Former Meath star Bernard Flynn says he’s “shocked” by counties breaching lockdown to train — shocked that only four have been caught.
“Honestly, I think the others are very lucky they haven’t been caught.
“Dublin shocked me more than anyone else, I was so surprised to see that.
“I know there are more than that doing it and still doing it.
“That’s their own business. It wouldn’t bother me if I were a manager, if someone else was doing it. I wouldn’t get involved. But I’m shocked only four have been caught out of the amount that are actually doing it.”
Flynn agreed with GAA president Larry McCarthy that the organisation has suffered reputational damage as a result of the breaches.
“The GAA has done huge work since last March, opening grounds and different things, and we have shot ourselves in the foot.
“Outside (sport) should be back in groups, monitored and supervised — I don’t think there are any problems with that and I don’t have any issue with that personally, but I think when the rule is there... we (Flynn is managing the Meath U20s) haven’t broken it and I won’t be breaking it before we’re allowed back.
What it has done is it’s given the GAA-bashers, who have been sitting on their hands even more so with Covid, they’re giving out and they’re on top of us. We’ve opened the door.
“The rules are there. To see a county with 30 or 40 people brazenly training, not in pods of three or four, or lads in a pitch on their own — to do it so openly, I think you’re leaving yourself open.
“I think it’s done a bit of damage. Those people who like to sit on the fence and bash the GAA, they’re really having a field day.”
Flynn believes the breaches are a sore point with the the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet): “I believe that Nphet has a massive issue with the GAA, and it’s because of that, and the celebrating after the club matches last year, are the reasons we’re not back yet.”
The Meath native feels the threat of expulsion might have kept counties in line.
“I don’t have an issue with counties doing something in small groups but the rule is there. The 12-week bans...
“If you threatened at the start that a team would be expelled from a competition, and made that very clear, there’d be no-one breaking the rules. If it was set in stone at the start, and every manager and county board signed up to a charter on that, I don’t think you’d have any issue.
But they left it open and the punishments aren’t that much. I can see the temptation, and I was tempted myself, to get them in small groups and go there, but I don’t think the reward is worth the risk. I’m only managing U20s and I don’t think it’s worth the risk.”
Flynn doesn’t feel the breach will stain Dublin’s legacy.
“What could happen is it could galvanise them a bit. I don’t think it’ll leave a stain — they’ll more than likely go and win seven (in a row) this year.
“Dessie (Farrell, Dublin manager) will have two in the bag then himself. I think the All-Ireland (2020) was massive for him, that people don’t realise the pressure that was on him. If he lost last year and then this happened it would be a different scenario completely.
“Knowing him as the individual he is, he’s a good lad and deserved his All-Ireland, I think deep down if he had his time over again he wouldn’t be caught in this position. I say that out of respect.
“If I pushed the boat out and tried to do something like that, and the story got out — I’m finished. I’m only starting out and I wouldn’t get a second chance.
“What shocked me was that I couldn’t see any upside with the resources and the work they (Dublin) have done.
“All my management knew. People in Tyrone were able to tell me it was happening 24 hours beforehand. It was known all over the country that Dublin were training. That’s what shocked me more than anything. I couldn’t see the reward. I still can’t.”
- Bernard Flynn features on Laochra Gael on TG4 this Thursday at 9.30pm.