GAA Football

Royal legend Bernard Flynn expecting Down backlash after Mayo defeat

Down lost out to Mayo in their last outing at Pairc Esler in 2019, and were on the receiving end of a 13-point defeat to James Horan's men in Castlebar last weekend. Picture by Philip Walsh
Neil Loughran

FORMER Meath star Bernard Flynn is expecting “a big backlash” from Down when they face off against the Royals in Sunday’s crunch Division Two North clash in Armagh.

Having earned promotion from Division Three last year, the Mournemen had a bumpy landing in the second tier after a chastening 13-point defeat to All-Ireland finalists Mayo at a rain-lashed MacHale Park last weekend.

It was Mayo’s first League game outside the top tier since 1997, while Meath are also coming down from Division One with ambitions of getting back there by the time all is said and done.

Yet while Down were left to lick their wounds on the long road back from the west, the Royals will also be hoping for a much-improved performance after Sunday’s one point victory over Westmeath – Meath having trailed by four with 14 minutes left before edging ahead at the death.

And with the heat turned up on Paddy Tally’s side heading into Sunday’s game - which is being played at the neutral Athletic Grounds and not Pairc Esler as part of the GAA’s punishment for Down’s training breach earlier in the year - Flynn believes there could be a sting in the tail.

“I’m expecting a big backlash from Down, I really am,” said the two-time All-Ireland winner.

“I didn’t see the beating against Mayo coming, I thought they would be much more competitive against a Mayo team with six or seven top players gone and a lot of new faces.

“But then I watched the Meath game and we were quite lucky. For probably 60 minutes Westmeath were the better team, they were set up well. They did tire a little bit more than Meath and their substitutions didn’t work as well.

“When they were 13-9 up they were in total control of the game and they should have closed it out. Overall we struggled defensively but it was huge to get the win. If Andy McEntee was marking them out of 10 he’d probably give them a six, six-and-a-half.”

Flynn also revealed that, following his appointment as Meath U20 manager back in January, the first call he made was to Sean Boylan to see if he would come onboard as a selector.

The legendary former Royals boss - who led the county to All-Ireland titles in 1987, ’88, ’96 and ’99 - was a surprise inclusion when Conor Laverty’s Down U20 backroom team was confirmed weeks earlier.

And, having given his word to the Kilcoo man, Boylan eventually opted to remain in his advisory role with the Mourne County.

“I gave him a few days, I actually thought he might do it… but, knowing Sean, he had given his word to Conor Laverty and I understood that.

“I don’t know the reasons and I haven’t digged too deep but for Sean Boylan to go to another team - and this is only my opinion - would indicate to me that he wouldn’t have been overly happy with the way things were being run and the way things were going.”

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GAA Football