Michael Murphy backs focused Paul Flynn to produce on big day

Donegal captain Michael Murphy has backed his friend and former housemate Paul Flynn to start the All-Ireland final replay for Dublin — and have a big game.

Wing-forward Flynn continues to put in the hard yards though has failed to rekindle his four-in-a-row All-Star form of 2011-2014 and players like Paul Mannion and Paddy Andrews are pushing hard for his spot.

All-Ireland winning skipper Murphy shared a house with Flynn at DCU and, more recently, was part of Donegal sides that lost to Dublin on three occasions this season including an All-Ireland quarter-final.

To his mind, there should be no question about Flynn starting against Mayo again on Saturday evening.

“Would I expect him to play? Yeah, without a doubt,” said Murphy.

“He’s been a mainstay of that team and I still expect him to play. I would back him to have a massive and very influential game.

“The speculation has been around Bernard Brogan/Paul Flynn but I would still expect both to play and both to have very good games. I’ve seen the quality of those players from being up against them. A team without either of those wouldn’t be a team that’s as strong.

“It’s Jim Gavin’s decision to make, that’s what he’s there for and why he is such a brilliant manager. He’ll be contemplating it in the next couple of days.”

Flynn remains one of Dublin’s most industrious players though was the first player called ashore in the semi-final win over Kerry.

Replacing him with Mannion, Andrews or even Eoghan O’Gara — all attack-minded players — would immediately lend more punch to a Dublin forward line that hit just 0-6 from play in the drawn final.

But Murphy explained that removing Flynn would also rob the team of vital experience and focus.

“His overall work rate is just huge, I would have seen that from living with him and even in terms of his studying at the time and the commitment he gave to that, to all aspects of his life, it was huge,” said the powerful full-forward.

“Even going to lectures, you might think ‘I’ll be able to get away with not going to this one’ but he was always there at it, that bit of guilt was there and it transferred into his game in terms of him just wanting to improve all the time.

“I remember going out with him kicking on the astro-turfs and it was just kicking purely for that hour, to tick that box and to improve that side of things. Everything he was doing was very focused.

“If you were going to a lecture or to the library or to do an essay, it was always to do one particular thing. He has that great focus.”

Flynn appears to be tracking back more this season and attacking less while Cian O’Sullivan and Ciaran Kilkenny are generally deeper, in more defensive roles. Murphy believes it is down to Dublin simply becoming more equipped with taking on packed defences and sweeper systems.

Murphy’s Donegal convinced Dublin of the need to defend in greater numbers after memorably punishing the Sky Blues on the counter attack in 2014.

“In terms of how to deal with a defensive setup, Dublin have become a hell of a lot better equipped at doing that,” said Murphy.

“They’ve become a lot more astute at that and, if anything, they’ve become a lot better and harder to play against.”

Meanwhile, Murphy himself feared the worst when he suffered a painful knee injury in a club league game for Glenswilly last month, admitting the prospect of a cruciate lay-off entered his mind.

“That’s the first thing that pops into the mind.

“Thankfully those fears subsided fairly quickly. I rang the team doctor and various people and they felt the pain levels weren’t there so I wasn’t in that position and I was obviously glad.

“Hopefully once the club finishes up I’ll manage to get a couple of weeks to rest it up and get healing.”

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