Jason Flynn was reared on tales from the 80s; nothing but stories to cling to as he hurled countless All-Ireland finals against the gable end above in Ballinakill.
With his 21st birthday still a few months away, Flynn never saw Noel Lane striking fear into an opposition defence, never witnessed Tony Keady’s right hand soar into the clouds or Sylvie Linnane putting manners on a Kilkenny or Tipperary corner-forward. Following the maroon and white made for a relatively frustrating childhood, his heroes pulled from parents and neighbours recounting the glory years under Cyril Farrell.
Three-time All-Ireland medal winner Lane correctly pointed out last week most of Galway’s younger generation wouldn’t recognise him if they met him on the street.
“The young people need new heroes,” he said.
Jason Flynn agrees.
“He’s right. I don’t think many players are remembered if you don’t win an All-Ireland, it’s as simple as that. You’re remembered as a player as an All-Ireland winner when you win one.
“It’s been a while now since Galway won one. A lot of lads wouldn’t know Noel (Lane). I wasn’t born when they won. I would have grown up with stories – of course I would have known about Noel and the winning goals he got in the 1987 and ’88 finals. That’s what you’re remembered for. That’s what you dream of being when you’re younger, not making the headlines but making an impact on All-Ireland final day. Being up there.” A “bag of nerves” as a spectator during the 2012 final, the rangy corner-forward didn’t envisage being part of the main event just three-years down the line.
The ambition was always to wear the maroon at senior level, but even the 20-year old has been surprised by his swift rise to prominence.
“I was still a minor back in 2012, I played against Tipperary in the minor semi-final and I would have went up to watch the two finals. All I remember about the first day was an awfully intense game and I was a nervous young lad there in Croke Park. I was with them every step of the way, but it was unfortunate the way they didn’t win it. I recall Joe’s late free, they could have won it that day too.
“You have to have that dream in your head you’ll be there some day. I suppose every young hurler would have 50 All-Ireland’s played against the wall at home before they come to minor.
“You look forward to watching the seniors and saying to yourself ‘I’d love to be in there next year or the year after’. Luckily, I got the chance to do that.
Last year was hard coming in with the hard runs in December and January. It’s hard with mates at home and not going out. They’re doing things and you can’t do them with them.
“I had last year to get used of it. This year, I’m enjoying it more.”
Sitting opposite Flynn on the fourth floor of the Loughrea Hotel, it is impossible not to be drawn by the sharp cut underneath his left eye.
Two minutes into last Saturday week’s U21 semi-final, Flynn was on the deck when a Limerick defender capitalised on a sitting duck.
The honeymoon period stemming from his five-point contribution in Galway’s sensational semi-final win over Tipperary six-days earlier well and truly over.
“I was out of the game for seven or eight minutes. I got seven stitches and a bit of glue. That’s a fleshy spot there. The blood was pumping out of it. It could be worse. I really wanted to get back on to the pitch as quick as I could. You don’t care how they deal with it. That’s all you’re worried about.”
Although admitting it was the toughest game he was ever a part of, Flynn enjoyed the 70-minutes against Tipperary. He’s a hurler that relishes the underdog tag. Similar story then tomorrow.
“When you go into a game like that as underdog, you look forward to it even more. You’ve nothing to lose. Nobody gave us a chance outside of Galway for the semi. We just said we’d give it a go and work hard.
“Any time you get to play against the best you will relish it and look forward to it. Any time you get to go out and mark the likes of Paul Murphy and Jackie Tyrrell and these guys, you look forward to it because it’s a good challenge. It’s something you love. I’m really looking forward to it now, it’s an All-Ireland final day and you look forward to playing against the best and that’s what we are going to do.
“The younger players, we see how much the more experienced guys want it and the desire they have. Finals don’t come around too often. I know we got a chance in 2012 and other years, but they’re not easily won.
“The older lads know that, and we certainly won’t take it for granted.”
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