Mick Lyons - King of Full Backs
Fate, as it often does, took a turn which became a significant landmark in Mick Lyons' career. Navan O'Mahony's, the reigning County Champions, were thrown out of the 1986 competition for refusing to fulfil a fixture. Summerhill who might have won the Championship anyway, had their task made a great deal easier by the O'Mahony's defection. At that time the champions supplied the captain of the Meath team. The honour fell to Mick Lyons for the 1987 campaign. It turned out to be a master stroke by the Gods. All through the successful campaign he proved to be an inspirational leader, showing total commitment both on and off the field.
Mick lifts the Sam Maguire Cup in 1987. A historic moment in Meath football!
One particular incident will always remain in the memory of Meath's supporters. Cork were shaping like winners against a lack-lustre Meath side in the opening stages of the All-Ireland final and Jimmy Kerrigan soloed from the midfield area through the centre of the opposing defence. On and on he went towards a goal-scoring position. Thousands of Meath hearts moved swiftly towards their owners' mouths as the Corkman prepared to shoot. However, the Cavalry, in the shape of the Meath full back, Mick Lyons, arrived just in time and with a somewhat suicidal, but beautifully executed full-length dive to block Kerrigan's effort. This paved the way for success as minutes later Meath took the lead for the first time and never looked back! When a coaching video was produced by the GAA in the following year, his blocking of Kerrigan's shot was used extensively as an ideal example of good defending.
Nobody dared enter the 'Lyons Den'!
"I wouldn't be surprised to hear that there are small boys in Dublin who believe that Mick Lyons is kept in a cage in Summerhill and fed with raw meat. In fact, Mick is as mild a man as you could find in the world outside football. Many people think of Mick Lyons as a hard man - I think of him as a footballer, first class" - Con Houlihan.
They may not have realised it, but the small section of Dublin supporters who gathered behind the Railway goals to hurl abuse at Mick Lyons were foolish beyond belief. The taunts provided him with greater motivation. The more genuine breed of Dublin supporter admired him, somewhat grudgingly, and wished that some of their players would've shown the same commitment. But commitment alone does not make a great footballer. There were qualities about Lyons' play which made him a player apart. His high catching, anticipation, distribution and blocking capabilties were often ignored by those who tend to believe that his high ranking was based on physical presence. Add strength, guts and bravery. Mick possessed all three in abundance. It made for a tremendous potion.
Mick is the older brother of Pádraic who also has All-Ireland medals with the Royals and toured Australia with the Irish team in 1986. Another brother, Terry, also represented Meath and Summerhill, and was full-back on the Summerhill Championship winning team of '86. Their father, Paddy, lined out with Kildare in the 1949 Leinster Championship against Meath.
"Dublin had an obvious flaw: they lacked a Lyons tamer" - Con Houlihan.
In the famous 1991 four match saga, Lyons played literally out of his skin: his displays were as good, if not better than he had given throughout his long and illustrious career. How many Dublin full-forwards did he face and how many scored?? Such was the intensity of the exchanges and the excitement of the occasions that it would take a super statistician to come up with the correct answer, but rumour has it that it was eight full-forwards and one point. They are remarkable answers and certainly go a long way towards explaining Meath's survival. And there's more. In the last eight Leinster Championships before 1992, Meath and Dublin faced each other on ten occasions. Dublin won only two of the ten games and on both occasions Mick Lyons was missing through injury.
A young Mick Lyons playing for Summerhill.
In 1974 he was awarded Summerhill's "Young Player of the Year" Award and five years later he made his Championship debut for Meath, against Kilkenny in Páirc Tailteann, at centre-half back. He made over 40 Championship appearances in the Meath colours.
Meath have always produced exceptional full-backs. Paddy O'Brien was named on the team of the century in that position, Jack Quinn was also regarded as one of the greats. These were tough acts to follow but Lyons found himself at home on the edge of the square. Like O'Brien and Quinn, the Summerhillman found his way there via centrefield. Lyons broke his wrist in a Championship match with Summerhill and Dublin took full advantage of his absence and retained the Leinster title. Two years later, with Lyons restored to fitness, the Leinster Championship was won by Meath after a sixteen year gap.
In 1987, Mick Lyons climbed the steps to become Meath's first All-Ireland winning captain in two decades. Significantly, he thanked his club, Summerhill, for making his moment of glory possible. He has always been a loyal and dedicated clubman.
In more recent years, he was a Selector for the Meath Seniors, was the Summerhill Seniors Manager for two years (1999 & 2000), and trained the club's Under 21's (1997) and Under 16's (2001) to their first ever Division 1 Championship successes.