By Paul Fitzpatrick
Pounding the roads, or around the 6km loop at Rossbeigh beach, over the winter, steeling body and mind, Dominick Lynch was thinking of the big days on the handball calendar.
The Kerryman is 43 now but, some would say, is playing as well as ever. He trains hard but it’s all enjoyable: a diet of handball and running, pursuits he likes, keeps him fit and invigorated.
That conditioning was a big factor as the Glenbeigh man picked up a prized scalp last weekend when knocking out Kilkenny’s Patrick Funchion in the O’Neill’s All-Ireland Senior Singles round of 16 (15-21, 21-16, 21-14) in what was the best match of the round.
“It was a good win alright,” the personable Kerryman told GAAHandball.ie.
“There wasn’t much between us, he was something like 15-10 up in the second after winning the first and to tell the truth, I got a flukey shot, I hit it behind my back and it rolled out on the front wall.
“I’d say that was a turning point in the game. I got back in and I beat him to 16. It was a grueller, it was two hours and 10 minutes. He wasn’t giving up and I wasn’t.
“I didn’t think I played particularly well, I didn’t kill the ball as well as what I can kill. But you have days like that where you don’t play as well, I came out on top still so that was the main thing.”
Lynch’s form on the pre-championship tournament circuit was impressive. The left-hander is thoroughly enjoying his handball these days and it shows.
“I am just enjoying it more than I used to when I was, say, 30 when I was putting myself under a lot of pressure to try and win games. I was always coming up against Tony Healy in Munster, sometimes we went to the third game but he was always way better than me. I am more relaxed about it now. I’m not putting as much pressure on myself to do well in games. In the last few years I’ve been enjoying the game more and that’s probably why I’m doing better.”
In a county where football dominates, handball has a storied tradition dating back many decades. The game went through a lull some years back but a few stalwarts kept it alive and Lynch is glad to report that handball in the Kingdom is now in a much stronger position.
“For years it was only myself and my brother and not many breaking through in our club but we have more players now, the club is much stronger.
“My nephew Darragh Lynch and Sean Quirke who won the U16 All-Ireland last year, they were the first juveniles in our club to win anything in 25 years. It was a huge thing.
“Jack O’Shea and Rory O’Connor won the junior All-Ireland two years ago as well. And Lispole Handball Club, back near Dingle, is up and running again, they have a lot of juveniles playing again which is great to see.”
Lynch remains the top player in the county but his prize for last weekend’s success is a dubious one, a tilt with Irish number one Robbie McCarthy in Cappagh, Co Limerick this Saturday.
“I am kind of punching above my weight against Robbie and the top boys, I’m not going in thinking I will beat him but at the same time, I’m not going to be afraid of him either,” he said.
“The goal at the start of the year was to break back inside the top 16 in the rankings again because I was down at number 23 or 24 and I think I’m back up to 13 now and maybe after the weekend I might be up another bit. To win the Masters was a big goal, that’s my own age bracket and that’s what I want to win most.
“My first senior tournament back was in Ballaghadereen and I think I ran Diarmaid [Nash] to 14 and 10 and then in the Nationals it was 13 and 9 or something so I’m going fairly well I suppose. Calling a spade a spade, I don’t think I am going to beat Robbie but I will give it everything I have.
“It’s great to get in the court with the top players. I’m 43, to get to the quarter-finals at my age is still a big thing for me.
“I have a good game under my belt, that was a tough game, the Funchions are very good players. He served well and he never gave up, he kept battling to the end but that’s what seniors are like.
“I always knew I had a chance, I think if I can avoid the top three or four in the country I have a chance against anyone else. I think everyone knows Robbie will be beating me this Saturday but I'm going fairly well and I’ll be going in to give it my best shot. That’s all I can do.”
Saturday 29th February
Cappagh, Limerick OIC Donal Hayes (087 2442604) At 1pm
- Ladies QF4: Westmeath (Aoife McCarthy) v Cork (Catriona Casey)
- Men’s QF1: Westmeath (Robbie McCarthy) v Kerry (Dominick Lynch)
St. Coman’s, Roscommon OIC Aengus Cunningham (086 3050328) At 1pm
- Men’s QF2: Armagh (Charly Shanks) v Clare (Colin Crehan)
- Men’s QF3: Galway (Martin Mulkerrins) v Meath (Brian Carroll)
- Ladies QF2: IF Clare (Clodagh Nash) v Roscommon (Fiona Tully)
- Men’s QF4: Kilkenny (Peter Funchion) v Clare (Diarmuid Nash)
Leixlip, Kildare OIC Andrew Diggins (087 6181247) At 1.30pm
- Ladies QF1: Limerick (Martina McMahon) v Armagh (Megan McCann)
- Ladies QF3: Antrim (Aisling Reilly) v Clare (Doireann Murphy) or Tipperary (Sinead Meagher)
Sunday 1st March
Multyfarnham, Westmeath OIC Orla Foy (087 1857452) At 3pm
- Ladies QF2: IF Kildare (Mollie Dagg) v Roscommon (Fiona Tully)