Lyons played his club hurling with the famous Glen Rovers club on the north side of Cork city and enjoyed much success. He won his first two senior county titles in 1944 and 1945. Lyons won eight more county medals in 1948, 1949, 1950, 1953, 1954, 1958, 1959 and 1960.
Lyons first came to prominence with the Cork senior hurling team in 1946. He made his debut on the team that year, however, he wa sunable to secure a regular place on the starting fifteen resulting in a slow start to his inter-county career.
After a period in the hurling wilderness the Cork team bounced back in 1952 with Lyons securing a first Munster winners' medal following a defeat of three-in-a-row All-Ireland champions Tipperary in the provincial decider.Dublin provided the opposition in the subsequent All-Ireland final, however 'the Dubs' were completely outclassed by Cork on that occasion. In spite of only leading by three points at half-time Cork won by 2-14 to 0-7 and O'Riordan finally picked up a second All-Ireland winners' medal.
1953 began well for Cork with Lyons collecting a National Hurling League title after a defeat of Tipperary. The success continued later on that summer as Lyons added a second Munster title to his collection after Tipperary were accounted for in the provincial final. The subsequent All-Ireland final saw Galway take on Cork, however, 'the Rebels' were victorious by 3-3 to 0-8 and Lyons added a third All-Ireland medal to his collection. The game has gone down in history as one of the dirtiest All-Ireland deciders ever. The game, however, was clouded in controversy due to the injury to the Galway captain, Mick Burke. After the match at the Gresham Hotel in Dublin a fight broke out when another Galway player struck Ring. The following morning another fight broke out when another member of the Galway panel attempted to hit Ring. The fights, however, ended just as quickly as they had started.
In 1954 Lyons was still a key member of the full-back line as Cork set out on their three-in-a-row trail. Tipperary fell to Cork by 2-8 to 1-8 in the provincial final, giving Lyons a third consecutive Munster winners' medal. A third consecutive All-Ireland final appearance beckoned for the Cork man, with Wexford providing the opposition. A record attendance of nearly 85,000 people packed into Croke Park to witness the Munster champions defeating the Leinster champions by 1-9 to 1-6. While Christy Ring captured a record-breaking eighth All-Ireland medal, Lyons picked up a third winners' memento.
Cork lost their provincial crown in 1955; however, in 1956 Cork reached the Munster final once again. Limerick provided the opposition on that occasion, however, Cork recorded a 5-5 to 3-5 victory. It was Lyons's fourth Munster winners' medal on the field of play. Cork later lined out in the All-Ireland final with Wexford providing the opposition. The game has gone down in history as one of the all-time classic games as Christy Ring was bidding for a record ninth All-Ireland medal. The game turned on one important incident as the Wexford goalkeeper, Art Foley, made a miraculous save from a Ring shot and cleared the sliotar up the field to set up another attack. Wexford went on to win the game on a score line of 2-14 to 2-8 and Lyons was left with a runners-up medal.
In 1957 Cork reached the Munster final again; however, they were defeated by Waterford on a score line of 1-11 to 1-6. Lyons's side contested two consecutive provincial finals in 1959 and 1960, however, he ended up on the losing side on both occasions. He retired from inter-county hurling shortly afterwards.
Lyons also lined out with Munster in the inter-provincial hurling competition and enjoyed much success. He first lined out with his province in 1954, however, Munster were defeated by Leinster in the final of the competition. Lyons was included on the Munster team again in 1955. It was a more successful year as he picked up a Railway Cup winners' medal following a trouncing of Connacht. Defeat followed again in 1956, however, the following year he helped Munster to a 5-7 to 2-5 victory over Leinster. He won a third and final Railway Cup winners' medal in 1958 as Munster accounted for Leinster once again.