The Leeside Legends series: Jack Lynch was the ultimate leader at every level

The Leeside Legends series: Jack Lynch was the ultimate leader at every level
Jack Lynch in the league final against Tipperary in 1948 at Croke Park.

JACK LYNCH, the former Taoiseach, is one of the most famous names to be associated with the GAA, a superstar before the term was invented.

Jack was born in 1917, one of nine children. His father was from Buargorm near Bantry, his mother, Nora, came from Glounthaune and the family lived in the Shandon area of Cork.

The family home was situated in the middle of a graveyard which doubled as a play area for the local children.

The Olde Cork Butter Market, which was also in the vicinity Lynch’s home, was a handy spot for budding hurlers and Jack used the larger outer walls as a ball alley.

From this working-class background came the youngster who was destined to carve an unrivalled niche in the annals of the GAA.

Jack went to school in the nearby convent in Peacock Lane for two years before moving to the North Monastery where he spent 11 years under the Christian Brothers.

Lynch developed immensely at the North Mon where he had the reputation as an excellent hurler and an outstanding scholar.

When he completed his Leaving Certificate, he temporarily worked with the Dublin Milk Board and in 1936 he joined the Civil Service.

The start of his hurling career began in earnest at the North Mon and he helped his school win three Harty Cup titles in a row from 1935 to 1937.

While still at school, in 1934 he helped Glen Rovers win the Cork Minor Hurling Championship for the first time in the club’s history. In his time at the Glen he was one of the few players to win eight successive Cork County medals, starting in 1934.

In all, he won 11 county medals, picking up two in football with St Nicholas, the Glen’s sister club, in 1938 and 1941.

One of the most famous stories of his football career centred around the 1938 county final in Bandon.

The final that day was played on the old Bandon field which, as older followers of the GAA will remember, had a river running parallel to it.

In those days, footballs were a scarce enough commodity and the clubs had only two on the day of the final.

The first ball was punctured early in the game and later, with St Nick’s ahead and looking in control, the second ball was kicked into the middle of the river.

Jack, without hesitation and in full knowledge the game would be abandoned if the ball was not retrieved, leaped into the river and retrieved it as St Nick’s subsequently went on to win the title.

This story may or may not have been embellished with time, but is always told to young Nick’s players as a means of explaining the love and passion he had for Nick’s and for the community.

The first of Jack’s senior hurling medals was won in 1941 when Cork demolished Dublin 5-11 to 0-6.

After captaining Cork in 1938-'39 and 1940, his teams were defeated on each occasion.

Jack Lynch (seventh from left, back row) with the Cork team before the 1946 All-Ireland final.
Jack Lynch (seventh from left, back row) with the Cork team before the 1946 All-Ireland final.

The opportunity arose once again and it was a dream come true for Lynch as Cork defeated Dublin by seven points.

Another victory in 1943 over Antrim saw Cork set themselves for the 1944 All-Ireland final where, under captain Sean Condon, they easily accounted for Dublin.

Jack Lynch would continue with his incredible All-Ireland success but this time it was the Cork senior footballers.

The football team of 1945 had created a major shock when defeating Kerry in the Munster final at Killarney.

It was 34 years since Cork had won the All-Ireland football title, but this time, they came up trumps against Cavan in a game that will be remembered for Lynch arriving late due to traffic congestion.

Jack also won three National Hurling titles, six Munster Championships and eight Railway Cup medals. Jack retired from club hurling in 1950 after helping the Glen to another county title that brought his remarkable career to an end.

Of course, he would go on to more acclaim in the world of politics.

The Cork hurling All-Ireland four-in-a-row-winning captains: Con Buckley, Glen Rovers (1941), Jack Lynch, Glen Rovers (1942), Mick Kennefick, St Finbarr's (1943) and Sean Condon, St Finbarr's (1944). 
The Cork hurling All-Ireland four-in-a-row-winning captains: Con Buckley, Glen Rovers (1941), Jack Lynch, Glen Rovers (1942), Mick Kennefick, St Finbarr's (1943) and Sean Condon, St Finbarr's (1944). 

In October 1999, the city of Cork went into mourning when Jack Lynch died at the age of 82. Cork had lost one of its favourite sons and a man who was a great ambassador at national and international levels.

Thousands of people lined the streets of Cork to pay tribute to the great man who was loved by the majority of Corkonians for his leadership both on and off the field.

FACTFILE:

Jack Lynch is the holder of six All-Ireland medals.

He won eight successive county hurling medals with Glen Rovers.

He was first elected Taoiseach in 1966 where he served until 1973 and again between 1977 and 1979.

Jack Lynch died in 1999 at the age of 82 and is buried at St Finbarr’s Cemetery following a State funeral.

Relatives of Jack Lynch: Valerie O'Hanlon, Jean O'Hanlon, Sean Coleman and Des Dunne at a ceremony at North Monastery Primary School earlier this year. Picture: Larry Cummins
Relatives of Jack Lynch: Valerie O'Hanlon, Jean O'Hanlon, Sean Coleman and Des Dunne at a ceremony at North Monastery Primary School earlier this year. Picture: Larry Cummins

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