If any of the current crop of Galway hurlers feels dejected after having given so much this season only to be eventually pipped at the post by Kilkenny, they need only look to Sylvie Linnane for inspiration.
Sylvie, who has released his autobiography this month, is one of the all-time hurling greats, and knows a thing or two about bouncing back after defeat. His defensive stoicism at corner-back was the bedrock upon which Galway won three All-Ireland titles in the 1980s.
Before finally tasting glory in 1980, however, Sylvie had to endure defeat, first as a minor in 1973, then in 1979 when Galway’s hurlers were edged out by a familiar rival, Kilkenny.
When he joined the senior panel in 1976, Galway had not won the All-Ireland since 1923 and, while he felt that the Tribesmen had “a great blend” of players in the late 70s, they just needed that lucky break to come their way.
“When you haven’t won in so long, getting the breakthrough is probably the hardest thing to get. You keep trying until you get the breakthrough and sooner or later you will get the break that will bring you over the line, which we got in ’80,” he says.
The current Galway panel is blessed with a great deal of youth as well as talent, and the Gort man thinks they have more than one All-Ireland in them, as long as they persevere and keep their heads.
“They always say you have to lose one to win one. So, with a bit of experience and keeping their two legs on the ground…they have a great chance of going on and winning the All-Ireland,” he says.
In writing his autobiography, ‘True Grit: The Making of Sylvie Linnane’, one of Galway’s most decorated sportsmen had to dig deep to chronicle a Galway hurling career that began almost 40 years ago. Details at times were a little hazy, he says.
In that, he was ably assisted by friends and the book’s publisher, former Meath football great Liam Hayes, who helped trawl through the archives to piece together the details of his life, on and off the field.
In an experience that will be familiar to many Irish people, Sylvie remembers leaving the farm at age 16 to work on the sites in London. Luckily, for Galway GAA, it was not a lengthy excursion.
A combination of having to travel home at weekends and a romantic interest back home drew him back to Ireland after just six weeks. So, when his brother secured a job for him in Ennis, the decision was an easy one to make, and back he came.
“My heart was still at home,” he remembers.
However, Sylvie is no misty-eyed sentimentalist and he feels the pace and the skill of the game today is as high as ever, and says that the first, drawn All-Ireland final, which Galway contested with Kilkenny was “absolutely brilliant”.
One aspect that he does feel is absent from today’s game is ground hurling. The introduction of mandatory helmets is a move, which he welcomes wholeheartedly, although he confesses it is not something that would have suited him personally.
Though the game is safer now, with the potential for head injuries reduced, Sylvie does not believe the intensity and physicality has lessened and he thinks that there are rivalries developing between Galway players and Kilkenny players today that are reminiscent of his rivalries with the likes of Nicky English and Jimmy-Barry Murphy.
“It’s great incentive to go out there and play your heart out against some of their players,” he says.
He has clearly enjoyed the experience of reliving his career and has plenty to say about the current game, so is there another book in Sylvie Linnane? “We’ll see how this one goes first!” he says.
Name: Sylvie Linnane
Occupation: Galway hurling legend
Newsworthiness: Sylvie, who won three All-Ireland titles with Galway in the 1980s, has just released his autobiography, ‘True Grit: The Making of Sylvie Linnane’ through Irish Sports Publishing.