Pat Flynn speaks to Between the Stripes
The modern day term of 'Twitter sensation' is one rarely found within League of Ireland circles, but for those of you familiar with the concept of #thegreatestleagueintheworld the work of Pat Flynn may ring a bell. Of course better known as a no nonsense and rock solid central defender in the Premier Division for Longford Town, an extended period of time on the sidelines due to injury saw Flynn gain social media stardom with his witty and 'colorful' views on everything from the league itself to politics and religion. Perhaps Flynn's most well known act of devilment came when the former Shamrock Rovers man replied to his current club on Twitter asking if they were joking with the live updates from a game he claimed to know nothing about.
However, on Monday night gone by, the fun and games came to an end for the man affectionately known as "Pajo" when he made his long awaited return to playing action in a 2-1 Leinster Senior cup win against Drumcondra. Having not played a single minute in pre-season, the debate over whether Flynn should be risked from the get go in the opening game of the league campaign away to Wexford was a ferocious one. However, Town boss Tony Cousins stated his desire not to drop Flynn back in at the deep end and risk a setback in his recovery so the game against Drumcondra offered Cousins the ideal opportunity to ease "Pajo" back in. When asked if the small crowd at City Calling Stadium on Monday night made it easier for a potentially nervous Flynn to get back into the swing of things, the thirty-one-year-old defender said:
" It was a perfect game for me to come in. Not much pressure but great to test me. It felt good to be back on the pitch with the lads."
Having made his senior debut thirteen-years ago as a young Dublin man in the Wolverhampton Wanderers ranks, Flynn admitted it was extremely difficult for him to not be involved from week to week as he sat on the treatment table at Longford.
"Anything more than a week or two off and I start to miss the game. The worst part of being injured so long was having to listen to Albert Byrne and Don Cowan and the nature of my injury meant I couldn't attend as many anti-water protests as I'd have liked."
The saying goes, "with every dark cloud comes a silver lining" and this was most certainly the case for Town boss Tony Cousins as the loss of Flynn forced "De Town" boss into bedding central-midfielder Rhys Gorman into Flynn's position.......The results were outstanding! Voted as Longford's young player of the year for 2015, Gorman is now viewed as one of, if not, Longford's best centre-half with Flynn going on to sing his praises:
"Rhys was outstanding last year, I can't speak highly enough of him. For me, he's our number one centre-back. As soon as I came into the club I looked at how amazingly fat his head was and thought to myself "he's not a midfielder."
As mentioned earlier, Flynn wasn't risked for Friday's league opener at Ferrycarrig Park but despite that the partnership of Mark Rossiter and Noel Haverty, who ironically was standing in for the stricken Rhys Gorman, kept a clean sheet in a morale boosting 2-0 win for "De Town". While Longford may have been slight outsiders with the bookies, the victory over new boys Wexford will not have raised too many eyebrows around the league unlike Galway United's thumping 3-1 triumph over this Friday's opponents, St.Patrick's Athletic. Despite that deflating home turnover and the loss of star names such as Greg Bolger and Killian Brennan during the off-season, the "Saints" will be heavy favorites to get off the mark with three points at City Calling Stadium. When asked if this was perhaps the best possible time to face the Dublin side, Flynn responded:
"Anything can happen in the first few games....so it's not a bad time to get any big team. Pats have great players and a great manager but can they do it on a freezing Friday night in Longford?"
Given the impressive performances of Rossiter and Haverty, who also scored the winner on Monday night, it's unlikely that Flynn will make his full return against his former club on Friday night. In the eventuality that "Pajo" was to feature though, he was asked what a reunion with the side he served in 2012 would mean to him.
" I have to say it was a good time, I didn't play as much as I'd have liked but the players were a great bunch and the fans grew on me. I'll always look back with fond memories of playing for Dublin's second biggest club."
With that mischievous answer in mind, Flynn was asked about perhaps the day in his career he will be asked about the most when he eventually does decide to hang up his boots.....The day he marked the world's most expensive player at the time and kept him off the scoresheet, a certain Cristiano Ronaldo.
" It was a great memory to play against Real Madrid, best smelling team I've ever played against. I remember waiting outside the dressing room after the match, Michael O'Neill said to me, "what are you doing?" I said "I'm getting his autograph". He says "Your sad". I didn't care, this man was a once off, a goal machine and as he walked out of the dressing I said to him "Twiggy give me your autograph". And he did.
Focusing back on the upcoming first home game of the season against St.Pat's, Flynn was asked to compare the class of 2016 to last season sixth placed Town team and if he had picked up on any tweaks in tactics and approach by Tony Cousins for this year.
"We're a fitter, faster and even though people may not think it, we are a more experienced squad. One big plus is we're a better looking squad, we replaced the likes of Mark Salmon and Gary Shaw with Josh O'Hanlon and Mark Hughes."
Many experts within the league seem to disagree with those sentiments from Flynn however, as "De Town" are continued to be linked with a relegation fight this season. Sixteen time Republic of Ireland international Keith Fahey was the latest to predict a difficult time of things for Town this term on the opening Soccer Republic show of the season and when such predictions were put to "Pajo", the two-time top flight winner hit back.
"Everyone knows good players make sh**e pundits. We have our own expectations in our dressing room and I'm confident we'll achieve our goals. Success this year will be getting Don Cowan on the pitch for more than 45 minutes. We'll celebrate like champions if that happens."
Ending the interview as he began, in typical jovial fashion, Flynn was asked if he had used his time off to conjure up a new goal celebration for this season after he had home fans in stitches with a famous cartwheel effort against Bray last season.
" The tumble was a dying art until I brought it back last season. I think I'll stick with it. This season I want to celebrate all my tackles instead. It's unfair on defenders that we can't celebrate them."