Paul Flynn interview July 10 2009

July 16, 2009

PAUL FLYNN may not be playing for Waterford any more, but that doesn’t mean his radar is missing any star players. You only have to ask. “Who do you have your eye on”?

“Well . . . Noel McGrath from Tipperary,” says Flynn. “Our Eoin Kelly, John Mullane; Richie Power. Joe Canning.”

No defenders? A longish pause. “Eoin Murphy,” he says eventually. “Mark Foley. Lads I’d have played against. But mostly forwards, yeah.”

Flynn put down 17 seasons with the Déise. Good days, bad days, happy and sad. But now it’s gone and he’s not looking back.

“The lads who’d know me well would know when I played hurling I played hurling, and that’s it. I packed in last year
after 17 years, and I enjoyed most of it and I’ll move on now.

“I don’t want to go back to saying I wasn’t fanatical about it, but I wasn’t. Maybe that helps. It was something I was able to do, I can’t do it any more, so you move on.”

He moved on to sitting in Thurles for the first Waterford-Limerick game. Then he decided to move on again.

“What goes on in the stand would really wake you up to what lads are being called. Some of the things being said about Waterford lads – great Waterford players – by Waterford people would open your eyes. I won’t say it upset me but for the
second game I couldn’t go to the stands and listen to that. If I went again I’d be bringing a
radio. It’s incredible.”

There have always been hurlers on the ditch, but Flynn doesn’t enjoy other, more recent developments.

“You can’t really compare nowadays to 1992 and those early years because with no backdoor we were preparing for one game, which we often lost. But the point of driving to Dungarvan to have a session of walking in the water . . . you’re gone at 5, on Clonea strand at 6, after grub you’re maybe home at 9, or half past. Just to recover.

“Or being at the beach for 7 am the morning after playing a game. I never saw the sense to that and there’s no secret that I wouldn’t be a fan of it.”

FLYNN traces the new regimes to Kilkenny’s dominance and managers wishing to emulate that.

“There’s no doubt a lot of it is down to the lack of managers wanting to be different or innovative. A lot of is counter-productive, I think; if a fella is tired after a game what’s the point in getting him out of bed at half-six the following morning?

“Justin (McCarthy) would have had the idea, and I wouldn’t have been far off it myself, that hurling is hurling and athletics is athletics. The more hurling you do the better and the whole canoeing, or mountain-climbing, or walking around blindfolded . . . some fellas might get something out of it. Not me. But, definitely, if it got out that Kilkenny were all playing with 32-inch hurleys, then every team would be using them then.”

Some of the innovations he approved of — “the Nutron diet wasn’t bad; one night at training I lapped a few fellas, so it had to be good,” – while others aren’t so obvious.

“I’d say the major difference that people don’t realise is that with the previous (Waterford) management there were no great instructions, it was a case of going out and playing. Okay, defenders would be told to be in front, to pick out their men, to handpass to a better man for a clearance. But there were no great patterns or set plays further up the field. Waterford seem to be playing a more controlled game now, whereas I’d prefer to go out and play instinctively.

“It’s possible with set patterns that fellas get locked in, and the fear factor can come in – lads can get fearful over losing the ball. But the win over Limerick will definitely have brought lads on, in fairness.”

Regarding Sunday, he’s realistic. “I wouldn’t say I’m worried, but I’d have concerns — Limerick were so bad in the first game, they were almost like a club team for the first 20 minutes. I’d say they couldn’t believe they were still in it in the second half.

“The weather was shocking, fair enough, but take John (Mullane) out of it . . . Waterford are playing the ball to him, but you can’t rely on one player chipping in with all the scores.

“From Waterford’s point of view – will Stephen (Molumphy) and Tony (Browne) be right? They’re big worries.

“As against that, Tipp’s big players last year have been doing well for 20 -minute stretches, but they’ve also been disappearing for long stretches. If Waterford can stay steady then they’ve a chance. And Waterford have a good record in recent years against Tipp.”

THAT’S been with Ken McGrath, of course – Flynn is frank about the loss of the Mount Sion man: “The difference in having the Ken of last year and previous years and no Ken at all is . . . it’s not immeasurable, but it nearly is.”

There have been other spin-offs, however. Surely the Waterford minors of today are kids nourished on the Déise’s championship voyages since 1998? “I’d say so. I grew up watching John Fenton, Jimmy Barry-Murphy, Tom Cashman, all these lads, but that time the All-Ireland semi-final would be the first games on telly, and it would have been Cork, Galway, Tipp.

“So these lads are ahead in that sense. They’re competing in Thurles – and hopefully Croke Park – at an earlier age. In 1998 for the All-Ireland semi-final the bus went to the wrong door in Croke Park; we didn’t know any different. You can see that Waterford are more competitive in the Harty and in other Munster colleges competitions, so hopefully that’s a start.

“Tipp have a good minor team, but it’s still progress. You have to make progress at minor, at U21 – not necessarily winning, but competing. So I’d say yeah, some of those lads are lads who wanted to be Ken (McGrath) or Dan (Shanahan) when they were younger.”

Not to mention the lads who wanted to be Paul Flynn. That vacancy exists now in Waterford, but it’ll be a tall order for the youngsters trying to fill it.

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