Flynn out to deliver another lesson to former students
Published 23/06/2016 | 02:30
If Paul Flynn needed a reminder of how quickly time is slipping by, he'll get it on Sunday.
Flynn turns 30 in a few weeks and is in his tenth season with the Dubs. And as he looks across at the current Meath squad, he'll get a jolt when he sees a few familiar faces.
Albeit with perhaps a little more stubble now.
A few years ago, Flynn dabbled in teaching. As part of his training, he headed for a brief stint in Ratoath College, just across the border in the Royal County.
Among the students he taught were Meath forward Joey Wallace, while defender Brian Power was in the same year.
Meath's panel now is very young and Flynn's stay over the border was brief so there might have been other young Meath tyros he taught but he's not sure.
What is certain is that this Meath team is much more of an unknown quantity to the one that rattled five goals in against the Dubs back in 2010, the Royals' last championship win over their great rivals.
Flynn was new to the Dublin set-up at that stage. He had made his debut only two years earlier and was fish-hooked at half-time after Westmeath's Damien Healy ran him "into the ground".
Dublin were a different outfit then. Leinster titles were coming freely but later in Flynn's debut season they'd be hammered by Tyrone in the All-Ireland quarter-final. Twelve months later Kerry would repeat the dose.
And when Meath were goal-crazy in Croke Park, it looked like the latest in a line of misery-inducing defeats for Dublin.
But for some reason, this one was different. Flynn remembers the result sparked a major overhaul in Dublin's thinking.
"I remember that day. We were (three) points down, I took a shot. It was going in top corner and it hit the post and went out. They went down and got a goal. Buried around eight more goals or something … they got five goals they got that day.
"It's funny. That was such a turning point in this team and the way we set up. We went more defensive then.
"We got to the semi-final of the All-Ireland that year, should have beat Cork and played Down in the final.
"Sometimes you do need a wake-up call like that to say we need a drastic change, not just incremental change.
"That was an eye-opener. It was certainly an eye-opener. I'll never forget the atmosphere that day. It was probably four-to-one Dublin fans to Meath fans but it felt the opposite way around."
The worm has turned dramatically since that day.
Of Sunday's team, only one Meath player, Graham Reilly, played in 2010.
Dublin can call on seven of the team that saw action that day and have since gone on to make this a one-sided rivalry.
In the three championship meetings since 2010, Dublin have won by increasing margins of three, seven and 16 points.
But Meath's youth, Flynn warns, will mean they have nothing to lose on Sunday afternoon.
"I grew up watching Meath beat Dublin a lot if the time. It kind of ebbs and flows, it's one of those kind of really great rivalries," he said.
"I think the last three times we played them we've come out on top but at the same time you treat each one very much as a different case.
"Especially this young team, a lot of them wouldn't have been involved in those games so they'll come in with an air of freedom and they'll be really going at it.
"It's still a Dublin-Meath rivalry."