The former Wexford star who surfs in Kerry and still finds joy in club hurling at almost 40
DIARMUID LYNG IS thinking about a recent video on David McSavage’s Instagram page in which the comedian chastises those who claim to enjoy swimming in the Irish sea.
Diarmuid Lyng [file photo].
Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO
Known for his caustic wit, McSavage is ripping through the philosophy that sea swimming on our shores is a natural cleanser for the mind. The reasons for his objection are obvious; the water is freezing and the weather is polar at the moment.
Even a summer dip often leaves a cold snap on the skin. So, if it’s not your bag, the appeal is hard to find there.
One particular line in McSavage’s tirade stands out:
“When I look at the sea in Ireland, it’s looking back at me and it’s telling me to ‘fuck off.’ And d’you know what? I’m listening.”
Lyng laughed when he saw the video, and could accept the truth in it. And yet, he still finds himself squeezing into a wetsuit most mornings and racing out into the jaws of the Atlantic ocean to go for a surf or a swim.
Amazingly, he assures The42 that it’s the getting ready that is the worst part. The serenity flows once he’s in the water.
“Part me is like, ‘How am I persuading myself that this is a good thing?’” he explains, still sounding like he’s not quite sure of the rationale behind it.
“But then I’d say the same about going to training with Wexford in the winter months, and they’d be big physical sessions. You’d be dreading it but afterwards, you’d be just so high from having done it.
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“You’re out at sea looking back in at land. Often, I might get up at 7 [am] to be in the water for first light at quarter to eight and then be out at quarter past nine for breakfast with the lads. You’re getting the sunrises.
“You’re out in the cold, seeing the sun hit the mountain for the first time. You’re seeing different colours light up on the far side of the peninsula.”
Lyng is a recent convert to surfing, and in hurling language, he puts himself in the Junior C grade. Learning all the time.
He had his misconceptions about the sport before getting up on the board. He never took it for granted as being easy, but he didn’t anticipate the volume of challenges the early stages of learning would present.
But he knows now.
“Waves only break when they hit land and the vast majority of them are over reefs and rocks,” Lyng continues.
“You’ve to take off in front of reefs and rocks. If you get it wrong, you’re in more trouble than you would have realised. It’s quite a dangerous pastime when you don’t know what you’re doing.
“That adds to the experience and it adds to the respect you have for the fellas who are very good at it too.”
Lyng and his family moved to Ventry last year, having previously lived in the Dingle Peninsula. From one part of rural Kerry to another.
Given the events that have unfolded over the last year, that taste for that quiet life in a remote place gives them a unique advantage on the rest of us, particularly the urban dwellers with hectic lives.
The Covid-19 pandemic came as a major disruption to everyone.
Bringing the dial right back down to a more relaxed pace of life was a major — and in many cases — uncomfortable adjustment for people. The disruptions were numerous and the withdrawal symptoms didn’t take long to surface.
We weren’t used to this and we wanted what we had back.
But Lyng and his partner Siobhán were already living and loving this self-sufficient lifestyle along with their son Uisne, and new baby girl Éiriu. They grow food in their garden and have little need for much else from the material world.
And we were starting to see the appeal in that. Having spent most of our lives thinking that holidaying abroad was the only way to summer, we found ourselves rushing to places like Ventry.
A boy or a child
Beannaithe idir mhná
A beautiful time to bring a child in to the world. pic.twitter.com/cnWRzC8plI
— Diarmuid Lyng (@diarmuidlyng) January 15, 2021
“I certainly realised a few years ago, that this place is a paradise. Donegal, Galway, Kerry, Cork, the western seaboard, the eastern seaboard, the ancient settlements in the middle of the country, the North.
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“You can find paradise wherever you are. I find that very easy to find down here.
“I don’t know people who haven’t been to Kerry, Galway or the Western seaboard before,” says Lyng. “I think all Irish people went when they were young in the 80s or 90s. And it was a time when it was a well-worn path.
“The vast majority of people have been here before and maybe they were reminded of when they came down here, and the paradise that they live in.
“And it’s lovely for the people locally as well. There’s no doubt the tourism industry loves the Germans, French, Americans and the Chinese who come here and fill restaurants, and the boat tours.
“There’s always a lovely bohemian spirit down here that comes along with it. People come here, they stay and fall in love with the place, the people or whatever.
“But then for our own people to come down and look at Ventry Bay and say, ‘This is enough for me.’ That’s lovely to see, and to see them realise that maybe they don’t need Ibiza or the continent, or they don’t need a replacement as much as they thought.”
That’s not to suggest that life off the beaten track is without any stress. Ireland has reverted to a full-scale level 5 lockdown in recent weeks, with a 5km travel limit imposed across the country.
Anything beyond that distance needs to meet the criteria of an essential trip. But a 5km radius doesn’t quite cover all the basic requirements in a lot of rural spots.
“You wouldn’t get petrol within 5km or get any supplies,” says Lyng. “It isn’t real here and isn’t the rule because it can’t be the rule.
“You’d be wandering in the fields looking for food. You couldn’t do it.”
Lyng is closing in on 40 now but still has a great hunger for hurling. He played for his home club St Martin’s in Wexford last year, lining out for the junior side in an unprecedented season where the club game was prioritised in the GAA calendar.
He was able to fit in some family visits when travelling back up for games too, although there were some clashes with his media work for TG4′s GAA coverage. Two of his club games fell on the same day that he was on duty with the Irish language station.
Lyng ended up missing the club’s most important game of the year in order to work, a scenario he says he “felt shit about” as his team was beaten.
He has since transferred to Tralee Parnells, a relatively young club that touched base with the former Wexford captain to see if he would interested in joining.
The package they were offering was an attractive one for Lyng.
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We are excited to announce that former Wexford captain @diarmuidlyng will be joining the club. The former St Martins club man hurled with his native Wexford from 2004 to 2013 and has been residing in the Annascual area for the last few years @Kerry_Official @radiokerrysport pic.twitter.com/DoKkE2azvL
— Tralee Parnells Hurling & Camogie Club (@TParnells) January 25, 2021
“The couple of fellas called me from there who are of a similar age and maybe a similar philosophy too, and that was the conversation [of] how we just wanted to play.”
Lyng was once considered to be one of the best emerging hurling talents in the country, and was a standout player in Wexford colours.
But a midweek puckabout is the pace he’s most comfortable with now. It fits in neatly with his life following the recent arrival of Éiriu, whose name was inspired by a figure of Irish mythology; an Irish goddess.
Covid restrictions prohibit collective training at the moment but Lyng’s Kerry hurling career will be soon on the way.
“I won’t be spearheading any title challenges and that’s not I’m looking for at this time in my life.
“I’ve burnt myself out enough on that one before to know that it’s not something that particularly suits me. But the game does and playing does so I want to play so I can do that without going big distances, and just go for midweek puck arounds with a few lads in Tralee.
“That sounds glorious.”