Daniel Flynn has filed it away as one of those live and learn moments but there is regret too that he didn’t rattle Stephen Cluxton’s net at Croke Park this month.
Kildare trailed Dublin by six points after 45 minutes of the Leinster final when Flynn burst into space and bore down on Cluxton’s goal.
A goal would have left just three points in it and posed a rare question of a Dublin side that have all too frequently breezed through Leinster Championship games.
Colm Cooper, doing some analysis work on TV, suggested the 23-year-old full-forward should have simply caressed the ball beyond Cluxton with a side-footed finish. As if it was that easy for everyone.
Instead, Flynn cannoned a shot more or less straight at Cluxton who batted it away with a strong right hand and began a move that led to Con O’Callaghan converting a free that put the holders seven ahead.
In that instant, Dublin’s seventh consecutive Leinster title was virtually secured and, in turn, Kildare’s 16th defeat from 21 outings at Croke Park copper-fastened.
“About five different things were going through my mind and I did none of them,” said Flynn. “In a way, I’m happy it happened. I obviously wish I scored but I can still take a huge amount from it, you learn from these things.”
Flynn shrugged when asked if he was put off by the raging blue sea behind Cluxton’s goals, willing him to miss.
“I couldn’t see anything really, I just got the ball and thought, ‘Jeez, I’m one-on-one here in front of the Hill. How did this happen?’ I thought about going around him, I thought about placing it, I thought about burying it. But I ended up just kicking it at him.”
Was he put off by the spectre of Cluxton bearing down on him?
“No, it was more the fact that it was so open, I was a bit shocked by that. I seen it back afterwards. The lads were watching it in the house, they were giving me a nice time about it! There was so much space there to the right.
“Probably from training with Mark (Donnellan) and Shane (McNamara), they always dive or they’d always move in those situations, that was probably in my head as well. I thought: ‘He’ll jump this way and give me an angle’. But he didn’t.”
A nine-point defeat ultimately left Flynn and Kildare disappointed but, crucially, not disgraced. Meath and Westmeath have found it difficult to bounce back from Leinster final maulings at the hands of Dublin in recent years but that shouldn’t be a problem for Kildare who scored 1-17 against the back-to-back All-Ireland champions.
Statistics also tell us that while beaten provincial finalists generally struggle if forced to return to action the following weekend, the odds improve dramatically for teams that have at least 13 days, almost as high as 50-50.
“Personally, it took me until Wednesday to get that negativity out of my system and to start focusing on the next game, so a week would definitely be too short,” said Flynn. “We’re raring to go now. I think any bit longer waiting would actually be too long.”
They will meet an Armagh side in Saturday’s Round 4B qualifier coming off three wins in a row and looking to successfully navigate all four rounds of the qualifier series.
The counties have never met in the championship before yet are inextricably linked by Kieran McGeeney, the present Armagh manager who was in charge of Kildare from 2008 to 2013.
McGeeney called Flynn into the Kildare set-up in 2012 and was in charge of the Lilywhites U21 team that won the 2013 Leinster final. It’s expected that 10 of that U21 team will feature for Kildare this weekend, effectively pitting the team that McGeeney built against the team he’s now managing.
Flynn was on that U21 team in 2013 and is flourishing now as a senior, earning the GAA/GPA Player of the Month award for June.
“I haven’t a bad thing to say about him,” said Flynn, who agreed the 2002 All-Ireland winning captain had played a big part in his development.
Flynn spent a couple of years with Aussie Rules side Port Adelaide but returned home at the start of 2015, citing homesickness. He is happy with life now but admitted there are some regrets about his time Down Under.
“I probably could have done more over there,” he admitted. “Hindsight is 20-20 but if I was to go over now, I wouldn’t buy into more as such but I’d just really have a go at it. I think I went through the motions a bit over there because it was handed up to me and I didn’t have to work really, really hard for it from a young age. It kind of just came out of nowhere and I took it.”
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