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Sunday 20 October 2019

From Dub frying pan into GPA fire

Paul Flynn. Photo: Sportsfile
Paul Flynn. Photo: Sportsfile

Retirement is never easy. Not when Croke Park in September has become an annual date in your calendar; not when you are part of a squad spying the sporting immortality that goes with five-in-a-row.

But it's not all bad news for Paul Flynn. His battered body might get a break. And there's another positive flip side ... he'll no longer have to face down any 'conflict of interest' accusations over his dual role as a Dublin footballer and Gaelic Players Association CEO.

Wednesday's retirement was followed by a tidal wave of tributes; but that's not always the way in football ... or life.

When this six-time All-Ireland winner stepped into the GPA hotseat last September, his career move brought with it a new set of off-field pressures. Including the fact that many people were watching to see if he could juggle his two roles - a representative of all players while simultaneously a dyed-in-the-wool Dub.

Cynicism

His high-profile twin role meant criticism was probably inevitable, especially given the cynicism of quite a few Gaels about all things GPA. Which brings us to an interview with Flynn in The Sunday Times five days ago; it dealt almost exclusively with his GPA brief rather than his Dublin career, with no hint that the latter was to be over so soon.

The controversy over Donegal's Congress motion last February - the one seeking to restrict Dublin to one Croke Park appearance during the Super 8s - was broached.

In the wake of that motion's defeat, Andriú Mac Lochlainn took to Twitter. Posting a link to a Pundit Arena article that savaged the Congress decision, the former Kildare defender voiced his own displeasure at the GPA's approach: he tweeted that if he was still playing, he would "demand a ballot" with potential strike action.

And in a follow-up interview, Mac Lochlainn claimed: "Paul Flynn is the CEO and it is a major conflict of interest that he is a current player on a panel when it comes to issues like this."

Flynn's response, last Sunday, was emphatic: "We weren't conflicted. We had a board meeting and went through each of the motions and decided which way we would vote. I'm very honourable about how I do my job. I would hate for anybody to question me on that. I'm here to represent the collective issues of all the players. I'd never put myself in a position to be conflicted about anything. Anybody who knows me knows that."

For the record, this column has always found Flynn to be one of the most refreshingly candid interviewees on the GAA circuit. He doesn't duck questions; in many ways, he is an open book.

Speaking to The Herald on Wednesday, he reiterated that "there was no conflict of interest."

Negotiate

In truth, Flynn has far bigger issues to tackle in the coming months. The GAA and GPA will seek to negotiate a new deal later this year, with the three-year 2016 agreement drawing to a close.

Negotiations are unlikely to be straight-forward - they never are, when millions are involved - while Croke Park is acutely aware that some county boards are less than happy with the current players' charter, embracing welfare entitlements for inter-county footballers and hurlers.

"What's the alternative to the players' charter model?" said Flynn in The Sunday Times. "The alternative is professionalism."

For this fearless Fingallian, quieter on-field times are about to be replaced by interesting times off it.

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