GAA Football

Flynn critical of O'Rourke comments on mental health

Dublin’s Paul Flynn and Kerry’s David Moran were in Dublin on Wednesday to help launch Setanta Sports’ coverage of the 2016 Allianz Leagues. Throughout the course of the competition, Setanta Sports will bring 17 exclusively live games to viewers across Ireland. All-Ireland champions Dublin will begin their national league defence with a Saturday evening fixture against Kerry at Croke Park which will be shown live on Setanta Ireland, January 30th at 7pm 
Paul Keane

NEWLY installed Gaelic Players Association secretary Paul Flynn claims the group’s foremost critic, Colm O’Rourke, has sent out an ‘awful’ mental health message to young men.

Flynn was frustrated by comments made by Meath legend O’Rourke last weekend in relation to the work of the GPA. Columnist O’Rourke questioned the amount of time the players’ body spends on issues such as gambling addiction and the provision of various other education and scholarship programmes, labelling much of the GPA’s services ‘bulls**t’.

Three-time All-Ireland medallist Flynn acknowledged that O’Rourke is entitled to his opinion but said he simply couldn’t agree with the apparent suggestion that young players should generally ‘toughen up’.

Speaking at the launch of Setanta Sports’ 2016 Allianz Leagues coverage, Flynn appeared to be referring to O’Rourke’s claim in a newspaper column that many problems fall into the ‘get over it’ category and don’t require specialist intervention. 

School principal O’Rourke argued that, in the past, county players didn’t require ‘a shrink, a guru or life adviser to tell them how to lead a better life’.

Flynn was visibly appalled at the comments and rejected O’Rourke’s ‘bulls**t’ claim generally.

“I think it is [over the top], some of the services are definitely not ‘bulls**t’,” said Flynn. 

“They might be in his eyes. And, like, ‘toughen up’; that’s an awful thing to say. 

“Mental illness is so prominent in society today. You can have as many organisations as you want out there working on it and there is I don’t know how many, yet it’s still so prominent amongst males and predominantly the GPA is made up of all male members. 

“So that’s a great platform for services to be able to come in and to help. So that’s one thing I don’t agree with, ‘toughen up’.

“I don’t know what his angle is. I know he has a bit of a problem with the GPA for things that have gone on in the past. He’s entitled to say what he wants and I actually get on well with Colm, I know him from back when I played at DCU. But I just think that the ‘toughen up’ thing, I don’t agree with that at all.

“In society, there are services for people, whether it’s with regards to suicide, to addiction and things like that. They are there, but people mightn’t use them or get the exposure to them. 

“So the GPA, what they are doing is good in my eyes, it’s breaking down the stigma for people to use those services and it’s making it very accessible for the players.

“I’ve lost a friend to suicide so I know what that’s like first hand. If those services save one life then they’re worthwhile, end of story.”

Flynn also rounded on the GAA’s Central Council for apparently disregarding the views of players regarding Championship reform. 

A GPA proposal was among 18 recommendations considered by Central Council though, in the end, a much more conservative model was selected to go before next month’s Annual Congress. 

It includes the provision of a ‘B’ Championship for Division Four counties, though leaves the rest of the competition’s structures largely untouched. Flynn said it feels like the players’ voice was essentially ignored.

“For the inter-county players who are rolled out every summer to create revenue for the GAA and to create a stir around the games, they then put forward what they feel could be a good option and it’s not listened to, I think that is disappointing,” said the three-time All-Ireland medallist.

As for Flynn’s own fitness, the half-forward said that he has taken three months off to completely rest a groin problem instead of undergoing surgery for the second time in a year. He hopes to feature in the early rounds of the Allianz League.

“Yeah, obviously I’d be worried about it,” said Flynn. 

“But for the first time in the last while, I’m feeling good. The rehab has been going well and there has been no reaction so far, so fingers crossed.”

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