'Future stars are rising'

Conor McKeon

EVEN from their training camp in East Cork, the Dublin footballers suspected there was something a bit special about this year's All-Ireland capturing under-21 group.

And one of those -- Paul Flynn -- firmly expects to be rubbing shoulders with some of Jim Gavin's crop in the very near future.

Flynn, who watched Sunday's All-Ireland under-21 decider in Fota Island, where the Dublin squad were based for the weekend, reckons "the sky is the limit" for any number of that sprouting crop and hopes they can add some fresh ingredients to the senior side.

The Fingallians man warned, however, that sheer talent won't suffice to cut it at the top level and that those bestowed with the opportunity will have to show the necessary attitude if they are to make it.


"It all depends on the individuals themselves and their attitude," he insisted at yesterday's Leinster championship launch in Croke Park.

"If they come in with the right attitude, the sky is the limit. They can keep going up.

"But there are some excellent footballers there. There is no doubting their ability.

"It's just a question of whether they come in with the right attitude. That's the most important thing.

Stylistically, Flynn feels, the under-21s can fit snugly into the senior setup, noting: "By watching them, it looks like they play a similar enough style to ourselves.

"They all have a tremendous work-rate and they all seem really comfortable on the ball."

Physically too, some adjustment might be required but nothing that can't be made up in the short-to-medium term.

"I think there is but by the looks of those lads, it doesn't look like they're too far off.

"They have been doing a good bit of work in the gym obviously.

"Our strength and conditioning coach looks after them too, so that's a bonus that they're doing similar work to us.

"They're only young but if they're good enough they can make the step up."

And asked whether some of those players could provide the extra sparkle generally considered necessary to add to an already successful mix in order to repeat last September's heroics, Flynn replied:

"I think they could. There are also some other lads who came into the panel this year that are 'new' and fresh, the likes of Johnny Cooper and Dean Rock and Paddy Andrews (who had been involved previously).

"These lads are coming in with a massive hunger and that goes throughout the panel."

As for the quest to reclaim Sam, Flynn isn't inclined to spend too much time weighing it up as a mathematical equation.


"When you look back," he mused, "only a handful of teams have been able to win All-Irelands back-to-back so there is that kind of pressure. But if you think about those things too much, it can play on your mind.

"The only way you can go into it is take your first match of the championship and try and go in the front door."

Given he was speaking at the launch of this year's Leinster SFC and, for a change, the Eastern provinces' stock relatively soaring, it was natural that Flynn rattled off a number of credible pretenders to Dublin's Delaney Cup -- a refreshing but challenging change to some recent seasons.

Still, the lurking presence of in-form Kildare on the far side of this year's draw looms large over the destination of this year's Leinster title.

"The league campaign they had, they were excellent," he noted. "And they won it as well.

"It was different to the last couple of years where they had good league campaigns and didn't win it. This is (Kieran) McGeeney's first national title.

"But Longford and Wexford were in the Division 3 final and that was an excellent game and Longford look in great shape. It's going to be competitive. I think the Leinster championship will be the most competitive of all the provinces.

"There are some really strong teams and if you're not up to scratch, you can be beaten on any given day.


Flynn added: "Last year we got competitive games and it made a difference. But Louth or Westmeath -- that game is in two weeks' time and we'll be keeping a close eye on it because if you don't go into that game well-prepared and focused on that game, you could be beaten."