently where a county board official was verbally attacked by the uncle of a player who didn’t make the squad. He admitted he seriously considered taking it to the Gardaí to protect himself and his family.

“Some of the stories I have are funny, some of them are less so. Members of board officials would have been attacked, and that was only about six weeks ago.

“Verbally attacked over stuff that I would have done regarding panels and not picking lads. And you’re thinking, ‘Right, is this the time now to go to the guards with it to protect myself?

Jeffrey Lynskey celebrates at the final whistle of their semi-final win

Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

“You need to protect yourself. In our school where I work, the principal protects everyone in the school, both staff and teachers. So, for me, the board officials need to protect what we’re doing.

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“So, when people like Eamonn Fitzmaurice come out and the level of abuse that he got, that’s wrong, lads. It’s not nice. When you’ve a young family at home that I have and he has, we’ve young kids.

“Now, God help them if they come to my door – it would be sorted out fairly quick! But you just have to protect yourself and shield yourself. It’s a public job. As Cyril (Farrell) said to me when I became manager in 2014-15, ‘You’re now public property and you need to realise that, you just have to deal with it.’

“I’m quite good; you get a technique after a while, you learn the dos and don’ts. This type of stuff, now does it concern me? The incident a couple of weeks ago did because of the vitriol that was there and the angst that was there and the toxicity of it. So I said to myself, ‘Right, if I hear another thing here I’m going to move on this.’

“It was an uncle of a lad. Funny enough, people see you after an All-Ireland, everything’s rosy in the garden. But, no.”

John Kiely has spoken out about his experiences with abuse from within his own county

Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Donoghue, John Kiely,  James Horan, Anthony Daly and Eamonn Fitzmaurice have all spoken recently about the abusive letters they’ve received during their managerial reigns.

Lynskey’s experience with hate mail is no different.

“(I got) letters. I’m not on social media, I have a Twitter account but I use it for getting results and stuff, articles, the usual stuff. What tends to happen with us is when we pick the panel, there’s a huge attention drawn when someone makes a Galway minor. There’s a status to it. The family name goes up … ‘My son is a Galway minor’.

“Funny enough now, if I’d a letter now I wouldn’t read it. We’re kind of shielded from that. You would have letters from time to time. You’d get text messages, you’d get irate parents on the phone. But it’s like anything else, with the training we have within teaching, you’ve got to keep control at all times.”

During his first year in charge in 2015, Lynskey received a phone call from a local priest requesting that a youngster be brought into his minor panel.

“Well in fairness to him, he was right!” Lynskey laughed. “There was a lad we missed, and he rang me and he said, ‘Look, I’m such and such from whatever parish.’

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Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

“He said, ‘Look, will you do me a favour?’ He told me the backstory and I said, ‘I’ll take a look at him in a club match’. And I looked at the kid and I said, ‘Do you know what, he has something’ and we brought him in.

“But you have to have that link with people. If you disconnect yourself completely, then they become a bit disenchanted.

“There’s other stuff, parents not coming to functions after All-Irelands are won because their kids didn’t make the 26. The big thing is to have the name in the programme and the picture.

“That’s huge for some parents. Understandable enough – for some of them it’s the be all and end all. But I’m trying educate them that this is only a step on the road.

“Some of them will listen to you, they’ve no issue, they’ll absorb it. You would have parents ringing you the night before a match, at 10pm, wondering how come he’s not on the 24, why is he not on the team?

“And you have to handle that very, very carefully and keep control, because ultimately what will happen is, like the rest of us, you’re going to have an issue with the kid the following day when you see him, going, ’Your dad is ringing me.’ But I don’t do that.

Some Galway players shortly after beating Dublin in the semi-final

Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

“You don’t kill the kitten because of what the cat has done.

“So, you just have to be careful. You have to be very, very mindful of them because they’re only 16, 17 years of age. And it’s an educational programme for the parents who listen and absorb it.”

Lynskey admits he would even steer clear of his local pubs now to avoid any potential comments about his management.

“There is always somebody waiting to catch you out. There is always some lad. I hurled senior for my club for 20 years. I’m from Liam Mellows, we had David Collins, etc, I would have played with them, tried to manage them.

“You learn the tricks of the trade after a while. The lads sitting on a barstool giving their opinion – these lads don’t surmount to anything. They are sitting on a barstool all their lives.

“The hard thing is to go out and do it, to train yourself, to work with the management group that I have. I’ve 12 on the coaching staff, I’ve 12 underneath me. We have 90-plus players in a system. That’s fulfilment. The problem with the modern world is that people want instant gratification. They don’t want to go the long hard slog.”

He says in no uncertain terms those unsavoury incidents have discouraged him from ever wanting to manage at Galway at senior level if the post became available.

“Yeah, I am quite happy at academy level. You are in a teaching environment. Your health is good. If I wasn’t off for the summer. I don’t know how Micheál manages it. I’ve no idea. Between your coaching sessions, your gym sessions, dealing with players and management and everything else that goes with it, it is 50-60 hours a week.

Liam Cahill and Jeffrey Lynskey in 2016

Source: Lorraine O’Sullivan/INPHO

“We are not getting paid, we get mileage. We are doing it for the love of the game. That is why we are successful. It is the guys who go on the merry-go-round journey that are looking for the few pounds in the pocket, they get found out. It is the guys who are doing it for the love of the game who are successful, the likes of Brian Cody.

“Why is Brian still in it? Cause he loves it. I’m on a committee at present in Croke Park with Michael Dempsey and Jamesie O’Connor trying to put a better structure on the academy system throughout Ireland. You are talking to these lads and you realise they love hurling.

“I’d be coaching the U8s at my club because that is what I would love. That is why we do it. There is no agenda. You see through the bull with some of them. As long as I still love it, my health and family are okay, I’ll stay at it.”

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