Bernard Flynn Interview

November 8, 2018

By David Farrell

Former Meath footballer Bernard Flynn was one of the many people to call on the Meath county board to offer a replay.

The two time all-Ireland medal winner says the decision was ‘the biggest travesty of justice’ he has ever witnessed in Gaelic football.

Flynn has criticised referee Martin Sludden for his handling of the game and has questioned how umpires are been appointed to these matches, adding that he believes they are the referee’s ‘cronies’ whom he can have a drink after the match with.

In this exclusive interview the Mullingar based business man talks about his career with Meath, working with the great Sean Boylan, a ‘nasty’ rivalry with Cork and how injections and pain killers forced him to have a hip replacement before he turned 45.


What did you make of the Leinster final on Sunday?

‘It was an absolute travesty of justice there is no doubt about it. My own feeling is that we should offer a replay. It is quiet clear from Croke Park that they will not force Meath into a replay. It is against the rules for them to interfere. It is up to Meath or there will be no replay and I think we should offer one. It was the biggest travesty of justice and the biggest case of daylight robbery I have ever seen in my time involved in football. I am 45 years old and it was the worst refereeing decision I have ever seen on a Gaelic football field. However what happened after the match was a scandal. It should not have happened. Sean Boylan was assaulted in the stand afterwards and ended up in hospital and I actually seen Mark Ward was assaulted by a supporter with a dirty blow. The guys responsible should be banned but the referee was so bad before that decision was made. He was completely out of his depth and not capable of handling a local derby like that. Someone has to take responsibility for allowing referee’s like that to go out and be allowed whistles. It is not acceptable. He didn’t even consult his umpire. What are they there for? He just told him to put up his flag. That needs to be looked at too. Who picks these umpires? I think they are just friends of the referee, just cronies and sidekicks that he brings with him so he can go for a pint afterwards with them. It is no good enough. Also the security element in Croke Park needs to be addressed. That referee should have been in his dressing room 10 seconds after the final whistle because he could have been seriously injured. I think the GAA will be the first to acknowledge that the security aspect was not good enough, not strong enough and simply not acceptable’.

How do you rate this current Meath team?

‘I have to say I thought Meath were dreadfully poor and should have been kicked off the park, particularly in the second half. Louth had so many chances and played us off the park in the second half. Meath’s attitude was very poor and I think they got caught up in the victory over Dublin. Were not as good as we looked against Dublin we are somewhere in between. Because of Louth messing with JP Rooney kicking away the ball twice the referee allowed us that extra minute. Louth’s inexperience cost them dearly. Meath were poor, very poor. That is why I wouldn’t mind a replay just to set the record straight and if Louth beat us the next day fair in square then fair enough because we should not have the cup and should not have won. Meath have a lot of work to do. Four of our forwards were poor, our midfield is suspect, the half back line does not mark. In the All-Ireland quarter final people are going to be against us and we won’t get any decisions. I think we should offer a replay and play it on Saturday evening’.

Bernard, If you were playing for Meath yesterday, would you have any problem accepting your Leinster medal?

‘Good question. The problem is if we had won a 3 or 4 in a row things would be different. The cup presentation, the crowd on the field, Crawford’s speech and returning to Navan with the cup. It is very hard to undo all of that. I can’t speak as a young lad because when you’re young you want your hands on every medal you can get your hands on. Speaking as a past player Meath should offer a replay and set the record straight that we can beat Louth because yesterday we didn’t deserve to. As a past player it is not a nice way to take the cup or to get a medal so I would have to say I would not be happy’.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

‘The Leinster win in ’86 means a lot to me because it was the breakthrough. But winning the All-Ireland in 1987 has to rank as the biggest achievement’.

How did you end up working for ‘The Sunday Game’?

‘I got a call from one of the producers when O’Rourke and Spillane went on strike. My first match was in 2003 with Armagh and Monaghan. I love working for the radio and I love doing ‘News Talk’. I would be going to these matches anyway so I might as well get a few pound for it. Times are tough and I am glad of the money. I think it is a bit wrong though that I get paid for it and the players get nothing but if I don’t do it someone else will. I really enjoy it’.

What did you make of the strike?

‘They went on strike over not enough pay as far as I remember. I didn’t realise that at the time and it was only when I went on the show I realised it. But I was glad of the call because it was a great opportunity. Colm O’Rourke, Pat Spillane and Joe Brolly are the main men but there are 11 of us there now so we all get a fair crack of the whip’.

Have you ever thought about getting into management?

‘I have been managing the school team along with Tommy Carr and we won the school championship this year. There is a part of me that would love to get into management and maybe a bit down the road I would like to give something back. Maybe try my hand at senior coaching’.

Would you like the Meath job?

‘Ah you never no where I would go. Maybe Offaly!’ (laughs)

How was Sean Boylan received when he took over the Meath job given his background was predominantly a hurling background?

‘Yeah look Sean came in and put his hand up and was the first to admit he was a hurling man. He never hid from that. Nobody wanted the job in Meath and I can’t stress how much nobody wanted it. I think it was nearly forced on Sean to be honest. The whole county was in disarray. He was such an honourable and likable man. He had great foresight and he knew he had great leaders at his disposal that just weren’t doing it at county level. Men like Mick Lyons, Joe Cassells, Colm O’Rourke’s, Liam Hayes and the Gerry McEntee’s. There was a fantastic club rivalry and they just weren’t pulling together and Sean changed that. From early on he got guys pulling together and had a real professional approach. He got a great atmosphere in the camp by getting families involved. Parents, brothers and sisters, girlfriends or wives were all looked after very well. He would always bring them to the meals even after league games. He changed the whole ethos and stopped the whole narrow minded county board way of thinking. He looked after us extremely well. We wanted for nothing. The team he wanted was like the Meath club team, some very loyal and honest guys.

What was the training like?

‘It was very tough. When we lost to Laois in ’85 we had a big meeting and Boylan basically said to us ‘you lads think you’re at a level but your not’. He completely raised the tempo after that. But he knew how to vary things. It didn’t get stale. I remember one time we trained extremely hard for one month and when we arrived at training one night he just said ‘throw away them gear bags’. He brought the whole team out to a Chinese restaurant and we had a few glasses of wine and a few beers. He paid for the whole lot. Again after another hard couple of weeks training he would vary it up again. He did that regularly. He brought us rowing in Summerhill. Maybe some night we would play a 5 aside indoor soccer match and then maybe a spell in the gym. I remember in 1991 in between the 3rd and 4th match against Dublin we got word on the Monday that Boylan couldn’t be contacted, nobody knew were he was. Sean and Noel Keating who owned Keepak had gone over to Drimnin in Scotland and they booked us into a 5 star hotel all expenses paid including our wives expenses. We trained twice a day for 2 days and had a few drinks. We all got an envelope with money in it for our expenses because some lads would have had to get babysitters. That was all taken care of. A lot of lads who weren’t working were really looked after and got a few pound. He was very good to us that way’.

Did Sean Boylan have much trouble getting all these things from the county board?

‘Well Sean was very clever and he had them on his side. Fintan Ginnity who was the county board chairman was very close with him. He had Ginnity in his pocket so he never really had too much trouble. I think managers since him have had trouble alright but Boylan got what he wanted. We got more tickets allocated. Myself and Brian Stafford were allowed go into the Puma factory to get gear and boots. This was unheard of at the time. The mid 80’s was a tough time and people didn’t have money. Sean and Noel Keating both helped me get a job. He helped lads better than themselves. His idea was way more than just turning up on the day to manage. Within the first few years of his management he had landed on every player’s front step. He got into everyone lives and got to know their parents very well. He wanted to know players weaknesses. He knew all the players would have died for him’.

Apart from his life as a pundit and business man, Flynn is currently chairman of the ‘The GAA Legends All-Ireland Golf Charity Inter-County Championship Event’ which helps raise money for charity. Flynn has managed to raise almost a 1m euro for charity and is also heavily involved in raising money for Autism

Part two of this interview will continue next week with Bernard and he tell us who his earliest influences in football and the players he admired the most.