Tiernan Lynch On Larne FC, Learning In The United States And Looking To The Future

Tiernan Lynch On Larne FC, Learning In The United States And Looking To The Future

An interview with Tiernan Lynch, by Callum McFadden for WFi.

You led Larne FC to their first-ever Irish Premiership title in season 22/23. Can you put into words how proud you are of achieving such historic success?

“Everyone associated with Larne is delighted to have won the Irish Premiership as are all of the coaching staff and our players.

“However, as a manager, it is vital not to get carried away with one particular aspect of success.

“Our journey from the Irish Championship to winning the Irish Premiership is unique but we do not want this success to be the end of our story, rather, we want it to be the start of another unique chapter in Larne’s history.

“Winning the title this season made Seamus — my brother and my assistant manager at Larne — think back to when we arrived at the club in 2017.

“Back then, the club had a ground that was worn down and almost condemned while the team we took over only had one player signed up for us to start off with.

“Our budget was less than £300 per week and the club was in the Irish Championship.

“To go from there to now be Champions of the Premiership with a stadium that has been transformed thanks to the investment into the club and the local community from Kenny Bruce makes us smile.

“Making the local community and the fans proud of their club is what football is all about and to have won the title and ended 134 years of waiting is something that fills us all with great pride. Although, that does not mean that the job is done, we want to continue to progress and move the club forward.”

Was there a particular point in the 22/23 season that you felt was a pivotal moment in you realising that winning the title was a possibility for you and the team?

“I did not know if there was a point in the season that I thought that ‘we are definitely going to do this’ because nothing is won until it is mathematically done and it is a foregone conclusion.

“Football is such a funny game with so many ups and downs that I never take anything for granted.

“What I would say is that beating Linfield 4-2 at Windsor Park in October was a result and a performance that strengthened my belief that our group was capable of something special – whatever that something special may turn out to be.

“We were dominant that night and we showcased various aspects to our game which filled me with great joy because Windsor Park is the toughest venue to go to in the league and we were able to go there and produce a performance of the highest quality.”

You have been in charge of the club for six years so far. What are the current group of players who have achieved this success like to work with?

“This is probably the third team that we have built at the club since taking over in 2017.

“I am a football purist at heart and I want my teams to play the right way. I was also determined to showcase that Irish league players and teams could play pure football.

“That was shown in the first team that I built because we played excellent technical football with 500 or 600 passes in games as we looked to dominate the ball.

“That was pleasing for me to watch as a coach however the brutal reality is that for all of our good football, we did not win anything because we probably lacked a true balance between playing good football and being able to engage in the physical side of the game.

“We felt that we needed to find more balance and the team we built last season was more of a blend of players and characters to allow us to have a little bit of everything.

“We always want to play whenever we can but if a team wants to engage in a physical battle then we can do that and if we need to mix our game up then we are able to do so.

“The way that we discuss it with the players is that when we need to fight, we are prepared to fight and when we are able to play, we will show that we can play.

“That sums up our approach and how we performed last season.”

You mentioned the owner of the club, Kenny Bruce and the influence that he has had on the community of Larne as well as the football club. What are your memories of working with Kenny in those early days in the Irish Championship?

“The first year in the championship, when Seamus and I took over, was incredibly difficult at times.

“Kenny did not own the club when we came in but he arrived on the back of us losing our first 15 games (7 in pre-season and our first 8 in the league).

“Many club owners would immediately make a change, particularly when they arrive at the club who are going through such form but he showed patience and faith in us to turn things around.

“We had our 9th game of that season against PSNI and the board had a meeting before the game and told Kenny that if we failed to win that he would have to make a change in management.

“Thankfully, Kenny told the board that he would not be making a change and we were able to win that game 2-0 which kickstarted an unbelievable turn in form.

“We went on an unbeaten run of over twenty games from that PSNI game which was one of the longest unbeaten runs in European football at the time.

“Unfortunately, we missed out on the playoffs that year by one point such was our poor start.

“Despite that, Kenny again put his faith in myself and Seamus and in our second season in the Championship, we went on to win the title by 21 points.

“That was a great achievement for the club and those two years were such a learning curve for myself in management.

“They made us appreciate our success this season even more because we know what difficult times look like and feel like. It was a great grounding for us and we would not do it any other way.”

Before taking over at Larne, you worked at Glentoran for a number of years as an assistant coach under Eddie Patterson. How much did you learn from your time at the Glens?

“I was very young when I started my coaching badges. I actually started them at the age of 19 before moving to America on a soccer scholarship.

“My time in the States was a real eye opener for me because everything over there was focused on ball work and improving you as a player and as a team.

“Whereas, at that time in Northern Ireland, if you had a 90-minute session then half of it would be based on physical work and half of it would be focused on football-specific work.

“I have always had a passion for the Irish league and I told myself that when I returned there one day that I would focus on footballing development and make the most of any time that I had with the players to improve their footballing ability as individuals and as a collective.

“Thankfully, when I went into Glentoran under Eddie, he trusted myself and Seamus to take a lot of the hands-on coaching sessions.

“I was tasked with coaching the team in possession and Seamus focused on working with the team on out-of-possession work.

“That allowed us to grow into ourselves as coaches and we still work together in that way to this day.”

With the fact that Seamus is your brother in addition to being your assistant manager, how does that relationship work on a daily basis in a footballing sense?

“We are both so passionate about football and coaching. We have strong views on the game and as brothers, we are never afraid to challenge the view of one another and it is the best relationship that you can have in that regard.

“The worst thing in football is having someone constantly agree with you and not prepared to push you, however, we do all of those things for each other.

“We want to play good football and create a winning culture which has been the aim at Glentoran when we worked there as coaches and even more so now at Larne in our role as manager and assistant manager.”

Last but not least, Tiernan, what do you hope to achieve in the coming years?

“At Larne, we want to build on what we have done so far. We had a five-year plan to win the Irish Premiership and we have delivered that so now we need to look to the next five years and beyond.

“As a management team and as a club with Kenny at the helm, we do not want to be known as a flash in the pan or a one-season wonder.

“Our aim is to be hungry for success at Larne and go again season in and season out to achieve our utmost.”