Flynn not deterred by sentiment in third title bid

Flynn not deterred by sentiment in third title bid
Tom Flynn: Galway midfielder is hoping to pocket a third Connacht SFC medal in four years in tomorrow’s final against Roscommon. Picture: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

Tomorrow, at Pearse Stadium, Galway midfielder Tom Flynn will hope to pocket a third Connacht SFC medal in four years, having started the previous two final victories.

Such provincial dominance was next to impossible to envisage when he made his championship debut, at the age of 19, eight years ago.

Back in July of 2011, and two months after Flynn had been part of the Galway U21 team that won the All-Ireland, he was selected at midfield, by Tomás Ó Flatharta, for the county’s sink-or-swim qualifier away to Meath.

The championship debutant, to his credit, lasted the full 70 minutes. Collectively, however, Galway could not last the pace and so exited stage left.

In 2012, the county suffered a sixth successive qualifier defeat, to Antrim, and Flynn was again present. They hit rock bottom a year later with a 17-point mauling at the hands of neighbours Mayo, in the Connacht quarter-final.

“There were two or three of us who came in at 18/19 and were thrown straight into the senior team, lining out against grown men, and we were much more inexperienced, lighter, and not as clued-in tactically as we are now. It was a tough place to be,” says Flynn of his early years in the senior set-up.

“Probably my worst memory in a Galway jersey is that loss to Mayo in 2013,” he says, a game the Athenry native started as wing-forward, 15 days after he had secured a second All-Ireland U21 medal.

“To go from that high, as an U21 player, to that low, as a senior player, in such quick succession, has really kept in my memory. I’d often use that as a bit of motivation.”

There was absolutely no let-up from James Horan’s side throughout that Salthill massacre, with the largest cheer of the day reserved for Andy Moran, who, in his first appearance back in a Mayo shirt after a cruciate ligament injury, bagged their fourth goal late-on.

“I’d never really understood the rivalry between Galway and Mayo until that moment. Every score was very intimidating.

“Normally, games like that peter out and the tempo drops a bit, but that went right to the final whistle,” Flynn says.

“Shane Walsh, FiontanÓ Curraoin, and I (three U21s) were going, ‘Jesus, we’re in one now’, so that was a tough one to take, but we’d like to think we’ve progressed a bit from those times.

“Kevin [Walsh] has brought great organisation and huge clarity to where we are as a team and while, nationally, we take knocks for certain styles of play or whatever, has that sort of a defeat happened overly often? You would say, compared to previous years, no.

“We haven’t lost to Antrim, haven’t lost to Wexford, haven’t scraped past Waterford and other teams.

“While, obviously, those teams, on their day, can catch someone, we would like to think, if we’re fully prepared, that those sort of defeats aren’t part of where we’re at.”

As has been the case for the past three years, Roscommon will again stand in the opposite corner on Connacht final Sunday.

Whatever about not being fully in tune with the Galway-Mayo rivalry until that black afternoon in 2013, Flynn never needed to be educated about Galway and Roscommon.

His father, Tomás, played underage for Roscommon club Padraig Pearse’s, home of the Daly brothers, while his mother, Bridie, grew up just across the border, in Ballinasloe.

Flynn reckons Tomás would root for Roscommon this weekend if his son wasn’t involved.

That’s before Flynn makes the startling admission that he himself likes to see Roscommon doing well, besides, of course, when Galway are inside the same white lines as them.

Feeding into that unusual sense of goodwill towards the neighbours is that the 27-year old lived with Enda and Donie Smith during his time at DCU, and would have also kicked Sigerson ball with Conor Daly.

“It would be dishonest of me to say that I wouldn’t be wishing Roscommon well [when we’re not playing them].

“I like the brand of football they play.

“I’ve played with a couple of the lads with Sigerson: good attitude and real positive guys.”

He’s also well-acquainted with Roscommon midfielder Shane Killoran and half-forward Conor Devaney, having taught alongside the pair at Roscommon Community College for two years.

The secondary school teacher was rather glad that school had broken up for the summer, following Galway’s 2-15 to 0-12 Connacht final no-show two years ago.

You’d imagine he’d have had to keep a low profile in the staff room the Monday morning after.

“Staff room? It’s in the corridor you’d get the abuse! It’s all part of the GAA; you have to be able to give and take it.

“Roscommon have beaten us in one (2017) and are looking to make it two; we’ve beaten them in two and are looking to go back-to-back.”

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