‘On that pitch celebrating the All-Ireland, I never felt as lonely’

It was the morning after that always gave it away that Paul Flynn had been involved in a championship game against Mayo.

‘On that pitch celebrating the All-Ireland, I never felt as lonely’

It was the morning after that always gave it away that Paul Flynn had been involved in a championship game against Mayo.

“Because of the hard running they do, the physical hits, I could barely get out of bed the next day,” winced the six-time All-Ireland winner.

Flynn came on in the 2017 final win over Mayo, started both finals in 2016 as well as both semi-finals in 2015 but looks back most fondly on the 2013 final win over James Horan’s men.

“I look back on that game and I would give anything to be back there,” he said. “Me, I was in my peak, I was playing great football, we were playing great football, and everything was great. I’ve been missing that for years, do you know what I mean?”

Arguably one of the greatest ever half-forwards, Flynn called it a day in May. From the outside looking in, it was a strange decision just months from an anticipated five-in-a-row, particularly as he featured in five of their seven league games in spring, starting against Monaghan and Cavan.

On an occasion such as this, game day against Mayo and that five-in-a-row now within touching distance, you might imagine he regrets that decision. If he does, he’s doing a good job of hiding it and surprisingly references last year’s All-Ireland final win over Tyrone as the beginning of the end of his time in blue.

“I was on that pitch for the All-Ireland when everyone was celebrating, I never felt as lonely in my life,” said Flynn, who wore the number 22 shirt on the bench and wasn’t called upon all afternoon.

“Even though I was completely a part of the whole thing, I just felt that for me, I needed to play. It’s just intrinsically inside me, that I need to be playing, I need to play my role. Because I did (in previous years).

“Some players are on the pathway up and they’re going to play in the future, some have played bit roles and they understand that a bit better. I didn’t understand that as much.

“I’ll be very comfortable sitting in that stand if they win five-in-a-row and be able to say: ‘I played a key part in that’. There are players who will be on the pitch who aren’t a part of the five. They might have been part of three or two or one.

“I’ll always be a part of four of those. I think in 30 years’ time, if they do do it, people won’t remember who was on the four, who wasn’t, they’ll just remember the team and who were the good players and so forth. So I’m comfortable with that position.”

Diarmuid Connolly will have his own tale to tell of opting out of the Dublin panel in unexpected circumstances. But he’s back now and a live contender to line out today against a county he’s tortured over the years.

Flynn can’t see it happening, despite his former colleague getting the nod to play from the start against Tyrone last weekend.

Yet if it does turn into the “war of attrition” that Flynn anticipates, then he reckons Jim Gavin will immediately turn to the St Vincent’s man to provide the inspiration.

It was Connolly, of course, that came on in the 2017 final win over Mayo, the last time the counties met in the championship, and hauled Dublin to victory with a direct hand in four of their second-half points.

“I can’t see him starting,” said Flynn.

I don’t see Dublin changing much at all, because they don’t tend to. But equally if the game is in the balance and you need somebody to come on and create something, then I think it’s going to be Diarmuid.

“You saw him last weekend against Tyrone, pinging balls around. He had space which he may not get against Mayo with someone in his face. But he can create space and he can find a pass.”

Flynn couldn’t have spoken so openly just a few months ago when he was within the Dublin bubble.

“Everyone I meet now is just all about the game, the game, the game — when I was playing nobody would talk to me about the game because they’d know I’d just be ignorant to them,” he said.

“That’s the single-mindedness you needed to have as a player. I needed to get myself into game mode, shield everything else out.”

He’s even talking about the five-in-a-row, to anyone that will listen.

“I always feel that we seen to talk about the things that are wrong in the game, or negative. That’s fair because maybe those things sell stories but we should be talking about the fact that there’s a great group of men, amateurs, that are going for history.”

The Road Safety Authority (RSA), Gaelic Players Association (GPA) and Women’s Gaelic Players Association (WGPA) have announced a there-year collaboration to promote road safety awareness. Initially focusing on reducing the incidences of two killler behaviours on Irish roads — using a mobile phone while driving and driver fatigue. Together the three organisations hope to help drive behavioural change amongst a younger cohort of road users.

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