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On This Day: 20 August 1988 - Sunderland’s new Irish left back stakes claim for 1st team berth

ON THIS DAY (1988): An unusual friendly of three 30 minute segments gave Sunderland’s new arrival from Limerick a chance to impress.

On this day in 1988, Denis Smith’s side had warmed up for the season opener at home to Bournemouth with a 1-0 behind closed doors friendly against Fourth Division Burnley at Turf Moor the previous night.

The match was notable as it took place over three 30 minute segments, rather than the customary two 45 minute halves.

A Colin Pascoe goal from a Gordon Armstrong pass had sealed the victory, in a game in which Tommy Lynch had turned in a noteworthy performance.

Lynch, who’d represented the Republic of Ireland in the Seoul Olympics that summer (at football), had arrived from Limerick Town for a fee of £20,000.

A search for a left back was high on Denis Smith’s to-do list throughout his time at Sunderland, and Lynch was one of a number he gave an opportunity to.

During the 88-89 season, however, it was Frank Gray or Reuben Agboola who usually lined up at left back. Lynch finally made his debut in November, away at Chelsea in a 1-1 defeat – Marco netting our goal after 11 minutes, Kevin Wilson equalising for the would-be champions with 20 minutes left.

Lynch only made four league appearances, and another in the FA Cup Third Round defeat to Ian Porterfield’s Fourth Division Reading in January 1990. He was immediately sent out on loan to Shrewsbury, before making his move to Gay Meadow permanent the following month for a reported fee of £20,000 – which was disputed by Limerick, as anything above £20,000 would have seen the Irish club net a windfall from a chunky sell-on fee.

Lynch was a hugely popular player at Shrewsbury, making 234 league appearances and scoring 14 goals - ‘strong in the tackle and dominant in the air – and captained them to the Third Division (fourth tier) championship in 1994.

Soccer - Endsleigh League Division Two - Shrewsbury Town v Wrexham Photo by Matthew Ashton/EMPICS via Getty Images

In a recent interview with the Shropshire Star, Lynch said:

I learned lessons from growing up and my time at Sunderland, because I didn’t give it my all, and I thought that’ll never happen again. I didn’t commit to my time at Sunderland but you find your own playing level. I wouldn’t change a thing.

The great times at Shrewsbury, tough time at Sunderland and coming back to the League of Ireland, I wouldn’t change a thing.

You go and play to the best of your ability all the time. I would’ve played the exact same for a Saturday league team as I did with Shrewsbury Town and they just seemed to take to me. I go back every couple of years and it’s great to get the reception I get. I was very fortunate and very lucky.

Lynch was so highly-regarded at Shrewsbury that he was included in their hall of fame along with nine other STFC legends in 2012. His face features prominently in a mural at Shrewsbury’s new ground – New Meadow.

Which, of course, we’ll be visiting again next season.