All-Ireland fever grips community as local hero Jason Flynn prepares for battle with Kilkenny
At the top of the stairs in the Tommy Larkins clubhouse hang two marble plaques. On one wall, the life of Barry Shiel is commemorated through four pictures embedded onto a piece of grey marble.
On the left, Paul Flynn is remembered. The four pictures of Flynn sit alongside the entrance to the club’s gym.
Inside, Jason Flynn is alone in the far corner of the room, various weights being thrust into the air.
Half a dozen FÁS workers, after a morning of grass-cutting and strimming around the main pitch, have retired to the kitchen for tea. The discussion centres largely on the 20-year old across the landing.
Five days out from his debut All- Ireland senior final appearance, however, they refrain from interrupting Flynn’s session. Shortly after noon he ambles out the main door to find club stalwarts Cyril Farrell, Michael Fogarty and Eamon Whelan chewing the fat ahead of Sunday’s decider. In his right hand a protein shake, the contents giving off a muddy brown glow.
“Monkey juice, is it Jason?” quips three-time All-Ireland winning- manager Farrell. “You wouldn’t have caught Ollie Kilkenny or Steve Mahon drinking that stuff.” Grinning, Flynn opts not to return fire.
Former All-Ireland minor-winning selector Fogarty and ex-Tommy Larkins chairman Whelan inspect the cut below his left eye sustained in the opening minute of last Saturday week’s All-Ireland U21 semi-final.
“Those Limerick boys didn’t spare you,” remarks Fogarty, before Flynn hops into his car and disappears down through the village of Woodford and back home to Ballinakill.
On the night before their All-Ireland semi-final clash with Tipperary, Flynn posted images on his Instagram account which contained three pictures of his deceased brother, Paul, and the message ‘When someone you love becomes a memory, that memory becomes a wonderful treasure to always hold in your heart. Miss you’.
The corner-forward went out the following afternoon and struck five points, including the equalising score three seconds from the end of normal time.
All three men stood outside the Tommy Larkins clubhouse are in unanimous agreement Paul Flynn’s tragic death on October 5, 2008, shaped the “fine young man” Jason Flynn has become today.
A garda based at Henry Street station in Limerick, Paul Flynn (24) was returning home when his car crashed into a wall outside Loughrea.
Corner-back on the victorious 2005 All-Ireland-winning Galway U21 team, in which he held Richie Power scoreless, Flynn was a member of the county senior panel at the time of his passing. Indeed, the previous spring he’d been a leading figure in the Tommy Larkins team which contested the All-Ireland intermediate Club final at Croke Park.
“His brother’s death had a big effect on him as they were very close,” said Fogarty. “It had a big effect on the parish,” interjects Farrell.
“Sure you know yourself when a lad would make a county minor or U21 panel and he had a young brother at home no more than six or seven, of course he was going to idolise him. They came from all over for the wake, including Kilkenny.
“James McGarry had heard about Jason, who was only 13 at the time. I brought McGarry down to the house, the place was thronged. He said to Jason ‘I am looking forward to seeing you in Croke Park’.”
Eamon Whelan added: “It was Paul who always brought Jason up to training. The two of them were always at the pitch.” The rangy 6’ 4” forward will make history as the first member of the East Galway club to line out in a senior All-Ireland final. Their involvement in the 80s centred on Farrell’s role as manager, but Fogarty believes it is a different story when you have “one of your own” playing.
Maroon and white bunting runs from one end of Woodford to the other, a maroon and white flag hanging above the door of Keary’s Hardware shop, The Wood View Bar, the Q’N’R store and the pubs of J Walsh and A Moran.
Eamon Whelan is following his progress since he first took a hurley in his hand. Beaten by Clarenbridge in the County Féile final, Flynn and his team-mates secured passage to the County U16 final in 2010 against Loughrea. Tommy Larkins triumphed by 0-15 to 1-10, Flynn hitting 0-13. It was a similar story when the minor crown was claimed in 2012.
“If he scores 1-10 out of 1-18 in a senior club match, you would still have lads saying he didn’t go well. People forget he is still only 20,” claimed Whelan.
Fogarty said: “I brought him county minor training for three years and he never missed a session. There were exams on, he had niggles, but he never missed a session. Other guys would make or find an excuse, Jason loves hurling more than anything else.”
Present chairman Pat Lyons says the demand for tickets has far exceeded 2012, such is Jason’s popularity around these parts: “History writes its own story and that family have had their problems. Jason will be thinking of Paul on Sunday. Who is to say that Paul wouldn’t have been up there himself was he still among us? Jason is carrying on the flag Paul left behind him.”
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