Sunday 21 January 2018

Paul Flynn: One title would have been unjust on these lads

Dublin's Paul Flynn and James McCarthy celebrate after their All-Ireland win last month - Dublin have another reason to celebrate, due to the new sponsorship deal
Dublin's Paul Flynn and James McCarthy celebrate after their All-Ireland win last month - Dublin have another reason to celebrate, due to the new sponsorship deal
Cian O'Sullivan's tweeted picture of the players celebrating together in the Dublin dressing room
Colm Keys

Colm Keys

Paul Flynn apologised at the end of it. It hadn't been much of an interview, he suggested.

"Sorry lads, I'm a bit all over the shop," he quipped.

Exhaustion had kicked in and his thoughts, by his own admission, were becoming a little fragmented.

Around him the Dublin players emerged from the doors to their dressing-room as if they were leaving a war zone.

Eoghan O'Gara used crutches and had an ice pack applied to his hamstring, Jonny Cooper had a badly bruised cut under his eye, Michael Darragh Macauley hobbled awkwardly to the players' lounge with a suspected fractured foot.

Inside, Paul Mannion nursed the hamstring injury that ended his interest prematurely, while Rory O'Carroll was treated for the apparent concussion that he played on with for the last 16 minutes (including four minutes of added-time) after extensive treatment.

By then Dublin had used their quota of substitutes and with O'Gara out of commission, they effectively finished with 13 men. In that sense it was a heroic effort from Dublin to close this game out.

After all the order and regiment brought by Gavin this was as chaotic as any All-Ireland champions have finished a game.

"The hardest game I have played in my whole life," reflected Flynn. "There's not enough crutches in here for some of the lads – head injuries, stitches, I have never seen anything like it. That's a credit to Mayo.


"They just didn't stop, they just keep going. Their half-back line keep trying to go forward and you have to keep tracking them and as you can see I'm a bit tired. But I'm over the moon, I'm just so happy.

"They wouldn't leave us alone but I'd enough belief in my own fitness that if you kept going and kept going they would tire a bit more and indeed they did. We were just that little bit sharper and a bit more clinical."

Macauley admitted adrenalin carried him through the game with a suspected fractured foot after he was stood on in the opening half.

"It's not feeling great. We'll see what happens. Adrenalin will get you through anything, All-Ireland final, lads will hang together with half a foot.

"Word got to me that Eoghan O'Gara was shot and don't give him the ball. I don't do it anyway," he quipped. "We used our subs early enough because our subs have been huge for us all year.

"Those lads have to come on and they have to do the business for us. We had nobody else to replace Eoghan. Unforeseen circumstances so, look, it showed brilliant play from all the lads to come through that sort of a game."

Flynn ended the match at full-back covering for O'Carroll who had pushed out field after his collision with Enda Varley in the 58th minute.

It was all hands to the deck in a chaotic finish as he explained.

"I was full-back for a while and Philly (McMahon) was trying to say to me, 'You mark him'. I said 'you'll mark him, I'll sweep'. We had to do it because poor old Rory got knocked out so he didn't have a clue where he was. You just do what you have to do for the team and that's all that matters.

"(Eoghan) O'Gara pulled his hamstring too so he was kinda gone and I knew we were going to be against it then. I was like, 'Jesus'. By playing sweeper, we invited them on and you don't want to invite them on because you need to go man to man with them and try and stop them at source. Look, it's hard to speak. I'm a bit all sorts but I'm just so happy.

"It's hard to put words on it because when you get one (All-Ireland) you're saying this is all you ever want in your whole life," Flynn continued

"But I'll be honest, and there's no harm in saying it now, it would have been unjust if we only got one All-Ireland with this group of lads because the team we have there is just phenomenal. It's just such a pleasure to play with them, I'm not going to lie.

"It's a different squad, there's a lot of different players and I love them lads I went to war with in 2011 and I love the lads I went to war with in 2013."

Dublin's goal-scoring hero Bernard Brogan also reflected on the attritional values of the game.

"In fairness both teams went toe to toe and hit each other very hard, and it was very tense.

"There was nothing given easy and you had to work hard for scores. You've seen the amount of bruises, black eyes and torn hamstrings, lads were rolling off the field. It was a tough game but that's what you're going to get."

At the official post-match press conference Dublin manager Gavin hit out at the refereeing of Dublin matches all season but was also adamant that they were composed at half-time despite being on the back foot for long spells.

"We always say to the players that half-time is only a break in play. That's what it is. The most important thing for us is that we're ahead at the end. Half-time is a time to rest and regroup but there's no big drama in the Dublin dressing-room.

"The game ebbs and flows and it's important for guys to keep their composure and work through the game plan. We've always said the players have the flexibility to play the way they see it and to express themselves."

Macauley always sensed that Dublin would hang on in any circumstances.

"I suppose we've done it all year. We've only been beaten once (by Tyrone) apart from the O'Byrne Cup.

"We know how to finish out games and we've shown that all year. I had complete faith in the lads that we would come through in that game, big time."

Faith in the system and in themselves ultimately carried them over the line again.

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