Flynn looking forward to life under Gavin
Frustrating defeat to Mayo still rankles with Dublin's double All Star, writes SEÁN MORAN, Gaelic correspondent In New York
The centrepiece of the Opel GAA-GPA All Stars tour takes place this evening in Gaelic Park in the Bronx. The meeting of the football winners from last year with their 2012 successors is purely an exhibition but is looked forward to by the local GAA community in New York and a crowd of a few thousand is expected this evening.
Injuries and the relatively thin back-up of the touring party mean some of the local players will get to play with the laureates from back home.
There are only three players common to both selections. Predictably two are from All-Ireland champions Donegal, Neil McGee and Karl Lacey.
But the third is the sole survivor of last year’s champions, Dublin’s Paul Flynn whose year encompassed winning another Sigerson with DCU and performing as the champions’ most consistent forward, his energy and accuracy often keeping the team afloat, during a disappointing season.
He’s also one of the weekend’s walking wounded and won’t play in this evening’s match.
“It’s hard to put your finger on it,” he says when asked what changed between the championship season and this year. “There are probably a number of little things and they all add up and accumulate to cause a bigger problem. I’ve thought about it and tried to figure it out but it’s hard.
“Some people say it was a lack of hunger. But what does that mean? You can’t just say that and think that answers all the problems. Why was there a lack of hunger, what else was there?
“There were obviously other issues. I’m sure the new management team are going to sit down and think about what it was and ask us. What frustrates me the most is that 15-minute period at the end of the Mayo game was exactly what we were looking for but it came too late.”
That All-Ireland semi-final was the snapshot of the team’s season. Coming in struggling for form but somehow convinced that they could at last raise their game. Mayo had form and left Dublin for dead until from somewhere the champions found a response – but too little too late.
The pivotal moment was a goal chance to level the match, which was saved by Mayo’s goalkeeper David Clarke.
“I just watched the highlights of the Mayo game the other day,” he says, “and Bernard (Brogan)’s chance for the goal – I actually hadn’t seen it since the game. I was like ‘oh my God’ it was a great opportunity.”
The aftermath was significant with manager Pat Gilroy calling time on his four-year term and his former team-mate from the 1995 All-Ireland winning side Jim Gavin, manager for the county under-21s two All-Irelands in three years, taking over.
Flynn was too old to play for Gavin at underage level but, although sorry to see Gilroy depart, is enthusiastic about the change at the top.
“It’s like anything, like a new job, you have to work hard and prove yourself to the new manager because they are obviously going to have their own views.
“The little bits I’ve seen, I’m very impressed – his attention to detail and stuff. But you have probably had more contact with him than I have, one meeting and that’s it. We are off now until December 8th.
“There’s such an attachment there with a manager who brings you to All-Ireland success because it’s such a long journey and such a difficult journey. Obviously Pat had a lot of time for me and he developed me so much, as a player.”
Armagh’s Joe Kernan recounted how the late Eamonn Coleman had told him that the one contingency a manager can’t fully plan for is injury. With 2011’s Footballer of the Year Alan Brogan off the field for the crucial late championship, Dublin struggled.
Another difference for Dublin from last year was the withdrawal for personal reasons of coach Mickey Whelan, whose vast experience and acuity played a big part in the All-Ireland success.
Flynn knows him well having met him in DCU.
“If you lose someone like Mickey Whelan from your panel, no matter what team it is, you are going to struggle to some degree,” he says.
“He was attached loosely (this year) and he had an input. You’d miss his presence about the place though because he knows players, he can read players and he knows if lads are working hard or if they need to lay off a little bit.
“He’s a character. Even when he used to just come up and watch us at a training session, all the lads would be up to him. He’s just an inspiring sort of person and you would miss him around the place, yeah.
“I’m not saying that was the reason (for not retaining the All-Ireland), but any team would miss someone like Mickey.”