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Monday 18 December 2017

League loss a reason for the Dubs to ponder

'We cannot be leaving it that late,' says Flynn

Pictured at the launch by the GAA and the GPA of the new Avonmore Protein Milk Chocolate drink was Dublin footballer Paul Flynn. Photo: Sportsfile
Pictured at the launch by the GAA and the GPA of the new Avonmore Protein Milk Chocolate drink was Dublin footballer Paul Flynn. Photo: Sportsfile
Dublin’s Paul Flynn and Kerry’s Jack Barry battle for possession during the recent Allianz FL Division 1 final at Croke Park. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Maybe, with the benefit of hindsight, it was the best time to lose a game and put a full stop to the run.

Not that Paul Flynn felt so philosophical on the night of April 9, after Dublin's 36-match unbeaten record was brought to a shuddering halt by Kerry.

As befits the holder of four Celtic Cross, four league medals and four All Stars, this serial repeat winner hates losing. Yet, if there was a time to reacquaint yourself with the numbing sensation, and to take all the consequent lessons on board, then maybe this was it.

"No one likes to lose any game, especially a league final when there is a lot at stake," Flynn stresses.

"To be honest, I swear to God, I've never thought about that run of games. It's not something that's kind of crept into the psyche ... maybe I'm wrong, maybe other lads have, but I don't think it had.

"And it was always going to end at some stage, it was never going to go on forever.

Compounded

"But the fact it was a league final compounded it and would make you reflect on it a little bit more," he continues.

"Let's say if we had lost to Kerry in Tralee, would we have reflected on it as much? Maybe not, because we mightn't have had as much time, we would have had a game the next week and then we could have had a league final and we could have won that ... and then you mightn't have just thought about it as much."

Now, though, players have plenty of time to mull over what was missing in the league final - and maybe in a few of their earlier escapes-to-parity/victory too. Jim Gavin, you can be sure, is doing even more pondering.

"I suppose we've had a couple of weeks now to think about it. We just didn't perform," Flynn concedes.

"There's no easy fix. We just didn't play well on the day for too long of periods.

"We finished strong - we seem to be doing that a lot in games when we we've really needed to - but you can't let a team like Kerry get a run on us for that long, especially in the third quarter."

Power-packed finishes were Dublin's stock-in-trade this spring - think Tyrone in Croker, Kerry in Tralee and Monaghan in Clones as three standout examples. In the league final, Flynn recounts, they were only denied by the width of the post repelling Dean Rock's last-gasp free.

"If it went to extra-time, there would have been only one winner, in my eyes. I thought we would have definitely pulled through," he surmises.

"But we just can't be leaving it that late. I think we have the ability to play well for the whole 70 minutes, not just in phases ... in a number of league games we pulled it back and had the mental resolve to pull through, but we need to get the performance piece right for 70 minutes."

The Dublin squad are still back with their clubs before returning to collective training ahead of their Leinster SFC campaign.

The still-raw memory of defeat should, he accepts, ensure "a good cut to those training sessions" in the weeks preceding their June Bank Holiday weekend opener against Carlow or Wexford.

This is Flynn's 11th season as a county panellist. He arrived on the scene, during Pillar Caffrey's time, when Dublin led the way in Leinster but provincial titles were still hard won. You can't say that today.

So when you ask the Fingallians clubman how he gets motivated for a Leinster championship, he replies: "Motivation for us is all driven through the competition internally for everything - and that's throughout the whole season, whether it's for an O'Byrne Cup game or an All-Ireland final.

"Because you have to get your jersey first and everyone wants to play, everyone in the panel. You have no business being there if you don't want to play. There is competition in every line, strong competition, and that keeps you on your toes."

Peril

Never more so, in Flynn's case, than between last year's All-Ireland draw and replay with Mayo. His position was one of several under peril. As it transpired, Michael Darragh Macauley and Bernard Brogan were omitted with Flynn relocated to midfield.

"I didn't feel it (the speculation) in the media, but I felt it myself anyway because I knew I wasn't playing to my own standards," he recalls.

As for that brief midfield sojourn, he says: "I wouldn't have thought it was going to make much difference, but it was nice to get a run out there. I play a lot at midfield with my club and would always have been a midfielder growing up ... it gave me a new lease of life for the replay. It was good; it was positive."

Seven months on, and he's still positive.

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