Home GAA First Class Challenges: The Balancing Act Of College & GAA Commitments

First Class Challenges: The Balancing Act Of College & GAA Commitments

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Electric Ireland Fitzgibbon Cup logo Higher Ed GAA

For an average student, college is an ongoing balancing act between studies, social lives and work. Add in GAA commitments and that balancing act becomes a lot more challenging. 

University of Limerick student Ronan Lynch perfected that balance while completing his undergraduate degree in engineering, combining his studies with starring for his club Na Piarsaigh as well as the UL hurling team with whom he won an Electric Ireland Fitzgibbon Cup medal in 2018.

At the start of this academic year, Lynch returned to the college to take on a new challenge – pursuing a degree in medicine. Though he is only a few months in, he is delighted with his decision.

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“It’s tough, there’s no point in saying otherwise but it is very interesting and when people ask me how I’m getting on, it’s definitely something I’m happy I chose to do. It just seemed like a gut feeling of something I’d really enjoy doing and something I’d be passionate about.”

Of course, the decision of whether or not to join back up with the UL GAA Club arose and while the 23-year-old considered whether he could combine Fitzgibbon hurling with the demands of medicine, the support from the GAA community in the college made it a “no brainer”.

“Gary [Kirby – manager] and Deccie [Declan Fitzgerald – selector] had a huge part in it. They’ve been excellent, they’ve put an awful lot of faith and trust in me when other people haven’t. They’ve put an awful lot of faith in me and gave me a lot of confidence. That was a huge factor when I was thinking, ‘will I go back? Will I not?’ 

“The college have a huge emphasis on academia, sport is just an extra-curricular. I knew going in that it wouldn’t be a case of ‘your hurling is number one, make sure you’re at all the trainings’. It’s more ‘we’ll look after you and help you play hurling but your college is number one.’ 

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UL’s Gary Kirby and Declan Fitzgerald

“The GAA people that are involved in the training, the management, have been excellent, then the people coordinating it behind the scenes, they’ve been very good as well. Deirdre Murphy was the GAA Officer before for a lot of my undergrad and Ronan Keane is the man now and both of them have been hugely supportive. The GAA management, the likes of Ger Cunningham, Deccie, Gary, without them I wouldn’t have been able to do half the stuff I’ve done throughout college, particularly with balancing stuff. 

“They have a lot of faith in me, they’ve been really good. When I was deciding whether or not I would play this year, particularly with how difficult the course is, it was a no-brainer really. I knew I’d be able to do it because I’d have so much support.”

Juggling an intensive course like medicine with GAA is a lesson in self-discipline. If Lynch misses a lecture due to training or a match, he has to push himself to make up for lost time.

“It’s just balancing your time, you get used to it after a while. Most people that play hurling and GAA, they get well used to balancing their time from Leaving Cert into college. The college more or less understands most of the time, if you’re missing a lecture, they’d be understanding to a certain extent. If you’re missing something compulsory, you’d have to let them know and get a note signed.

“You have to cover it up in your own time. Medicine in UL is self-directed learning so if you miss something, it’s very much your own choice and you have to do it on your own time and make it up in your own time. Nobody is going to do the work for you so if you’re away and playing matches or training, it’s up to you to make it up in your own time.”

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With 1-7 from play, Lynch was a key member of this year’s panel who lost out to neighbouring rivals Mary Immaculate College in the Electric Ireland Fitzgibbon Cup quarter-final earlier this week. While his chance to add another medal to his collection has passed for this year, the Na Piarsaigh man still regards his 2018 achievement in the competition very highly.

“Deccie and Gary would discuss it, how big a prestige playing in and winning a Fitzgibbon is. People are discussing now ‘how will it fit into the fixtures?’ and ‘does it still have a place?’ With the calibre of players that play in the Electric Ireland Fitzgibbon Cup, to win one is very, very special.

“To have to beat a lot of high-quality teams and play against some serious players, it’s something very special. If you ask anyone with a Fitz medal how they regard it, they’ll say they regard it very, very highly.”

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Electric Ireland’s Sigerson, Fitzgibbon and Higher Education Championship campaign, FirstClassRivals, showcases the unique trait of these historic GAA competitions that sees unexpected alliances form when fierce county rivals put aside their differences to play together, challenge together, and win together.

Electric Ireland is proud to support the Higher Education Championships and will live stream a selection of Fitzgibbon and Sigerson Cup games. Watch the games and follow the Championship at www.electricireland.ie/hec and be a part of the conversation on social media using the hashtag, #FirstClassRivals or visit @ElectricIreland on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.

About Marisa Kennedy

Marisa is a Digital Journalist with Pundit Arena. You can contact her at marisa@punditarena.com or on Twitter