flynn not fazed by dubs duel
CARLOW v DUBLIN
LEINSTER U21 QUARTER-FINAL
(Dr Cullen Park, Tonight, 7.30)
DUBLIN aren't the only county attempting to tap the know-how of one of Munster hurling's legends in a bid to break permanently free from small-ball mediocrity.
Carlow aren't quite at the same stage of their development, but there is a belief within the county that their U21 team, which takes to the field tonight against Dublin in Dr Cullen Park, are the best vintage of their own minor revolution thus far.
Duly, the Carlow king-makers turned to Waterford great Paul Flynn in an attempt to reap the best possible harvest and the Ballygunnar man will walk the line for the Barrowsiders tonight.
"I had watched a lot of the Carlow senior team through the television work," Flynn, now a well-respected Sunday Game analyst, told the Herald. "I felt that there was potential there and a lot of good players coming through.
"It's an age group that I like because I think it's where some of the best games are played."
Having previously served as a selector with the Déise U21s, Flynn knows all about the grade but his perception of hurling in Carlow has widened substantially since assuming the role at the beginning of this year.
"The standard is quite good," he explained. "Obviously, they don't have the same spread of clubs as other counties. We're working off seven senior hurling clubs so the pool would be small.
"But the skill level is quite high and there is plenty of enthusiasm there too.
"The real ambition is to get to the stage where they're playing at the highest level possible and keep improving every year. If they could catch up with teams that are slightly above them, then great. There's plenty of scope there for goal-setting.
"The senior team are in the Liam MacCarthy for the last two years after making progress in the Christy Ring. They're solid enough in Division 2. It's just a matter of getting one or two of the younger lads through every year."
Nevertheless, the meat of the Carlow line-up tonight will be provided by the 2008 minor team, a side which beat Offaly by eight points in their Leinster opener, while a smattering of the players who put Dublin to the pin of their collar last year at the same level are also set to feature.
Flynn has witnessed the recent rise and rise of Dublin, though, and recognises their potential to throw tradition out the window.
"Obviously Dublin are on a high at the moment after the League final," he notes. "The game in Dublin is coming back strong. They've enjoyed a lot of success in the last few years at minor and under-21.
"The whole country were saying 'wouldn't it be great if Dublin were strong?'
"Now that they are strong, they're ruffling a few feathers.
"I think it's a great draw for Carlow, to get Dublin at home in Dr Cullen Park with them on such a high."
Understandably, he is wary of senior stars, Liam Rushe and Daire Plunkett, but adds: "Sometimes it can be hard for an under-21 player who is starring on the senior team to go back to his own grade.
"Players can struggle with expectations or they can try and do too much rather than just sticking to their role.
"It can work both ways.
"But they're two very good players and they have hurled well this year so going down to Carlow won't hold any fears for them.
"But it's a championship game. It's a one-off. We have a good squad. We have eight or nine on the senior panel. The training and the matches have been good so we're prepared.
"Obviously, we don't have the strength-in-depth that Dublin have but in a once-off game, you couldn't rule anything out."
DUBLIN: G McManus; B O'Carroll, J Doughan, C Gough; D Curran, M Quilty, S O'Connor; D Sutcliffe, B Mulligan; D Plunkett, L Rushe, R Mahon; K O'Loughlin, S McGrath, E Dillon.
CARLOW: N Roberts; S Kelly, G Kelly, T Nolan; D English, J Corcoran, J Doyle; P Coady, P McElligott; J Doyle, E Byrne, D Murphy; D Roberts, C Lawlor, P Kehoe.