We showed our leadership and character – Flynn
Galway forward ace praises impact of ‘16th man’ Anthony Cunningham
If Galway star Jason Flynn had a late night on Sunday, there was no sign of it yesterday morning.
He was fresh-faced and already looking down the road to what lies ahead. In fact, the only hint of Sunday’s epic encounter in Croke Park came from the smile on his face.
Flynn was excellent as Galway hurled up enough of a storm to survive a three-goal salvo from Seamus Callanan and see off Tipperary. They’ve played six games in the championship now and crucially maintained a consistency of performance that has so often been beyond their reach.
But Sunday was more than just another solid outing. In many ways it was a quantum leap forward. Collectively, they went to places the county hadn’t been in a long time. And Flynn was enjoying the feeling.
“Not as intense as that,” Flynn replied when asked if he had ever played in a game so competitive.
“The last five, 10 minutes, the calf muscles were cramping up badly. It was so intense.
“Even watching the hooks, blocks, and tackles, it was an honest effort from both teams.”
Even as Callanan rattled in the goals, Galway never shirked the task. Each of the Tipp man’s majors were followed by an instant Galway response. Callanan’s goals opened the exit door for Galway, a route they might have taken in the past, but last Sunday they were only going to go down on their own terms.
“It’s just a sign of our character, I suppose. They got a good start, with the goal, and two more goals. But we as forwards were able to hook, and block, and tackle.
“And that means an awful lot – to get a point after they got a goal – instead of them building momentum.
“When you see lads putting in the effort it drives everyone on, and the crowd, and it put the momentum back on us.
“Galway have got a bit of stick over the last few years, that we weren’t able to get back from goals. So it was a great sign of leadership that we were able to do that.”
Their win over Tipp turned Anthony Cunningham from inter-county manager into prophet. After their defeat to Kilkenny in the Leinster final, he shook hands with Brian Cody and told him they’d meet again in the All-Ireland decider.
Cunningham went on to repeat that view in media interviews afterwards and even though they faced what would be an arduous road to get back to the final at that stage, Cunningham’s belief trickled down into the squad
“I only heard it the next day,” Flynn recalled. “Some of the boys said it at training. It maybe did (trickle down), because it just shows the passion Anthony has for it, and even today, a few people said to me that the look on his face, going in at half-time on Sunday, showed how well up for it he was. He’s like the 16th man, there.
“He wouldn’t be banging tables. He just has huge passion, and he’s ruthless.
“And he wants to get the best out of you. He’s really developed my game, since I came in last year, and I’ve learned a lot from him. From all the management team.”
There’s a run-in of three weeks now to the biggest day of his young career. For the 2012 finals, Flynn sat in the Hogan Stand and watched it all unfold when he was just considered the latest in a long line of promising minors.
The county at large will start looking towards the final almost immediately but Flynn and five more of the senior panel have this weekend’s Bord Gáis Energy All-Ireland U-21 hurling semi-final clash with Munster champions Limerick to contend with.
“It is great timing really,” Flynn said.
“It gets your mind back into it again. You have to get your mind right for the weekend because if your mind isn’t right for next weekend... it is an All-Ireland semi-final and something to really look forward to.
“Personally, it is my last year U-21. I am really looking forward to it now. We under-performed the last two years, especially myself. I am really looking forward to the week ahead.”
After that, the build-up to the final will be in full swing. It’s something Flynn intends to enjoy.
“This is new to me. It will be difficult [to block it away]. I will look forward to it.”