Here have never connected my irrigation to my OmniPro 2 panel for that reason.
That said one lightning strike did trash my two Rain8Nets over the last 13 years.
I have since protected these two devices and they have worked fine.
Here started with a Rainbird vendor Rainbird installation.
Initially removed the Rainbird ESP controller (I had added wireless to it) and installed two serial controlled Rain8Nets.
I used a long serial cable (catxx) to the other side of the house and in to the communications closet. (>100 feet?).
Software wise used mcsSprinklers that existed as a stand alone or a plugin for Homeseer.
Over the last few years the author of mcsSprinklers and a number of users (I was one) tested a linux mono version of the application. I was playing a bit with the PogoPlug (had a few of these) and the Seagate dockstar debian devices.
Today you could get by with a RPi2 and a touchscreen for it on or inside of the rainbird box. My only concern here is the use of an SD card for the OS and running software. I have now seen an mSATA GPIO card for the RPi's that would be OK to use.
I do not like to use wireless for my automation but you could configure an RPi3 and wirelessly connect to the software to make adjustments. I haven't touched the configuration of the software in many many years as it runs fine with no hand holding.
I personally like the new Intel micro PCs and this could work better than the RPi. (easy m.2 sata drive configuration).
A while back here did install Ubuntu on my Chumby's and it ran fine (a bit slow) but you could probably configure a Chumby as your irrigation controller. My OpenPeak Jogglers / tabletop tablets would probably be better and faster with an integrated touchscreen.
I upgraded my set up to running mcsSprinklers on a modded Seagate Dockstar running with two USB connected mini SSD drives.
It is all inside of the original Rainbird box and has been running 24/7 with no glitches now for over 3 years.
It does today have external connections to my Davis Vantage Pro 2 via Cumulus, additional sensors via xAP, WeatherUnderground, et al and works fine. (I have one water meter attached for measuring irrigation and purchased but not installed a hard water switch for the irrigation lines).
I can remote control it via internal or external to my LAN interfaces. It is not cloud dependent and mostly uses the weather station for ET calculations.
Relating to the touchscreen interface I am currently using JPG drawings and can do live CCTV views of each of the 10 zones configured.