Daniel Flynn: 'I felt I'd let all the other lads down'
By John Harrington
After Kildare’s defeat to Dublin in the Leinster SFC Final, Daniel Flynn made a bee-line for home, pulled the curtains, and went to bed early.
His team-mates went out for a couple of drinks together to help salve the pain of defeat, but Flynn wasn’t in the mood to join them.
In his own head he’d let them all down by missing a glorious goal chance in the second-half, so some alone-time was required to process the disappointment.
“Yeah, there was a big cloud over my head afterwards,” he told GAA.ie “But, look, I'll learn from that. I'm not happy it happened, but in a way I'm happy I can take something from it.
“I did beat myself up a good bit though afterwards, to be honest. It took me until the middle of the week to start to come back to myself.
“No-one else would have a problem with it, it's just that you expect so much of yourself and you feel you've let other people down.
“I didn't mind the fact that I'd missed a goal, it was the fact that I thought I'd let all the other lads in the team down as well as letting myself down a small bit.
“You go through it step by step. It's funny, some things speed up and you can't remember, but the bad things seem to slow down.
“I felt like I had forever on the ball for that chance and I had probably too much going on in my head and I ended up doing nothing.
“But I'll learn from that. If I'm in that situation again I'll know to have the composure to take it around someone or to just tap it in. If that was a club game at home I think I'd have rattled the net.”
The guilt of letting other people down is an irrational feeling that Flynn has experienced before.
When he turned home to Johnstownbridge from a two-year stint with Port Adelaide in the Australian Football League in 2015 what stung him most was the sensation that he failed others who had such high expectations of him.
“Yeah, that's it," says Flynn. "Everyone would say it was a great achievement and a huge thing to go there, but you nearly feel as if you've failed.
“That's hard to deal with it. I'm only getting around that now, to be honest. It was a weight on my shoulders for a long time, so it was, but I'm not too bad now.
“I was lost for a little while, to be honest. I went and did six weeks as an apprentice electrician and then I started working in a local shop and only really realised a couple of months down the line that what I really wanted to do was to go back to College.
“The GPA were great for that, I have to say. They have a player development programme that really helped me figure out where I wanted to go.”
If you’re starting to think that Flynn is an introspective sort who takes things a little too seriously, then you’d be quite wrong.
He’s actually a laid-back character who likes a laugh and speaks about past disappointments with the candour of someone who’s now very happy in his own skin.
The sense of failure he felt about Australia and the rudderless few months that followed his return home are very much in the rear-view mirror.
While the disappointment of that goal chance he missed against Dublin has been well-digested by now and he’s chomping at the bit for Saturday’s All-Ireland SFC Round 4B Qualifier against Armagh.
He’s in the final year of a degree in Accounting and Finance in NUI Maynooth, and he’s loving football in a way someone who has overcome a couple of hard years of injuries only can.
“I'm enjoying the football, yeah, I'm really enjoying playing,” he says.
“It's my first year really where I've had a clear run at it. I think it's four years since the last time I played Championship football, so I'm really enjoying it.
“When I came home from Australia (in 2015) I ended up having Gilmore's Groin the first year so I had to have an operation on that which put me out.
“The next year I kept pulling my hamstring. I pulled it one day in January in College and from there it just kept happening every few weeks or couple of months. Then I pulled it really bad in the Tipperary match in the League and that put me out of action for the League.
“And when that happened I downed tools and was just like, 'I'm not putting up with this. I can do better things with my time'.
“Just the sort of emotional side that comes with constantly getting injured. Thankfully that's all gone now.”
He did a lot of growing up in Australia and enjoyed the experience of being a professional sportsman, but he’s more in love now with Gaelic Football than he ever was with the Australian code.
Flynn is a the sort of flair player who is at his best when he has the confidence to express himself on the pitch, and that’s what he’s enjoying doing at the moment for club and county.
“When I came back to home to play I nearly found myself being able to enjoy playing more,” he says.
“There was no pressure really, because why would there be pressure? It's an amateur game, you go and play it to enjoy it.
“Whereas over there you're being paid so you've to perform. I found when I come here that the shackles were off and there was no pressure.
“Even in the Leinster Final there was no nerves or jitters or anything. It was just another game, which I found really good.”
He score a point in the first-half against Dublin that’s unlikely to be bettered by anyone this year.
Winning the ball inside his own half, he somehow flipped it over the head of Con O’Callaghan who had charged in to tackle him.
Then he flew down the right sideline leaving Cian O’Sullivan and Brian Fenton in his slipstream before angling a beautiful kick with the outside of his right boot over the bar from a ridiculously tight angle.
It was a special moment to witness, so you won’t be surprised to hear it was a great one to experience for the man himself.
“It was class! It was deadly!” says Flynn. “The noise was crazy. You don't notice anyone in the crowd, you just hear this noise. It was deadly, it lifted the hairs on the back of my neck.”
Kildare were well beaten in the end by Dublin but they played well enough in fits and starts to suggest they have a very bright future as a team.
Players like Flynn, Kevin Feely, Paddy Brophy, and Niall Kelly are all absolute ballers, and you get the feeling that this Lilywhite team is capable of producing a massive performance in Croke Park some day very soon.
“I think if everything clicks right for us...you'll get patches where you play well and I think at times in the Leinster Final when we played well we really played well," says Flynn.
“And I think it's about maturing and getting to the stage where we're all gelling together really well. And if that happens, then, yeah, definitely.
“But it's about getting to that stage and I'm not sure how you make that happen, I think it just comes.”
Saturday’s match against Armagh can be a very pivotal one in the evolution of this promising Kildare team.
If they win it and progress to an All-Ireland Quarter-Final against Tyrone they’ll have franked their status as one of most upwardly mobile teams in the country.
The stakes are high, but that doesn’t faze Flynn.
“I don't see it as a pressure," he says. "I think it's just getting back to where we want to be. We're progressing all the time and this would be another big step back to the big time.
“But I don't see it as a weight or anything like that and I don’t think too much about it now. I'm probably a bit too laid-back, some of the lads would say. It's just a game of football to me at the end of the day.
“Australia helped with that. It put it into perspective. There's so much more important things in life other than doing your head in over kicking a ball over a bar.
“I know it means so much, but at the same time there's an awful lot of stuff that's much more important. Playing football is just a nice release, it's great.”