Bernard Flynn believes Dessie Farrell will regret Dublin’s lockdown training session
Former Meath forward has taken a step into management with Royal County’s under-20 side
Meath’s Bernard Flynn gets away from Tony Davis of Cork during the 1987 All-Ireland Final at Croke Park. Photograph: James Meehan/Inpho
Bernard Flynn, having eased himself into the remote media call for TG4’s Laochra Gael programme, airing this Thursday – and expressed surprise at his inclusion in this year’s series with the likes of Eoin Larkin and Briege Corkery – is asked about the ‘scandale du jour’.
The furtive training sessions in Dublin and Monaghan, following on from those in Down and Cork float around like particles in a smog of assumptions about other counties.
“The rules are there and to see a county with 30 or 40 people and management brazenly training not even in pods of three or four, doing it so openly,” he says of the Monaghan breach.
“I think you are just leaving yourself open. And yes, I think it has done a bit of damage. Those people who love to sit on the fence and maybe bash the GAA, they are really having a field day with it.”
He is more taken aback by Dublin’s session, in Inisfail’s club the week before last.
“I was surprised with Dessie Farrell. I was actually shocked and I would say Dessie is the one manager who will regret it. I don’t have an issue with them doing something in small groups, but the rules are the rules. The 12-week ban? If they threatened at the start that a team would be expelled from a competition, I would have no doubt there wouldn’t be anyone breaking the rule.
“I do think the All-Ireland for Dessie was massive. I don’t think people realised the pressure that was on him was massive and once he won, that was immense for him. If he lost last year and this happened then I think it is a different scenario completely.
“Knowing him as the individual he is – and he has tried to do most things right, he is a good lad, put his life into working at underage for Dublin and deserved his All-Ireland. But I would say down deep, the bit I know, I would say Dessie, if he had his time again, above all the managers he would not be caught in this position.”
Having recently taken up the management of Meath’s under-20s in what he acknowledges was a late vocation, he struggles with the motivation for the best team in the country deciding to breach regulations.
“I just could not see the reward and I still can’t for that risk/reward. If they never kicked a ball for the whole league, they would still win the knock-out, unless Tyrone or Kerry for me do something there is not going to be a competitive game.”
He is almost apologetic in talking about how long it took him to venture into management. As the television programme records, he was the livewire corner forward in the Meath full-forward line, along with Brian Stafford and Colm O’Rourke – small, elusive and unmarkable.
As testified, defenders frequently didn’t know where he’d got to and his standout moment came in the 1991 All-Ireland at the end of Meath’s never-ending summer – 10 matches in the days before qualifiers! – which came up short when Down held on to beat them.
Flynn scored 0-6 from play and nearly had a match-defining goal but for a dramatic save by Down’s Neil Collins. “I’d rather have six wides and my team win,” he reflects.
The virtuoso forward play came at a price and he carries the legacy of injuries to this day: hip problems, a knee shattered in a club match and disc damage.
“I got two epidurals in the right side of my back, two in the left side of my back, and injected my reconstructed knee. That was all yesterday morning and I lay down for an hour.”
He has to get epidurals in his back every six weeks.
“It was stupidity. [Seán] Boylan never even knew. That’s my own doing. I regret it now because I’m in a bad enough way. I’ve had a hip replaced. My knee’s a mess. But my back is the big one. There are four discs completely gone so it’s touch-and-go to get a spinal fusion and it’s only about 40 per cent chance it’ll work.”
When he says things might be worse, he means it. His property business disappeared in the crash but more to the point a friendship had developed with Jim Stynes through the international rules series.
“He became one of my best mates and he spent 17 or 18 Christmases in a row here at my house for a week. He died at 46. A very inspiring man, he was great to me when I lost my business and had injuries and stuff. He used to ring me from Australia every second week.
“I managed to get a few bob together and brought the young lad over to say goodbye to Jim at Christmas 2011. He died March 20th, 2012.
“He gave me a jersey when leaving for the airport before he died and he was in bad shape. He wrote a private message and when I went through what I was going through, I look at that and I’m not in a bad place.”
“So out of the international rules, that’s what I think of – the friendship with Jim.”
*Bernard Flynn will feature in the fourth episode of the latest Laochra Gael series, on TG4 this Thursday at 9.30 pm.