Paul Flynn: Losing to Donegal was 'like a bereavement'
Dublin will be without all three of their 2014 All Stars when they take on Donegal next Saturday night in their first rematch since the Ulster men turned them over in last summer's All-Ireland semi-final.
Diarmuid Connolly is club-tied with St Vincent's and James McCarthy and Paul Flynn have both recently had groin surgery and are not expected to be match-fit until the third or fourth round of the league.
Flynn, arguably, will be most missed. He is the Dubs' Ever-Ready Bunny, the fulcrum of their attack and an irreplaceable link-man.
He was also, significantly, one of the players who really took the fight to Donegal last time out, kicking four points from play before the wheels came off last summer.
If his team-mates react to last summer's fall from grace with the same candour and application as Flynn then the 2013 All-Ireland champions should be well placed to bounce back, but he confesses that seismic shock hurt like hell.
"It's horrible to say, but in many ways it's like a bereavement," Flynn recalls.
"If there is a bereavement in the family, the people you want to be around are your family. In a case like that the only people you want to be around are your team-mates, they are the only people who really know how you feel."
Yet Flynn is also mature enough to observe "it was a low couple of days but you have to try and get on with things".
"There was a period when I lost a game like that I'd leave the country or put the head down for a couple of weeks, but you just can't do that anymore. You have to try and face it," he says.
Flynn still finished the year with his fourth All Star in-a-row and was touched when his club Fingallians organised a special function to award it to him because he missed the awards night due to his sister's wedding but concedes "when you lose as a team it's only a slight consolation."
He went into the All-Ireland final still struggling with a groin injury that flared up before the quarter-final with Monaghan.
He makes little of it, saying the pain wasn't bad and would fade once he warmed it up well enough, but he needed a pain-killing injection before both games. He had hoped to avoid surgery by rehab exercises but former Meath star Gerry McEntee operated on him on January 5.
Against Donegal, when Dublin looked like they could score with their eyes closed in the first half-hour, it looked like they had set up to isolate their long-range shooters and draw out their opponents' infamous blanket defence, but Flynn says that was more by accident than design.
"Diarmuid Connolly got a few as well and you are thinking 'this is going great' but, realistically speaking, it wasn't going well," he reflects.
"If we had to be kicking from out there then we weren't creating the opportunities in the scoring zones.
"It was great to get the scores we got from 21 and 30 yards out but you are not going to get them all day. There was no game-plan to shoot from long-range, those are low-percentage scores and that's what we were getting."
Given Flynn's mileage, age (28) and current situation, no one would quibble if he eased himself back slowly mid-season but he is dying to get back and is attending all of Dublin's training sessions.
"I like to be in with the panel and know what we're doing tactically so when you do come back in it's seamless. It has been difficult the last couple of weeks, when it's snowing and you're standing on the sideline," he grins. "But it has to be done.
"I'm back running since the weekend and the running stage will be three weeks. We've a game the first and second weekends of March (against Tyrone and Mayo) so they're the target.
"There was more to James' (McCarthy) surgery," he explains. "He had to get his adductors (muscles) operated on and had his operation four weeks before me but we'll be back around the same time.
"I don't know how much more driven you can be because last year we were so driven but there are a lot of lads vying for places.
"If you take away one half of the Donegal game, I think we were really good last year. Everything was going to plan and then Donegal outplayed us in one half of football.
"You can't completely turn around and say that 2014 was an absolute failure but we didn't come out with an All-Ireland."
Dublin v Donegal is live on Setanta Sports 1 next Saturday (7.0), one of the station's 17-game Allianz League package.