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Sunday 17 December 2017

Flynn: We're in it to win it

Dublin's flying forward is taking nothing for granted on Sunday

Paul Flynn. Picture: Paul Mohan/SPORTSFILE
Paul Flynn. Picture: Paul Mohan/SPORTSFILE

QUITE how their supporters will greet a ninth Leinster title in 10 years should Dublin do the business on Sunday is anyone's guess.

Time was, they celebrated them like moon-landings.

Now, it's arguable whether keeping the Delaney Cup in town or keeping Meath down a while longer would represent the more beneficial outcome for Dublin football.

Yet if some in the county are blasé about it, Paul Flynn isn't one of them. He has his foibles the week of these sort of games and one of them is not talking about the game itself.

It's a hard sell.

"You politely change the subject rather than not talk to them," he told the Herald. "I think people kind of get it too, when you change the subject.

"People don't mean any harm by it either so you don't mean to be rude to them or anything like that.

"They want to talk about football. And you just want to talk about anything but football. But I tell you, the World Cup has been great over the last while," Flynn adds. "It's a great way to change the subject!"

If he is energised by recent success, that's partially down the fact that Flynn has been on the Dublin panel since before the times of plenty began.

It's twee to recall now but there was a time - and not so long ago either - when Dublin beating a team with accepted All-Ireland aspirations, even in something so inconsequential as a League match, constituted legitimate cause for celebration.

The reason was simple.

Thumb through the list of teams Dublin beat from outside Leinster in the Championship from 1995 through to 2010 and identify a scalp along them.

In fact, maybe the greatest trick Dublin pulled in 2010 was convincing themselves that Armagh and Tyrone were still big deals, prized mounts for their wall.

Worse.

Team after Dublin team had dipped a toe into the water of significant victory, only to pack up before fully committing.

It became a thing.

They blew the 2005 All-Ireland quarter-final with Tyrone and famously, the 2006 semi-final with Mayo.

Ditto the 2010 All-Ireland semi-final and the 2011 League final, both to Cork.

And with each unsealed deal, the thing seemed to become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Changed times.

Now, seemingly, with players like Flynn at he apogee of their abilities and the team so obviously in tune with one another, they make it look like there is no such thing as an irretrievable situation.

They were four points down with seven minutes to go in the 2011 All-Ireland final and won that.

Then, a point in arrears with little time remaining in last year's epic semi, yet won by seven.

Both times it was Kerry to suffer.

That's Kerry, a team Dublin hadn't beaten in a match of note since the famed 1977 All-Ireland semi-final.

They blew, then rescued the League game in Omagh in April and, most spectacularly of all, was the 17-point swing versus Cork in the League semi-final.

"It's obviously around being mentally strong," says Flynn. "I think we have, within our team at the moment, this belief that no matter what stage of the game we're at, no matter how far down we are, no matter who we're playing against, that we are going to have the ability to come out on top if we continue to stick to our game-plan for the whole game.

"I think that's a great strength to have. We don't like losing. That's really important. That mental strength is maybe the key and the difference between now and the past.

"Look," adds the triple All Star. "It's obviously a positive but you don't want to be leaving yourself in those sort of situations too often.

"We have a game-plan, we stick to it. We say it's a 70-minute game plus injury-time and you have to play until it's over. It's as easy as that.

"Obviously in the past, even before Pat's (Gilroy) time, there were games where we would have folded in those sort of situations. But not any more. We just keep on working hard."

It's not hard to picture Flynn working hard on his game, given how hard we works on the pitch.

Speaking at a press conference last week, Jim Gavin outlined the breadth of his importance to the team.

"Paul is a big leader," he explained. "He demonstrates leadership qualities on the field and is a big influence on how we play our game.

"But, more important, for me is, off the field, what he does, how he applies himself to his sport. He's a very, very dedicated man.

"He's always raising the bar."

Yet the way Flynn tells it, it's a natural enough process.

"Personally, I'd look at every game I'd play and try and improve," he explains.

"Against Laois, there were a lot of positives I took out of the game myself. But there was also things I wanted to work on. There's no doubt about it.

"So you just try and build on that every game you play. We would have felt we didn't have our intensity (right). I think we had more of it against Wexford. Definitely not the finished article but going in the right direction.

"I honestly just think about each session and each game and that's the Meath game next. And it's a good one to look forward to."

Immortals

All of which means that not only will Flynn join the immortals should he collect a third All-Ireland medal during his career (he turned 28 last Tuesday), every season that ends shy of that reward will be classed as a failure.

"Every time you wear the Dublin jersey, there's an expectation from yourself. Your team-mates and your family. With Dublin, there is always that added expectation.

"We know that when we prepare the way we're supposed to prepare and do all the training and look after ourselves off the field, we're ticking all the boxes. That's all we can do.

"There's no guarantees in sport. Look at Spain in the World Cup. They went out in the first round. They prepared to the best of their ability to be there but it didn't go for them. That's life. That's sport."

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